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Acting out many roles through gestures: that is Rakugo (落語). There are types and rules of Rakugo. For those that are new to Rakugo, we have put together and are going to introduce the basic information that you can read at ease.

What is “Rakugo”(落語)?

Rakugo

Unlike Noh plays (能楽) and Kabuki (歌舞伎), it is a traditional art where one person must play many roles while moving the story forward, at times using a fan to gesture using tools. It has been passed down to this day, with its one feature being that it has an Ochi (オチ).

Lets Learn Its History

  • Edo Period

It is said that the house of Rakugo came to be when something called Tsuji-hanashi (辻噺) was being done where a person would sit on stage a tell a humorous story to an audience sitting on a mat. Tsuji-hanashi has been done in Kyoto, Edo, and Osaka, with each of them being famous for having their own Tsuji-hanashi tellers, [Kyoto has the Dew of Gorobei (露の五郎兵衛), Edo has Shikano-buzaemon (鹿野武左衛門), Osaka has Yonezawa hikohachi (米沢彦八)]. Edos Shikano-buzaemon has been invited to many mansions to do his Zashiki-hanashi (座敷噺).

  • Meiji・Taisho Periods

In this period, Sanyutei Enchou (三遊亭圓朝) took empathetic type stories and the ghost story type stories into Rakugo, making it develop. After that, two big styles known as the Sanyu style (三遊派), created by Sanyutei Enchou, and the Yanagi style (柳派), created by Yanagi-ie Enshi (柳家燕枝), was born. These two styles developed and are now passed down through the Rakugo Association and the Rakugo Art Associations.

  • Showa Period

In this period, Manzai (漫才) started to become the trend, with the attention to Rakugo declining. In 1955, the Kamigata Rakugo Association had been established, and in 1964, a TV series called Gyouten (笑点) had started airing, putting Rakugo back in trend again.

  • Heian Period

Due to the TV series “Tiger & Dragon” airing with actors, Nagase Tomoya (長瀬智也) and Okada Junichi (岡田准一) acting in it, the number of Rakugo fans skyrocketed. Rakugo associations started becoming popular with newcomers, such as Nishi Shinjuku Music Teito (西新宿ミュージックテイト), for being able to easily bring their feet there. This popularity is called, “The Rakugo trend of Heisei”.

The Different Kinds Of Hanashi (噺)

  • Humorous Hanashi

It is a weirdly funny Hanashi that will leave one holding their stomach in laughter. It is acted out humorously through a distinct world view, in-which the ridiculousness of the Rakugo is to be enjoyed. (※Representative works: [Time Soba], [Sokotsu Nagaya], [Yadoya-no-adauchi])

  • Empathetic Hanashi

This kind of Hanashi focuses on boy/girl or parent/child empathy, with it having a sad trait. It has moral teachings in its stories, but comedic instances are sprinkled in. This Hanashis stories are often long and acted out in parts. (※Representative works: [Shibahama], [Kowakare])

  • Play Hanashi

This Hanashi is when Empathetic Hanashi incorporates sounds, voices, costumes and backgrounds to forward the story. (※Representative works: [Godan-me], [Nakamura Nakazou])

  • Ghost Story Hanashi

It is a type of the Play Hanashi that incorporates things such as ghosts and the grim reaper. The speaker, dressed in a ghost costume, would go into the audience to scare them. (※Representative works: [Shinigami], [Shinkei Kasane-ga-fuchi])

Watching Manner That You Would Want To Know

  • You can wear regular clothes like what you would wear to the movies, but please refrain from wearing big hats.
  • Entering the room late is okay. Usually during the opening performance, the audience numbers start low but slowly build up.Please refrain from laughing loudly or making loud noises. To enjoy Rakugo is to listen to it, so loud noises are the bane of Rakugo.
  • Please refrain from talking during the performance. Recently, due to the increase in young customers, there have been many reported incidents of people being noisy.