Katsura Kaishi is a Rakugo-ka or what’s known as a Rakugo actor. He just finished a performance (in English) at the University of Montana in Missoula. I know this because my son saw it and pronounced it “great” and that I should be jealous. I responded that I definitely was. I would love to have seen this performance even if it was in English. I’ve only just begun to really appreciate that kind of theater as it requires a lot of focused listening, at least on my part. I confess, I really don’t understand it, but I enjoy it nevertheless. What I do understand is that it’s authentic and it not only serves but comes from the people. It’s local theater and I’ve recently come to appreciate it through watching a new NHK asa-dora or morning drama (really, a soap opera), called Chiritotechin. Several years earlier I had been exposed to a short piece called Jugemu. At the time, I was completely intimidated by it, as it was suggested that it would be something I could teach my own students. Later, in watching Chiritotechin, I saw it performed.

As I said earlier, I have to really listen to get it, and I really don’t. The language, the humor is sometimes obtuse and then again it’s sometimes in dialect, maybe even old, so that the story for the most part, escapes me. Still, the actors take on at least three personnas or more and they could be of different sexes and ages. The actors, storytellers, dress in kimono and haori, sit on a zabuton (cushion), and use only a cotton hand towel and a fan as props. The magic is in their words, voice, gesture and body language, performed sitting on a single cushion.

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