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Hiragana Times, January 2006 No. 231
ひらがなタイムズ
落語を世界に広める才色兼備の学者
Talented Attractive Scholar Promoting Rakugo Worldwide
 
There are many aspects of Japanese culture, but few non-Japanese know about rakugo, which can be described as a sit down comedy performed by a single entertainer and is thought to be the original style of Japanese comedy. Some theaters specialize in rakugo, which is deeply rooted in the daily lives of Japanese people. However, it is not as easy to promote rakugo to non-Japanese as it is to promote other visual aspects of Japanese culture such as ikebana (flower arranging) or origami (paper folding).
  一口に日本文化といってもいろいろあるが、落語を知っている外国人は少ないに違いない。落語は舞台に座って行う一人コメディで、日本人のコメディの原点ともいえる。落語専用の劇場まであり、庶民の日常生活に根付いている。しかし、生け花や折り紙などのように視覚で表現できないことから、他の日本文化より外国人には普及しにくい。
  Oshima Kimie is striving to promote rakugo to the world. She is an assistant professor at Bunkyo Gakuin University, as well as a sociolinguist doctor. Upon hearing her titles and qualifications, many people will imagine she it too serious to be involved in comedy, but in fact she is a beautiful lady who looks as young as a student. She is the producer of so-called "eigo-rakugo" (a sit down comedy in English) and also a performer. This contrast in her makes her uniqueness more vivid.
  この落語を世界に広めようとしているのが、大島希巳江さん。文京学院大学の専任講師で、教育学(社会言語学)博士。こう書くと、非常にお堅い人物を想像させるが、実は、学生かと思うほどの若々しい女性。しかも美人だ。この女性が、英語落語をプロデュースし、自らが演じる。このギャップ自体が彼女のユニークさを際立たせている。
  Eigo rakugo began when Kimie joined the International Society for Humor Studies in the U.S.A. in 1996 as the first Japanese schoolar. "They said I should make a presentation on Japanese humor," Kimie recalls.
  希巳江さんが、そもそも英語落語を始めたきっかけは、1996年、アメリカで開かれた国際ユーモア学会に、日本人の学者として初めて出席したときのことだ。「日本の笑いについて何か発表するべきだと言われたのがきっかけです」と、希巳江さんは思い浮かべる。
Arranges everything from translation of rakugo scripts to locating halls
 Kimie went to high school in the U.S. and studied at an American university. After returning to Japan, she received a scholarship and graduated from ICU graduate school. The focus of her studies has been cross culture communication. Being influenced by the words she heard at the Convention, she decided to change the image of Japanere held by foreigners and make everyone laugh. To make that happen, she launched eigo rakugo in 1997.
落語の翻訳から海外の会場手配まで、全部一人でやり遂げる
 
彼女はアメリカの高校へ行き、アメリカの大学で学んだ。帰国後は奨学金を得てICUの大学院を卒業したが、専門分野は一貫して異文化コミュニケーションだった。希巳江さんは学会での言葉に触発され、日本人のイメージを払拭し、世界を笑わせてやろうと、1997年に英語落語を立ち上げた。
  The first rakugo performer who joined her was Shofukutei Kakushow. "We performed in Japanese. I prepared translation boards and turned pages according to the scenes. However, I felt something needed to be changed. So, after a number of performances, I changed the method to consecutive Japanese-English verbal interpretation, but I found that didn't fit either."
  最初に参加してくれたのは笑福亭鶴笑さん。「日本語でやりました。あらかじめ英語の字幕カードを用意して、私が話の進行に合わせてめくっていったんです。でも、何か違う感じがして、途中の公演から逐次通訳をしたのですが、これもしっくりときませんでしたね」。
  The performances were successful, but Kimie was not satisfied which led her to decide to teach English to rakugo perfromers and to perfrom rakugo herself. Since then she became very busy with rakugo study, script translation and voice recording, letting rakugo performers practice with these tools and practicing rakugo herself.
  公演としては受けたのだが、納得いかない希巳江さんは、落語家に英語を教え、自らも落語を演じる決意をした。それからというものは、希巳江さんは大忙しとなった。落語を勉強し、翻訳し、それを音に吹き込み、それを落語家に練習してもらい、自らも落語の練習をした。
  In rakugo many jokes are made that play on words, so translation is not easy. "I ensure I make those portions in English in all cases. So, they can become quite different from the original text. You can say it is rather a creation than a translation." She says the reason rakugo performers take on rakugo in English comes from their desire to travel overseas and make non-Japanese laugh. "Rakugo performers' ability to momorize is amazing," Kimie says with admiration in her voice.
  落語には、語呂合わせのジョークが多く、翻訳は簡単にいかない。「その部分は、強引に英語で作り上げます。オリジナルとは大分違ったものになりますので、翻訳というより、創作する感じですね」。英語の分からない落語家が英語落語に挑戦するのは、外国へ行ってみたい、外国人も笑わせることができるという喜びからだという。「落語家の暗記する能力は大変なものです」と希巳江さんは感嘆する。

