English-Rakugo What's Rakugo ? Books English-Rakugo
English-Rakugo Performers BBS English-Rakugo
English-Rakugo History of performance Mail English-Rakugo
English-Rakugo Information Top page English-Rakugo
オーストラリア公演パンフレット オーストラリア公演パンフレット
Japanese 'Sit-Down' Comedy
Performance in English

Sydney 23rd(Thu),24th(Fri),26th(Sun) August 2001
Melbourne 28th(Wed) August 2001
Canberra 29th(Tue) August 2001
Darwin 1st(Sat) September 2001

Those of you who have spent time with Japanese people would have realized that humor is an important part of their lives. They too have their own form of stand-up comedy though the performers sit-down rather than stand up! This traditional performing art, the origins of which can be traced back some 400 years, is called Rakugo.

In Rakugo, the performer can be a narrator (as is common in Western style comedy), but usually he becomes the actual characters in the story. These characters converse without a narrator coming between them. The challenge for the performer is switching from one distinct character t another. Each character represents exaggerated aspects of the human personality which we can all readily relate to. The predicaments which they find themselves in are part of everyday life.

Until recently, the rich art of Rakugo has not been accessible to non-Japanese speakers. Now, young energetic performers keen for the internationalization of Rakugo are presenting their shows in English. Afterall, Rakugo deals with human nature and universal themes which people can respond to no matter which country they are from.

皿回し Turning dishes. We ask for volunteers from the audience and have them up on the stage. They turn the dish at the top of the sticks and pass it to the person next to each other. Many younger people tried and succeeded! The audience is the ones to be praised.
Performance Schedule

・Mini Performance (As part of 'Japan Night 2001')
Date: Thursday, 23rd August
Time: 6:30pm
Venue: Sydney Opera House Concert Hall

・Performance 1
Date: Friday, 24th August
Time: 7:30pm
Venue: Wallace Theatre, Science Road, University of Sydney

・Performance 2
Date: Sunday, 26th August
Time: 6:00pm
Venue: The North Sydney Council 'Fred Hutley Hall' ; 200 Miller St., North Sydney

Date: Tuesday, 28th August
Time: 7:30pm
Venue: Melba Hall, Melbourne University

Date: Wednesday, 29th August
Time: 6:30pm
Venue: National Gallery of Australia 'James O.Fairfax Theatre'

Date: Saturday, 1st September
Time: 2:30pm & 6:00pm
Venue: The museum & Art Gallery of the Northern Territory 'Theatrette' ; Conacher Road, Bullocy Point Fannie Bay

二人羽織 Two for one. Kaishi plays the head and Asakichi plays the arms. They are playing drums followed by shamisen. It is actually Asakichi, the arms, who takes the skills but the head is usually praised.
The Daily Yomiuri The Daily Yomiuri
The Daily Yomiuri Tuesday, March 5, 2002
Spreading the rakugo word

