Inherited from tales by Buddhist preachers and now secularised, this solo performance involves a storyteller making the audience laugh.
Rakugo, which literally translates as ‘art of fallen words’, is making a comeback on Japanese stages. Dating back to the 17th century and originating from Buddhist tradition, rakugo experienced its heyday in the Meiji era (1868-1912) and particularly following the Second World War, when it adopted its current form. This also marked the period when it left the streets and private apartments for wood-panelled performance venues, that can still be found in Tokyo and Osaka today.
However, even though rakugo has become secular, the way it is performed still contains the asceticism so dear to religion. The storyteller, rakugoka, alone on the stage known as koza, kneels on a cushion, or zabuton, and does not move from this position throughout their performance. The performance takes place with them dressed simply, in a kimono, and their only props are a paper fan and a cotton towel.
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