"Well, we're finally at the last one."
"That's right, you have graciously helped me for an entire year now. Uh...Who are you again?"
"Just a man who's a regular reader of your articles. I've been reading them every single month just to kill time."
"You truly are quite the high and mighty reader...but I am grateful anyway."
"No need to thank me. I only really did it because I had no choice. It was just a habit I picked up to kill time..."
"Ah, well enough of that. It still makes me happy!"
"I'll give you credit for one thing. You wrote both Japanese and English versions, right? You wrote the English one well."
"Actually, what I write in Japanese is translated into English for me by a professional!"
"Is that right?! Haha! Anyway, in the first of those serial essays, you wrote that you want the readers to get as familiar with the world of rakugo as possible, and ultimately, to actually experience it. Did anybody actually come after reading that?"
"It isn't a lie. They came, month after month, several people from the Japan Foundation."
"... out of a sense of duty?"
"Shut up! It isn't really like that. I think. I really appreciate that."
"Oh, actually, I still haven't watched or listened to rakugo live."
"When you say 'live' does that mean you've watched or listened to it some other way?"
"Yeah, several ways. YouTube for instance, for free. But I got the gist of it."
"The gist of what?"
"Rakugo itself. That is to say, in my case, I can usually get the punchline midway through. And the moment you get the punchline, you might say the story loses its punch..."
"That's stupid! No, it's not like that. It is true that rakugo is written in Japanese as 'to recite a punchline.' But in my opinion, the picture that it paints in the listeners' heads before one arrives at that point is what is important. The performer vanishes, and an image of the characters in the story takes his place. The image moves freely around in your mind. It's a great feeling. Then, even if you already know the punchline, you can enjoy the same story time and time again."
"I don't have enough time for that though."
"Did you just make every rakugo fan in the world your enemy? It is not like that. It is a sign of its richness, isn't it? It is a level of richness that even Abenomics could not generate!"
"Well that is saying a lot. That means that all of the people that come to a rakugo show are rich."
"That is... true. In their hearts."
"Is the performer also rich?"
"Um, in his heart..."
"In his wallet?"
"His wallet is empty. But that doesn't matter."
"A samurai laughs loudly even when he is hungry..."
"He still uses a toothpick even when he is! But, mister, do you think that rakugo is the same every single time?"
"It is. There are fixed stories, and they end with fixed punchlines. They are all the same."
"That's wrong. The same story can be completely different according to the performer. Even the same performer will make it different each time he goes on stage. Also, this art form is not one-way traffic. It advances through dialogue with the audiences' imagination and becomes a joint venture. We create the story together. For that reason, depending on the location, aspects like the pause, the rhythm, and the details of word usage...all can differ entirely."
"To put it another way, a story becomes something different when you are present compared to the one told when you had not been there, mister. Isn't that incredible!?"
"No way. Even if you emphasize it by flaring your nostrils like that, I can't compare. So I don't know."
"You take a lot of convincing, don't you? Well then, mister, do you have desires?"
"Desires? But of course!"
"And they are clear to you, I assume. And it's not only you. All people have a variety of desires: to make money, to succeed, to be loved, to be respected, to be needed, to be comforted, to be satisfied, to be accepted, to be praised, to grow, to communicate with others, to understand things, to see, to hear, to face challenges, to have an easy life, to stand out, to fulfill dreams, to be made to laugh, to laugh, to make connections, to be excited, to be endearing, to be saved, to be reprimanded, to be cared about, to look forward to things, to be made happy, to live!"
"Gosh, that was quite a list. From those, I want to be loved, needed, and cared about!"
"Mister... your case is slightly pitiful. But everyone is somewhat like that. The thing that is attractive about the characters in rakugo is their honesty about their desires. Because they are human. Rakugo remains with us today because, against all expectations, people have not changed in the past 300 years."
"Since the days of Genpaku Sugita?"
"Exactly. Isn't it interesting?"
"I suppose so."
"Are you starting to want to go to a rakugo performance?"
"A little, yes."
"Then let's go! In my case, I actually started to like people more after I first encountered rakugo. It would be perfect for someone like you, mister."
"Well then, I will go one time, just to try it out. But you must do your best to not have it be said that the English version of rakugo is perhaps better..."
"Oh shut up. Actually, the next performer has probably finished their preparations by now. Let's move ourselves to the wings of the stage."
"... huh? Did we just do all of that on the stage?"
"Don't worry about the little details. Well then, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your support over this past year. If those of you who read my essays now feel even a little more familiar with rakugo, then I could not be happier. I hope that in the future, I will get the chance to meet you again from the stage. Thank you very much!"
"Wait, thank you from me as well. Why should I express my gratitude?"
"C'mon, mister! The theme for the next performer has started. That's all from me. Now, for the next performer!"
"Have you gained a little familiarity with rakugo? I will be waiting for you on the stage!" (Shinoharu)
Rakugo performer Shinoharu Tatekawa was born in Osaka in 1976 and raised in Kashiwa, Chiba Prefecture. After graduating from Yale University in the U.S., he began working at Mitsui & Co. in 1999. In his third year of work, he chanced upon a performance by Shinosuke Tatekawa. It had such a huge impact on him that he made the decision to become a rakugo performer after half a year, upon much deliberation. He approached Shinosuke Tatekawa directly to accept him as a disciple, but was rejected. However, he then resigned from his job and entreated the master once again to accept him as a disciple. In October 2002, he was accepted as the third disciple of Shinosuke Tatekawa. In January 2011, he was promoted to futatsume (the second highest rank). He performs classical and contemporary rakugo works, as well as rakugo in English, and has even performed in Singapore. In 2013, he received an encouragement prize from the Nikkan Tobikiri Rakugo Kai. His publications include Dare demo waraeru eigo rakugo (Rakugo in English; Shinchosha) and Anata no purezen ni "makura" wa aruka? Rakugo ni manabu shigoto no hinto (Does your presentation have an "introduction"?; Star Seas Company). His latest publication is Jibun wo Kowasu Yuki (Courage to destroy yourself; CrossMedia Publishing).
** Please visit the official websites below for information about his live performances.
Shinoharu Tatekawa's official website http://shinoharu.com/
Shinoharu Tatekawa's blog http://ameblo.jp/tatekawashinoharu/