Can you even remember the last time you enjoyed a really good laugh? If not, attending a performance of rakugo - the traditional Japanese art of comic storytelling - may be just the ticket. Rakugo features humor everyone can enjoy. And if you're worried that your Japanese only stretches to ordering a beer and not much else - or if you're not even in Japan - no problem. Thanks to Kimie Oshima, rakugo shows in English are now frequent and increasingly popular both in Japan and overseas.
"I was always confident that we'd be able to make (people overseas) laugh," said Oshima, 31, who is also a lecturer in English at Meikai University in Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture. "But they laughed even harder than I expected."
With the dream of "exporting" rakugo, Oshima first banded together a company of rakugo storytellers to do an overseas tour in 1998. The tour, which took the group to the United States, came at the end of a long struggle by the producer to procure sponsorship from companies and other organizations.
During the tour, Oshima acted as driver for the company - comprising several storytellers and a shamisen player - ferrying them to and from their dates at universities in a van.
The following two years, she organized two more tours by the group to Singapore, where their rakugo shows proved popular with children. The children, who crowded into the space in front of the stage, never seemed bored, she said.
Last year, the company's tour - by this time an annual event - was in Australia, and Oshima is currently preparing for this year's tour, scheduled for summer.
Oshima always appears as emcee on the tours. In her book 'Sekai o Warawaso! (Make the World Lught!): Rakugo in English', published late last year by Kenkyusha Ltd., she includes an excerpt of a speech she used at a U.S. performance that pokes fun at the stereotypical image of the "humorless Japanese" that overseas audiences tend to have.
"We do have some sense of humor," the book quotes her as saying. "But Japanese export too many good products like cars and stereos... So we just decided not to export good jokes. That's why you never get to hear one."
Oshima, whose university work involves research on cross-cultural communication and the effects of humor, said her main purpose in producing rakugo in English is to "introduce Japanese culture to people overseas and let them know that we too possess 'the art of laughter.'"
"I'd like them to gain an insight into Japanese customs and see how we communicate with each other," she added.
Oshima believes rakugo, which is more than 300 years old, is an "art form unique in the world."
Rakugo storytellers, who usually remain seated throughout performance, rely on words and facial expressions to portray various characters. Audience members are encouraged to use their imaginations while listening to the stories.
Oshima said rakugo - which she calls "sit-dwon" (as opposed to "stand-up") comedy - is an excellent way to teach the world about Japanese culture because it delivers messages in an amusing, rather than serious, way. "We have to always keep in mind the goal of explaining Japanese culture to people overseas," she stressed. "otherwise, our performances would end up vague and forgettable."
"We try to make the most of humor by thinking of our jokes as a means to deliver the messages we really want to," she continued. "I don't think we could have worked so hard and come so far without this approach."

桂かい枝 Kaishi, dancing in front of the Opera House before the performance.
Japanese to English

Rakugo stries feature many puns and things peculiar to Japanese culture, meaning word-for-word translations into English simply don't work. Instead, Oshima, who spent her high school and university days in the United States, said the process involves "remaking the stories into something that sounds interesting and funny in English."
In the initial stage of translation, she reads the dialogues aloud in Japanese, then immediately tries to make a corresponding phrase in English whole maintaining the feeling of the original.
"Rakugo stores consist of everydayconversations, which we conduct without much thought," she said. "Therefore, it's better to translate quickly to produce natural-sounding English with a good tempo."
Because Oshima's English-language rakugo is designed for an audience with no knowledge at all of the genre, the translation process can involve changing a story's order and cutting its length. But while her translated works - which usually run 12 to 13 minutes - are often slightly different from the originals, she strives to maintain the basic essence.
So far, Oshima has translated about 20 rakugo stories, and has no plans to stop yet. "I feel so excited when I'm thinking of ways to make the audience langh and where to put a pun in a story," she said.
Oshima recruited four professional rakugo performers, three from Osaka and one from Tokyo, to join her English-language rakugo company. She chose the four - all in their 30s - because she considered them young enough to memorize English.
Performing in English also has had the unexpected benefit of helping them to improve their command of the language. "I already knew English-language rakugo was a good teaching material for students," Oshima said. "But I never expected it would help those repeating the stories to improve their English ability."
The storytellers memorized the dialogues in English and spoke no English except on stage. Oshima has notived that even those who understood very little English at the start now are able to dispense with her interpretations sometimes. "They took the characters' lines and made them their own," she said.
Rakugo storytellers try to get under the skin of the characters they portray as much as possible, and those performing in English have proved to be no different. They began to associate spoken phrases with the situation and emotions in the story, and found that they could sometimes apply the phrases in real life, when the situation or emotion was the same as in the story, according to Oshima.
"All the phrases they use in their everyday life (during the tours) came right out of the stories they tell," Oshima said. She cited the example of Katsura Asakichi, 31, who tells a story called "Time-Noodle" that features dialogues between tow noodle-shop owners and their customers. "It's interesting that Asakichi-san has the most to say when we order things at restaurants," Oshima joked.
The troupe ahs been raising the profile of rakugo not only overseas but also at home, receiving a growing number of requests for domestic performances. "The Japanese audiences tend to comprise people who like English and have never watched rakugo before," Oshima said. "Many of them tell us that, after watching a show in English, they now feel the urge to see rakugo in Japanese."
While Oshima acknowledges that English-language rakugo is different from the original, she said, "We're making a great contribution to raising awareness of rakugo as a part of Japanese culture (around the world)."
"It's only natural to adjust things to a new environment to ensure that they will be accepted," she added.
Though Oshima finds it grueling to organize overseas tours every year, she plans to continue until her ultimate goal of making rakugo an internationally recognizable art form has been achieved. Just as "sushi" has entered the English vocabulary, she also hopes "the word 'rakugo' will take root overseas."
The Canberra Times
Monday, September 3, 2001

