Rakugo in English! Kōjiya Heiyū Returns!
Boy, it feels good to make people laugh! Today, at the university I teach at, I gave a special rakugo performance in English for international students and other interested students and thanks to a very receptive audience I killed! Taking the makeshift stage (really a desk set up in the international student center) as Kōjiya Heiyū (麹屋へい遊), my adopted stage name when performing rakugo, I first gave the students a crash course on the basics of the traditional storytelling art and then performed a short story (called kobanashi) and then, the popular story of “the Zoo”. Actually, this was the first time I’ve performed rakugo in English (aside from one kobanashi a few years ago) and the first time I’ve performed at all in three years so it was a bit nerve-racking. What saved me was the fact that I was performing in my native tongue, enabling me to ad-lib when possible and recover from mistakes when needed. When I performed previously in Japanese I understandably was more worried about the language I used and this led me to stumble at times. That wasn’t a problem this time as I was even able to work in a few inside-jokes for the university students.
In the past, I actually taught rakugo in English at a small university in Tokyo for three years. (Years earlier, as part of my graduate studies, I studied rakugo by enrolling in a school for amateurs taught by professionals) At the end of the semester students would be required to perform a translated rakugo story in English, not an easy task. While I enjoyed teaching the course and working at that university, with the possibility of a full-time position at another university came up last year I jumped at the chance. Unfortunately, at this university there is no room in the curriculum for such a course currently. Still, in the future I look forward to the chance to use English to get more people interested in this comedic tradition.