Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu – Past, Present, and Future


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The flow of time and its influence on everyday life has been a constant theme throughout Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu. As Yakumo narrated his life story, dealing with the complexities of his relationships, and the problems that faced rakugo during the pre, and post-war years, we as the audience saw how quickly things can change, and how easily the past can be forgotten. Read more of this post

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu – Memories of the Past


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The past exerts a tremendous force on the characters in Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, it pulls at them incessantly, reminding them of past slights, problems that they have desperately tried to overcome, while raking up memories that they would have preferred left buried. Read more of this post

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu – Seasons of Change


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Last week I discussed the importance of tradition to Japanese arts like rakugo, it is something that connects them to their past, and informs their approach to the present and future. Tradition is also an integral part of these arts, and can be found in their very character – the way of teaching, types of stories, even specific movements, and introductions – many stories, or plays have specific kata or forms that have been passed down from generation to generation for hundreds of years, unchanging, and unique. Read more of this post

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu – Questioning Tradition


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Tradition is an essential aspect of traditional Japanese entertainment, with various forms, poems, stories, and even movements, or ‘kata’ passed down from generation to generation, sometimes for centuries. One of the most extreme examples of this tradition can be found in Kabuki, where particular forms and movements have gone unchanged for centuries, and the best Kabuki actors are distinguished by the small, individual flourishes that they add to the basic kata, flourishes that often only the most experienced viewer may notice. Read more of this post

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu – A Change in the Wind


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Much of Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu has been about following Kikuhiko as he struggles with his feelings for rakugo, feelings that are complicated by his past, and the existence of Sukeroku, a seemingly untouchable rakugo apprentice. He is an uncertain character, one who continuously questions his own choices, and whether he is even capable of truly telling food rakugo. This contrasts with the absolute certainty of Sukeroku, an individual who never practices, and yet continuously produces exceptional performances that have the audience rolling with laughter. Read more of this post

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu – A Different Sort of Rakugo


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Throughout the first half of Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, Kikuhiko has spent his time trying to come to terms with his life as a rakugo-ka, often musing on why he is there, and whether he can be a true story teller. His uncertainties are contrasted with the absolute certainty of Sukeroku, who neither wavers, nor questions his current existence, always believing in his story telling ability, and knowing that what he truly wants to do, is to entertain people. Read more of this post

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu – The Seduction of Theatre


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So far Shouwa Genroku Rakguo Shinjuu has been a fascinating glimpse at a period when two Japan’s collide, something that I am particularly interested in. As the series has progressed Tokyo, and the world around Sukeroku and Yakumo (Kikuhiko) has changed, with the old world of the Taisho and early Shouwa periods gradually disappearing, or being consumed by the ever advancing economy and society of post-war Japan. Indeed, we now see the old and the new side by side, jostling for space, which ultimately results in the old losing out. Read more of this post

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu – Blinded by Perfection


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Up until now, Shouwa Genrku Rakugo Shinjuu has largely focussed on the early Shouwa period, a period that saw Japan shift towards an authoritarian, and nationalist regime. It also represents a period where Japan was simultaneously an industrialised, and modern country, while also maintaining a direct link to the more traditional past, with dirt roads, and classical architecture in abundance through the last two episodes. Read more of this post

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu – The Captivated Audience


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To be successful, rakugo must captivate the audience, taking them to a time and place that has long since passed, and one that often deals with mannerisms, etiquette, and social issues that are largely irrelevant to modern society. The majority of these stories are set in the Edo period, and are therefore bound up in older traditions, ones that may well be passed on in other art forms such as kabuki, noh, and tea ceremony, but have long since disappeared from everyday life. As such, central to a rakugo performance is the ability of the rakugo-ka to successfully conjure up these periods, twisting space and transporting the audience into his world. Read more of this post

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu – Different Worlds


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I briefly touched upon the conflict between periods in my first post on Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, pointing to the tension between the new, modern period of economic success, and the traditional, even old fashioned image of Rakugo, complete with kimono and classical architecture. These moments are brief, but important, representing a split within the culture and society of Japan. Read more of this post