Delightful night of Japanese humour

Eigo-Rakugo. Japanese "Sit-Down" Comedy. James O. Fairfax Theatre, National Gallery of Australia. August 29.

What a delightfully crazy evening this was. And what a pity that, in a city that has happily in the past crowded in to see any kind of Japanese performance, the strange art of Eigo-Rakugo could be seen on only one night.
For rakugo is about Japanese humour. Three performers (Shofukutei Kakusho, Katsura Kaishi and Katsura Asakichi), their director/compere Oshima Kimie and shamisen player Hayashiya Kazume take the audience into a wild world of noodle shops, ninja knee puppets and kamikaze rickshaw men.
What's more, they do it in English, while kneeling on cushions, even when they are running. One performer takes the stage (or rather the cushion) at a time, while backstage the others join the shamisen to form an orchestra.
In the noodle shop a man slurps his noodles noisily and outwits the shop owner over the bill, while another sets out to do likewise but can't master the routine used by the successful con man.

玉すだれ Bamboo Blind at James O. Fairfax Theater in Canberra with a volunteer from the audience. The boy was very good at Bamboo Blind and its dance! The audience applauded for him.
A samurai turns one knee into a ninja and the other into a great blue monster and embarks on an epic battle between the two.
A rickshaw man plays chicken fatally with a bullet train and arrives in heaven with his passenger.
There are food jokes, jokes about Japanese tourists and one of those very funny routines that involve being fed by someone who is substituting their arms for those of the person in front.
And the whole thing ends up in a welter of paper cut-outs, making the Sydney Harbour Bridge with bamboo mats and dragging a lot of the audience up to try plate spinning.
The audience on Wednesday night had a ball. And when Kazume's hairpiece fell off during the curtain call, the roars of laughter shook the notion of "humourless" Japanese to pieces. More please!

桂あさ吉 Asakichi, dancing at the beach in Darwin. He performs Japanese dance as part of English Rakugo program. So he chose the beach to practice.
行ってきました、オーストラリア。2001年8月22日から9月2日の間に、シドニー、メルボルン、キャンベラ、ダーウィンの4都市をまわり、全7公演を果たしてきました。大変な大盛況でしたね。メンバーは笑福亭鶴笑、桂あさ吉、桂かい枝、三味線の林家和女、そして私、大島希巳江。このメンバーで毎年海外公演を行っているので、とても仲の良い仲間たちです。もう腹違いの兄弟という感じです。さて、まず印象的だったのがシドニーのオペラハウスでの公演。Japan Nightという大イベントの一環として英語落語を披露したのですが、観客数2400という落語には不適切なほどの客数でした。でもその盛り上がりたるや、すさまじいもの。観客の笑いと拍手が鳴り止まなくて、噺の途中で待たなければならなかったほどです。このオペラハウス、なんと舞台の後ろにまで客席があり、うしろからも何百人というお客さんが観ているんですね。本来、コンサートなどをするところですから、仕方ないのですが、どうも落語を後ろから見られるというのは、ヘンな感じでした。後ろから見ているお客さんも大うけでしたけれどね。その後、シドニーではFred Hutley Hall やUniversity of SydneyのWallace Theatre などの劇場で公演。すごい盛り上がり。アンコールまであったほどです。落語会でアンコールなんて…、聞いたことないですよ、ホントに。あまりにもアンコール要請が強くて拍手が鳴り止まなかったので、さすがに無視できず。何も用意していなかったので、急きょ二人羽織でお客さんを舞台に上げて、客にクッキーなんかを食べさせてごまかす始末。大変でした。でも感動しましたね、アンコールがあったということには。
海外公演でつくづく思うことは、海外での落語会への観客層は日本とだいぶ違うということです。落語は年寄りが聞くもの、というイメージが日本にはありますが、海外では落語そのものが知られていないので、良くも悪くも落語にまつわるイメージもないのです。そのためか、Japanese Sit-down Comedy ? Rakugoには、若いお客さんがたくさん来ます。若いといっても20代なんてハンパな若さではなく、小学生、中学生、高校生、若い両親に連れられた4、5歳の子供までぞくぞくとやってくるのです。もちろん、20代以上の大人も多いのですが、むしろ年配の人は少ないですね。そんな活気あふれる客層ですから、やはり公演は盛り上がります。一席終わるごとに猛拍手と女性の黄色い歓声、若者たちの口笛などが飛び交い、飛び跳ねて喜ぶ子供たちの姿…、もう日本で見られる落語会の正しい風景ではないわけです。日本でも若者人気の高い落語家さんが数人いますが。とにかく、すごいことになってるわけです。落語の普遍性を感じますね。

