What is Rakugo?

Try to answer this quiz about the traditional Japanese art of Rakugo. See how you do and then watch the video and read the article to learn more.
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Now check out this video which features ダイアン吉日 Diane Kichijitsu, a female British Rakugo performer who is based in Osaka.

She explains and beautifully performs some examples of the Rakugo tradition. See if you can understand the Japanese in her performance.

落語 – rakugo – Literally means “falling words” and refers to the traditional art of story telling in Japan. This art form, that started in the Edo period (1603-1868), involves a single story teller who sits on a cushion on stage and recounts tales loaded with puns and punchlines. The 落語家 rakugoka – rakugo story teller uses eye movements and facial expressions to portray funny conversations between two and sometimes even three people. They also use a small hand towel and fan to represent anything from books and chopsticks to pens or even swords.

Rakugo vocabulary

扇子 – sensu

A fan which is used as a prop to represent various objects such as chopsticks or a sword.

手拭- tenugui

A hand towel which is used in a similar way to the fan.

座布団 – zabuton

The cushion the rakugo performer sits on. If the audience appreciates them they can receive another cushion.

高座 – kouza

The stage the rakugo performer sits on

正座 – seiza

The traditional way of sitting employed by the rakugo performer

見習い – minarai

An apprentice who is a beginner at rakugo

前座 – zenza

A novice at rakugo

二つ目 – futatsume

One rank below a master Rakugo story teller

真打 – shinuchi

A master rakugo story teller

駄洒落 – dajare

A pun. Rakugo stories are usually littered with puns and witty plays on words.

おち – ochi

Each rakugo story usually ends in a punchline or ochi.


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