 Their first overseas performance took place in 1998 in the U.S. at several University campuses, including University of Colorado at Boulder, where Kimie graduated. Year after year, overseas performances were held throughout Asia, Australia, Europe and the U.S.A. Kimie does everything alone from the hall arrangement to finding sponsors.
  そして、翌年の1998年には早くも第一回の海外公演を、母校のアメリカコロラド州立大学ボルダー校を始め、数ヶ所の大学で実施した。海外公演は、年を重ねるにつれ、アメリカのほか、アジア、オーストラリア、ヨーロッパなどでも行われたが、その会場の手配から、スポンサー探しまで、希巳江さんが全部自分でやる。
  "I contact a list of organizations that may take an interest in rakugo such as the Overseas Japanese societies and universities which have Japanese language departments. When the location has been decided, I start to look for sponsors. I contact Japanese companies in the area. I also tie up with airlines and hotels to save on expenses." In the beginning, Kimie paid rakugo performers' performance fees out of her own pocket. But now, she is supported by a subsidy from the Japane Foundation.
  「海外の日本人会や日本語学部のある大学など、落語に興味がありそうな団体に片っ端からあたります。それが決まるとスポンサー探しです。現地の日系企業などにあたります。航空会社やホテルとタイアップし経費を浮かせたりもします」。最初は落語家へのギャラを希巳江さんが自腹で払っていたが、今は国際交流基金の助成金などもある。
Laughing points differ between cultures
  In performances overseas, audiences are younger and more families come compared with performances in Japan. The performances are great successes everywhere, but she says their laughing points are different from ones in Japanese. "For instance, in a tale about "Tokisoba" (time-noodles) in Rkugo (it is called "Tokiudon" in Kansai), there is a scene where a rakugo performer makes loud slurping noises while eating soba (noodles). Foreign audiences laugh loudly. They are surprised by the astonishing manners and find Japanese culture where those kind of manners is allowed is interesting. They say they would like to try it according to the questionnaire survey.
日本人とは笑う部分が違う
 
