Rakugo is traditional comic storytelling performed solo. Seated on a zabuton cushion, a comic tells a story, energetically speaking the dialogue for all the characters: men, women, children to the elderly, warriors and commoners. To clearly distinguish one character from another rakugo performers use various speech patterns and gestures.
The only props used in rakugo are a folding fan (sensu) and a hand towel (tenugui). Performers manipulate these to mimic all kinds of actions. Through the skillful use of props and gestures, rakugo performers aim to invoke vivid images in the minds of the audience. A characteristic of rakugo is the punch line, called the ochi. The ochi can consist of a play on words, a surprising ending and even a simple gesture.
Rakugo in Anime
We first got interested in the art through anime. In the anime, Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, ex-convict turned Rakugo apprentice Yotaro has finally taken the name of Yurakutei Sukeroku III, and with his master Yakumo’s permission has attained the lofty rank of shin’uchi. He assumes the name at a critical time for Rakugo, with audiences fewer than ever. At the same time he has started acting as a husband to Konatsu, who is now a single mother. Yotaro thus begins the struggle to fill the role of Sukeroku, both as the future of Rakugo and as a part of Yakumo’s and Konatsu’s lives.
Rakugo in English
Early September, ANA Philippines announced that they will be bringing back ANA Yose this year. This is an event where they invite performers to promote the culture of Japan. Named after yose, which are specialized theaters for Rakugo. The invitation is through a ticket raffle and last year, we were not able to win an invitation. I sent a ticket again this year hoping to win and just this morning, I received the confirmation email!
The event will be held in RCBC Plaza, 6819 Ayala Avenue, Makati City on October 7 at 3:00pm. If ever you have won a ticket too, please feel free to approach us! This year’s event is with Kaishi Katsura, the world’s top performer of English Rakugo and former Japan cultural envoy, along with Asakichi Katsura and Fukuryu Katsura. Meanwhile, a colorful counterpoint to all-talk comedy, Kouki Houraiya will amaze audiences with daikagura traditional clowning, a vintage street art with elements of acrobatics, juggling, magic, dance, and comedy.