One reason it feels so rewarding to visit Japan is encountering some of their best things that somehow never make it out of the country. We’re not just talking about the heated toilet seats and bidets or square watermelons. Rakugo, known as Japanese “sit down comedy”, hardly left Japan’s shores in spite of domestic popularity because it has traditionally been presented in Japanese.
But the new generation of performers are changing that. They are eager to bring the art form to the international stage. Shinoharu Tatekawa, the third disciple of the famous Rakugo artist Shinosuke Tatekawa, also performs in English. And Shinoharu’s path to becoming a Rakugo comedian is unusual: the Yale graduate left the comfort of the corporate world to train for almost nine years under Shinosuke after being impressed at one of his performances.
After two sold-out shows in January, Shinoharu returns for his third English performance, giving Singapore another chance to experience the comic storytelling of Rakugo. The setup of Rakugo is minimal – the lone performer sits on stage with a paper fan and a handkerchief. This makes it a great test of skills for the performer, who uses his voice, facial expressions and body language to represent various characters of the humorous stories.
This ancient art has been handed down in Japan from master to apprentice for centuries. But with Shinoharu, he asks you to check him out on Facebook.