海外公演での外国の観客は日本と比べ、若い人や家族連れが多い。どこでも大成功だが、日本人とは笑う部分が違うという。「たとえば、有名な落語に「時そば」(関西では「時うどん」)という話がありますが、その中で、落語家がそばを食べる音を出す場面があります。これに外国人は大笑いするんです。なんというマナーかと驚くとともに、そんなことが許されている日本文化は面白い。日本へ行って、やってみたいという人が、アンケート調査でも多いんです」。
  Even though audiences may laugh at unexpected points in the show, which may surprise rakugo performers, she says they cannot suddenly stop speaking. "Actually, rakugo performers do not understand the English meanings, but just memorize English words as marks. So they have to perform it at their own pace," Kimie laughs. After the performance finishes, the audience asks for their autographs. However, the rakugo perfromers do not speak English at all. The audience, who have just heard the performers speaking in English, often become confused. "Now, their English is very much improved," Kimie says about their efforts.
  意外なところで笑う外国の観客に対して、演者の方がびっくりしてしまうが、落語家は途中で話を止めることができないのだという。「落語家は英語の意味を分かっていません。ただ記号として暗記しているので、とにかくマイペースでやるしかないんです」と希巳江さんは笑う。公演が終わると、観客からサインを求められるが、落語家は一切英語を話さない。英語で落語を聞いた観客は不思議に思うそうだ。「でも、今ではみんなだいぶ話せるようになりましたね」と、希巳江さんは彼らの努力に感心する。
  The peroformances are also held in Japan 2-3 times. Now, she is delighted to be receiving 40 to 50 requests a year for performances from many organizations including enterprises, schools and foundations. "I can't do the same thing again," Kimie says recalling the hard times. It is not exaggeration to say that she created rakugo in English single-handedly. "Rakugo in English is the frontline of cross cultural communication and as a scholar, it is helpful to build up a theory."
  公演は日本でも年に2〜3回行っているが、今では企業や学校、財団などから年に40〜50回ほどの講演依頼があり、うれしい悲鳴を上げている。「今、もう一度同じことをやれといわれてもできませんね」と、希巳江さんは苦しかった頃を思い出す。英語落語は彼女が一人で作りあげたといっても過言ではない。「英語落語は異文化コミュニケーションの現場です。これが、学者としての理論付けに役立っています」。
  At present, Kimie appears as a regular member on NHK's International Broadcast "Hello from Tokyo" show and rakugo in English has been included in the curriculum of her university. Kimie, who is experiencing extremely smooth sailing, mentioned her wishes this say: "I hope 'rakugo' will be included like 'sushi' in the Oxford Dictionary." She continued, "Laughing contributes to world peace. You cannot hit someone while you are laughing, and you cannot hit someone who is laughing. Laughing is effective for demolishing hostility," smiles Kimie.
  現在、NHK国際放送局 "Hello from Tokyo" にレギュラー出演。希巳江さんの大学では英語落語が科目にもなった。順風満帆の彼女にこれからの抱負を尋ねると、「『ラクゴ』が、『スシ』のように、オックスフォード辞典に掲載されることですね」と答えた。そして、「笑いは世界平和に貢献するんです。笑いながら人を殴ることもできないし、笑っている人を殴ることはできません。笑いは敵対心をなくす効果があるのです」と、笑った。

スタッフと一緒 →2005年ブルネイ公演、現地スタッフと、三味線の和女お姉さん、手品のパールフラッシュさん。



 

Asahi Weekly, Sunday, January 1-8, 2006
英語落語とかけてカリフォルニア巻きと解く
「日本人にユーモアはあるの?」なんて真顔で聞かれたら、あなたはどう答えるだろうか?文京学院大学講師の大島希巳江さんは、そんな質問をきっかけに英語落語に取り組み始め、海外公演も行うようになった。英語の辞書にrakugoを載せるのが夢だ。
 "It's like a Calirofnia roll," Kimie Oshima says of English rakugo. "It may not be authentic, but just as California rolls made sushi a household name overseas, English rakugo is helping to spread the centuries-old tradition."
  Oshima - who has introduced rakugo to at least 36,000 people worldwide since 1997 as producer and perfromer - has seen the effects of her overseas tours first-hand. "When we performed in Australia in 2001, a group of high school kids told me they wanted to start a rakugo team themselves. In fact, many non-Japanese ask me whether they, too, can perform rakugo," she says.
  Once a year, Oshima, 35, an associate professor of sociolinguistics at Bunkyo Gakuin University, tours several countries with four or five other rakugo artists, whose English performance she supervises. On tour, she notices that each country reacts differently to Japanese humor. Some punch lines work in certain countries, but not in others.
  Sometimes, audiences laugh at llines that aren't meant be funny. One audience member said, "If people are allowed to slurp noodles and make noise like that, I would love to visit Japan one day!" There have been unexpected mishaps, too. In Singapore, about 800 children in the audience repeatedly responded to the rakugo artist's greetings within the storyline. Whenever the rakugo artist said, "hello," the children yelled, "hello" back. In the end, the rakugo artist had to break out of character and ask them not to repeat them. This is why Oshima explains the traits of rakugo before each performance, including the fact that the same person will play multiple roles.
  Oshima has also noticed regional differences in audiences. "Asians tend to listen partiently until the end and laugh after punch line. But in Europe and North America, audience members laugh before the punch line as if they were competing over who is smarter and keener." But either way, "Most people end up enjoying it, even if they weren't expecting to."
  Oshima translates traditional rakugo stories for herself and for other rakugo artists to perform. Although she has no problem speaking English, (she attended college in Colorado and speaks English fluently), she says the toughest part is translating the puns. For example, in the story "Time Udon" (TokiUdon), she translated the names of two udon stores from "Atariya" and "Hazureya" into "Bingo" and "Dongo (Don't do)." But it's not always this easy. "Sometimes I just have to change the pun completely from the original."
 