さて、ところ変わってメルボルン。この地は文化・芸術性が高いということで有名なのですが、町並みも古く美しい街です。会場はメルボルン大学内のステキな劇場で、その名もMelba Hall。この大学出身の有名なオペラ歌手、Melba氏の名前にちなんだそうです。客層も、ちょっとした文化人のような人が多かったようです。ちなみに、公演プログラムはこのようになっています。
落語についての前説 What’s Rakugo?
お囃子紹介 Musical Interlude
落語「時うどん」 “Time-noodle”
パペット落語「忍者ニーノスケ」 “Ninja”
二人羽織 Two for one
仲入り Intermission
紙切り Paper cutting art
落語「いらち車」 “A Man in A Hurry”
日本舞踊 Dance
南京玉すだれ Bamboo blind

どうですか、このバラエティ溢れるメニューは。もう、落語も寄席芸も全部見せます、腹いっぱいにしますって感じです。これ以上のことはできませんってほど盛り込んでいます。日本の落語会に比べると、むちゃくちゃな並びだと思われるかもしれませんが、仕方ありませんね。ベテランがトリをとるべきだとか、最後は落語で締めるべきだとか、寄席芸が多すぎるだとか、そんなことは言っていられないのです。お客さんが飽きずに楽しめることを最優先に考えて、何事にもとらわれずにやっています。落語会の常識など、海外のお客さんには関係ないのですから。だからお囃子紹介でも、バンバン現地の曲を入れたりします。三味線の和女さんには負担ですけど。今回は、オーストラリアで有名なWaltzing Matildaという曲を盛り込みました。やはりご当地ものは喜ばれますね。二人羽織は、日本でも見る機会があまりありません。大きい羽織の中に二人入って、前の人が顔を演じて、後ろの人が羽織から両手を出して手を演じるというものです。その状態で、いろいろな楽器を演奏したり、モノを食べたりするのです。そのぎこちなさが面白い芸です。紙切りは、誰でもできるというものではありません。鶴笑さんという落語家さんは、ほんとうに驚くほど起用な人で、最初冗談でやっていた紙切りがどんどんうまくなっていったので、昨年くらいから正式にプログラムに組み込みました。客からリクエストをとって動物や現地の有名な建築物などを切るのですが、特に素晴らしいのが似顔切り絵。お客さんの顔を見ながら、何も書いていない紙をちょりちょり切って、その人そっくりに切り上げてしまうのです。これはちょっと見ものです。価値ありますよ。そして、あさ吉さんの凛々しい日本舞踊と、かい枝さんのおかしなおかしな玉すだれ。玉すだれでは、たいていお客さんを一人舞台に上げて一緒にやってもらったりします。ここでも、海外のお客さんはとっても積極的。「誰か、手伝ってくれませんかー?」と舞台の上から声をかけると、ぞくぞくと希望者が出て収拾がつかないほどです。中学生くらいの男の子が多いでしょうか。舞台に上がって、かい枝くんと一緒に珍妙な玉すだれ踊りをしながら、釣竿を作ったり、国旗を作ったり、楽しんでくれました。元気いっぱいの子供たちは、本当に気持ちがいいですね。
でも、お客さんはよかったですよ。会場にいっぱいの観客。とくにキャンベラは子供が多かったですね。キャンベラ公演は通常とちがって、仲入りを30分以上とって、その間に観客も出演者も食事をとるという歌舞伎のようなことになっていました。もちろん海外公演を重ねて、すっかり柔軟性をもった我々にはNo problem。
公演のない日には、野生のカンガルーを追いかけまわして疲れきったり、ホテルの部屋にカギを置き去りにしてlock outされたり(これ、毎年誰かがやるんです)、ブルーマウンテンの岩肌に貼りついてロッククライミングを気取ったり、はたまた天井のceiling fanに手を巻き込まれて負傷したり、と休みなのに全然休めない日々を過ごしました。舞台を離れてもにぎやかなこのメンバーと、いやというほどオーストラリアを満喫した旅でした。
全ての公演が終了した後に、観客からこんな手紙が届きました。「このような素晴らしい芸能に触れることができて、とてもうれしく思います。観客との距離を縮める、落語というものの表現方法に感動しました。この数年で一番の笑いをありがとうございました───I was glad to have this opportunity to know the wonderful performing art. I found them all enchanting and was impressed by their capacity to engage the audience.... And I had the best laugh in ages. Thanks!───」。

