No Matter How Much One Practices どんなにお稽古しても

Dressing room at PCCThanks to organizers and sponsors at Portland Community College, and a great audience that included both students and distinguished guests, the rakugo show–and reception that followed–was a very memorable experience.

I could not have asked for more in terms of hospitality, venue, support, and response.

Every opportunity to perform is an opportunity to learn. This time I learned that one can never practice enough.

For this show I decided to do the story Niuriya, which is a “travel story” (tabibanashi). The reason I wanted to do this is because it is a story that zenza often learn while in training. Particularly, I wanted to challenge myself by memorizing the “outset” (hottan) of the story, a section of challenging cadence-style narrative interspersed with rhythmic strikes on the kendai with small wooden clappers (kobyôshi) and a fan wrapped in paper (hariôgi). This bit is also called “striking” (tataki) and is traditionally used to train beginners in projection, enunciation, breathing, and timing.

I have seen tataki narrated a number of times, but I particularly like Somemaru’s version, which is included on his 3-DVD box set “The World of Hayashiya Somemaru” (Hayashiya Somemaru no sekai).

I told Somemaru that I wanted to do this part of the story in Japanese and he warned me that it is quite difficult. Still, I thought I was up for the challenge.

The day before the show I had the tataki bit memorized and was able to get through it with satisfactory speed. On the day of the show, I ran through it a few more times. No problem.


Performing in front of a live audience is different from practicing alone. About two-thirds of the way through, I lost a line and couldn’t seem to recover. I had no choice but to humbly accept defeat and proceed with the story.

The rest of the story went well, and the audience seemed to like Niuriya, but as soon as I left the stage I wanted so badly to get right back out there and give it another shot.

Truly, one can never practice enough. I look forward to further opportunities to improve as a hanashika.













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