出演者一同 →2005年、クアラルンプールの新しい劇場の中庭。とてもきれいな白い砂利に竹林。出演者左から:パールフラッシュ、大島希巳江、林家和女、桂あさ吉、桂かい枝
 The grammatical difference between English and Japanese also poses problems. "If I translate the stories directly, I might end up revealing the punch line earlier than in the original. So i have to make changes in those situations," she says. The translation choice can make or break a performance. In one rakugo performance, there is a line where a rickshaw driver says, "I just ran over sombody." In Japan, audiences would know that a person could not be killed by being hit with a small rickshaw. But some overseas audience don't know that, and they fell silent.
  "I could have translated the line as, 'I just hit someone.' But I thought it sounded funnier to say, 'I just ran over somebody.'" To win local audience's hearts, Oshima tailors each performance to the local culture. When she gets to a new country, she spends half a day talking to locals to get a feel for what jokes would work. For example, "Japanese culture is very open to the concept of death, which comes up often in rakugo. But in some cultures, like Brunei, death cannot be used in comedy."
犬と酔っ払い禁止でも 
 
In fact, Brunei, an Islamic counrty, posed many restrictions. When she tried to obtain visas for her tour, Oshima was asked to translate every perfromance verbatim. "None of them passed the screening initially. We weren't allowed to mention dogs or alcohol. The act of drinking alcohol or drunken behavior could not be performed," she remembers. In the end, a few performances were approved on the condition tha tcertain scenes were removed. "But the audiences loved our performance. The kids, too."
  In addition, the rakugo performers were told not to show their knees or elbows, despite the sweltering heat. So why did a young Japanese woman, whose peers hardly know rakugo, choose to promote rakugo overseas? When Oshima attended a meeting of the International Society for Humor Studies in 1996, someone asked her if Japanese people have humor. "Then they all pressured me to introduceJapanese humor to the world."
  Producing an overseas tour wasn't easy. Initially, there were people in Japan who criticized English rakugo as fake. And securing funding for these tours is challenging. Oshima seeks grants and contributions from foundations, companies and local hotels or entertainment halls to cover the expenses. But after nine years, thereare may positives. "Young Japanese who have never seen a Japanese rakugo watch our shows and take an interest in Japanese rakugo."
  Oshima has two goals. One is to use rakugo to defuse diplomatic tension. "You can't be antagonistic toward someone who makes you laugh,"she says. "By creating an image that Japanese people are actually funny, maybe Japan will not easily be attacked." Her second goal is to get the word rakugo into the Oxford Dictionary, thus establishing it as a globally accepted English word. "Karoshi (death from overwork) is in the Oxford Dictionary, but that's not what I want Japan to be known for!"
English-Rakugo
Copyright 2002 Kimie Oshima