桂かい枝 Kaishi, performing "A Man in a Hurry" at Fred Hutley Hall in Sydney.

笑福亭鶴笑 Kakushow, performing paper cutting art at James O. Fairfax in Canberra. He just cut out a horse with a blank piece of paper.
週間ST 週間ST
週刊ST Friday, September 21, 2001


 公演タイトルは、「Eigo-Rakugo, Japanese Sit-dwon Comedy Performance in English」。シドニー大学やメルボルン大学、オペラハウスでの日本文化祭、ダーウィンの日本語弁論大会などで、計7公演が行われた。観客は、日本に興味を持っているが、落語は初めてという人がほとんどだ。


 演目は、かい枝さんの「A Man in a Hurry(いらち車)」、あさ吉さんの「Time-noodle(時うどん)」、鶴笑さんのパペット落語「Ninja(忍者)」。二人羽織や紙切り、観客を舞台に上げて挑戦させた南京玉すだれや皿回しも交えて、客席を大いに盛り上げた。
 演目の一つ「いらち車」は、人力車の車夫(車屋)と客の話。最初の車屋があまりにものろいので、客が別の車に乗り換えようとすると、「日本一速い」と名乗るいらち(せっかち)な車屋が登場。振り落とされるなよ、とばかりに"Put on your seat belt. Shut your mouth. Shut your eyes. Shut your ears."と告げ、猛スピードで走り出す。ろうばいする客、不敵な笑みを浮かべて疾走する車屋とかい枝さんは巧みに表情を使い分ける。途中、急に車が大きく上下に揺れ"Hey, kuruma-ya, stop! What was that?"と客が聞くと"I just ran over somebody."(だれかをひいたようで)と車屋。大げさな表情としぐさ、テンポのよいやり取りが観客を笑わせた。
 メルボルン大学での公演を観たHilary Ashさんは、主催者に次のようなメールを寄せた。
"I found them all enchanting, and was impressed by their capacity to engage the audience ...And I had the best laugh in ages."
今回、オーストラリア4都市 の公演を主催した、シドニー日本文化センターの横山幹生さんは「公演が終わってから、各地の大学や高校から『生徒にも見せたいので、ぜひビデオを貸してもらいたい』『来年もぜひやってもらいたいが、どうやったら来てもらえるのか。経費はいくらかかるのか』などの問い合わせが来ています。日本の笑いの芸術を世界に広める彼らは、国際交流にもかけがえのない存在だと深く感じました」と語った。
大島さんは海外での反響について、「Japanese comedyといってもそんなに期待せずに見に来るみたいで、皆さん、『こんなに笑えるとは』と驚いて帰るんですよ」と言って笑った。




玉すだれ Kaishi, performing Bamboo Blind. He just made Eiffel Tower of Paris. Of course, it is quite different from Tokyo Tower!?
Copyright 2002 Kimie Oshima