Welcome to English Rakugo
What is English Rakugo
English Rakugo literally means performing rakugo in English.
Rakugo is Japan’s traditional art of storytelling which dates back to the 16th century.
Rakugo storytelling originated with short stories and the stories gradually became longer. The narratives are based on a wide range of topics, from comical to sentimental, and sometimes even tragic. They are conveyed by a lone storyteller seated atop an elevated stage called a koza, using only a paper fan and a hand towel as props. The tales involve conversations between multiple characters and the storyteller switches fluidly from one character to another, changing his voice, facial expression, and mannerisms to fit the character who is speaking. A slight turn of the head and a change in pitch is used to indicate a switch from one character to another.
In 1983, Katsura Shijaku, a very popular rakugo storyteller in Osaka began performing rakugo in English. He paved the way for the dozens of English rakugo storytellers who currently perform in Japan.
Members of the English Rakugo Association have performed rakugo in the English language both in Japan and overseas. We hope to bring this distinctive art form to your country once the pandemic has subsided.
Events and Seminars
In Japan, in addition to our regular performances, we have held English rakugo shows and seminars at international organizations such as JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) and UNESCO, as well as at private companies, schools, and hotels.
To date, our English rakugo seminars have served as training tools for employees at private companies and provided educational opportunities for students at various schools.
Our goal is to promote English Rakugo in Japan and abroad and to utilize it in a variety of settings.
One of our goals is to use English rakugo as a means for introducing Japanese culture to foreign audiences both in Japan and overseas. We would like to demonstrate the entertainment value of rakugo and inspire Japanese people to think of it as a method for introducing their culture.
On top of that, we would like to utilize English rakugo as a fun tool to help educate and encourage others to develop their English conversational skills. Oftentimes, schools and businesses lose sight of the fact that English is a communication tool. They devote far too much time to studying for examinations and much less time to learning how to effectively use language skills in communicating with others.
Learning English rakugo will help increase your confidence in verbal communication, liven up your speeches and presentations, and help you convey Japanese culture across the board.
Kanariya Eiraku is a Tokyho-based English rakugo storyteller. He also teaches performance at Komazawa University and Kanda University of International Studies. He participated in the Rakugo Tatekawa-ryu in 1984 to learn the essence of rakugo from Tatekawa Danshi. He began offering Japanese rakugo classes in 1991 and in 2007, he established his English rakguo classes.
In 2015, he started touring overseas with his students to perform rakugo and hold rakugo seminars. So far he has visited LA, San Francisco, San Jose, San Mateo, Seattle, Arizona, NY, and Texas. He has also performed in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, Georgia, Kazakhstan, and Laos.
Together with Ichirin and Koraku, he founded the English Rakugo Association in 2020 with the mission to spread rakugo all over the world.
In 2021, he collaborated with author Kristine Ohkubo to publish books on rakugo. They have published Talking about Rakugo 1, 2 and Eiraku's 100 English Rakugo Scropts vol.1.
For more info, please visit the following website;
Eiraku has an M. Ed in TESOL from Temple University.
As an English language lecturer, Kanariya Ichirin started performing English Rakugo in 2013 in the hope of using English rakugo in English language education. Instead, she has immersed herself deeply in performing.
While living abroad across three countries for 13 years, she had opportunities to introduce many aspects of Japanese culture. However, she realized rakugo, the Japanese art of storytelling, was not widely known. With the hope of spreading the power of rakugo outside of Japan, she founded English Rakugo Association with Eiraku and Koraku in 2020. From 2016, she performed in Arizona (2016), New York (2017), Georgia (2019), and England (London, Manchester, and Edinburgh in 2019).
She also conducts seminars utilizing English Rakugo at schools, universities, and corporations. Her specialty stories include "Tenshashiki" and "Raccoons".
Also known as Masako Uehara, a lecturer at Kanda Institute of International Studies. Her publications include various TOEFL study guides. She holds M.A. in English Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics (King's College, London)
Koraku made his rakugo debut at a school festival when he was 16. After graduating from a university, he worked as a diplomat in Europe, U.S. and Africa. While organizing Japanese cultural events in various locations, he noticed that traditional comic storytelling such as rakugo was almost always left out because of the language barrier. Feeling it would be a shame if such popular entertainment was only limited to Japanese speakers, he decided to become a performer himself. He then knocked on the doors of Master Kingentei Ryoma and Master Kanariya Eiraku. Koraku aims to be the first truly multilingual rakugo performer from Japan. At the moment, he holds regular shows in Japan and France and performs overseas. He was a member of the UK Rakugo Tour in 2019 (London, Manchester, Edinburgh) and held Rakugo shows in France (Nice, Paris, Strasbourg, Tours) with his French performer friend Cyril Coppini . He is also a board member of the English Rakugo Association (https://en.englishrakugo.com/)
Simon loved rakugo even as an elementary school student and devoted himself to memorizing numerous Japanese rakugo stories he had heard growing up. In April 2014, he joined the Canary English Rakugo Co., with the hope of improving his English conversation skills; however, he could not set aside his love for the art form and soon began to think about introducing rakugo beyond the borders of Japan.
Wanting to expand his English rakugo repertoire, he embarked on a project in 2017 to translate various classical rakugo stories into English. To date, he has translated 10 of the 15 stories he regularly performs on stage himself. In fact, translating humorous Japanese rakugo stories into English is Simon’s favorite pastime. Stories like “Palanquin Bearers,” “Yoka-choro,” and “Ghost in the Kitchen Stove” are among his favorites.
Simon has a deep love for rakugo and even his five-year-old daughter can tell whether he is going to work or to his rakugo lessons based on his mood when he leaves his house! He claims to just be a “humble businessman” when he is not performing rakugo.