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Japanese Students Experience Rakugo

Last month, the year 10 and 11 Japanese classes were lucky enough to be able to attend a Rakugo performance from the only Japanese storyteller in New Zealand, Kanariya Eishi.

Rakugo is a form of Japanese entertainment where one storyteller performs sitting on a raised platform using only a paper fan and a small cloth as props. The stories told are usually comical, and can be up to hours long.

Kanariya Eishi is the only Rakugo performer in New Zealand, and has been living here for almost 18 years. He began doing Rakugo at a Japanese University when he was 18, and later left Japan to go to America, where he got a BA in Theatre arts. He is also a trained clown.

After meeting a Kiwi woman he came to live in New Zealand and later began performing Rakugo in English.

Kanariya then found a Rakugo Master who was able to teach him the art form long distance from Japan. He enjoys Rakugo because it’s universal, and people from all cultures can understand and relate to it, no matter their background.

For the year 10 and 11 Japanese students, Kanariya told the story of the boy with the world’s longest name, and by the end had the whole classroom filled with joyous laughter. He also taught us many gestures which could tell a whole story with minimal props, just a cloth and a fan.

Overall, it was a most enjoyable experience for all involved, and it was very interesting to be able to learn about the Japanese art of Rakugo.

Special thanks to Mrs Kevern for organising the event, to Eishi for coming along and performing for us and to the Asia New Zealand Foundation for their support.

Alanna Santoso