So what is Rakugo? And in English? These thoughts were in the minds of the 100-plus audience that came to see Diane “Kichijitsu” perform at the University of Hawaii Manoa Orvis Auditorium on April 3rd. Diane, who calls herself Kichijitsu (or literally, Lucky Day in Japanese), is a comic storyteller in this 400-year old traditional Japanese art form. Popular in Japan, it is virtually unknown to the rest of the world. Diane, originally from England, has made her home in Osaka deciding to stay there after backpacking around the world and discovering this unique art that appealed to her. She’s been performing Rakugo for over 20 years around the world to include Finland, Norway, Estonia and Dubai after being an understudy of the master Rakugo performer, Katsura Shijaku, the pioneer of Rakugo in English.
Rakugo is Japan’s traditional version of the stand-up comic. But the performer stays seated on stage on a zabuton cushion, using two very simple implements, a folding fan (sensu) and a hankie (tenugui), and uses them to tell stories of every-day life assuming multiple characters. Rakugo literally means “falling (or tumbling) words” because at the end, there’s always a verbal surprise, a punch line.
JASH teamed with the Japanese Consulate and the University of Hawaii Department of Theatre and Dance to bring this performance to its members and the community. JASH Director and President of Myland Hawaii Realty prepared snacks and refreshments for the audience in a pre-event setting at the Auditorium to turn this into a gala affair. JASH President Ed Hawkins introduced the event, explaining that JASH is about promoting understanding between U.S. and Japan, and this Rakugo performance fits perfectly. Deputy Consul General Kazunari Tanaka welcomed the crowd, and UH Manoa Center of Japanese Studies Director Dr. Mary McDonald gave closing comments. The crowd was treated to over an hour of an engaging performance, complete with the ochi, punch line. Diane even gave a history lesson of Rakugo and description of the performer’s dress and props through audience participation. The event concluded with Diane’s stories of her travels across the world, weaving her experiences and life’s lessons which she shared. Then she engaged the audience in “laughter yoga,” something she picked up in India, stressing laughter is good for the body and soul.
JASH would like to thank all the sponsors, supporters, and volunteers that made this event possible. Special thanks to UH Department of Theatre and Dance for providing the Orvis Auditorium, Consulate General of Japan in Honolulu for co-hosting and funding the stage support, and of course Diane “Kichijitsu” for providing the performance.