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Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2006


Rakugo and a noisy neighbor


Ewan, teaching in Tokyo, is interested in Japanese story-telling. "I don't know if you have heard but story-telling in the U.K. is enjoying quite a revival. Edinburgh has the first center for story-telling ever created in the world, funded by the Scottish Storytelling Forum and the Church of Scotland. I'd really like to know more about rakugo."

Rakugo means "falling down," meaning that at the end of every story there is a punchline that somehow leaves you floored. With its origins way back in Edo period (1603-1868) Japanese story-telling has been enjoying a new lease of life, thanks to a kids TV program several years ago that helped draw new audiences.

Nagatani is a company that organizes a lot of classes in traditional Japanese culture. It owns a theater in Tokyo called Ueno Hirokoji-tei where one rakugo class is held, the school having a strong relationship with Rakugo Geijutsu Kyokai-Rakugo Art Association.

The school's name is Oedo-engei, the class is Yuza no Jissen Koten Rakugo kyoshitsu, and its teacher Sanyu-tei Yuza.

The class meets on the first Thursday of every month, from 6.30-8 p.m., with each term running six months, although one term runs into another; there is no set curriculum, or text book.

The teacher performs a story for beginners and another story for regular students. Students observe how he performs. The teacher offers some basic advice but very little. Students then perform voluntarily. Homework is given to every class: amusing haiku-like verses called "senryu" and "dodoitsu," and funny short-short stories, like "kobanashi" and "nazokake" etc. All are traditional ways in which to express your own sense of humor.

The phone number is (0422) 21-1711 (Japanese only) and you can check the Web site at www1.odn.ne.jp/engeijou/school.html

Another class (also run by Nagatani) is called Basho no Rakugo no Shinzui wo Manabu. This is taught by Kingen-tei Basho who belong to the other association, called Rakugo Kyokai. Students again meet one a month, from 2-3.30 p.m.

I wonder if Euan recently went to the Encho Rakugo festival at Zensho-an in Nippori? Usually held on the first or second Sunday of August, it celebrates Encho, who created many stories in late Edo period, and whose tomb is in the temple grounds. It provides the opportunity to meet many famous "rakugo-ka" (storytellers) and party. And do I mean party!

Clean but noisy

Desperate D. has a problem.

"I have a neighbor who uses the washing machine every day. This wakes up both myself and my family. She used to start at 5 a.m. After we spoke to her, she agreed to start from 7 a.m. However, she has recently been starting from 6:30 a.m. and continuing until about 9 a.m.

The washing machine is positioned outside, on the neighbor's 2nd floor balcony, about 5-10 metres from D's bedroom. The washing cycle is not noisy, but when it gets to the spin dry cycle, "it sounds like an airplane and blasts us awake. Is there anything I can do (e.g. noise pollution laws etc.)?"

Of course there are laws, but in a domestic situation like this they are very hard to implement. Noise pollution is a common problem, and if the offending party is not willing to change their behavior or even compromise, it's hard to know what to advise. Police do not like to intervene, and real estaters more often than not are loathe to get involved.

I suggest you speak to your neighbor again, an obvious creature of habit, first alone and then maybe maybe with some back-up from other neighbors and/or Japanese friends. Explain that because sleep patterns are being interrupted, your health is being affected. If this fails, or after an interval of more considerate behavior she reverts once again, try City Office. Ask if they can intervene is any way.

Send your queries, questions, problems and posers to lifelines@japantimes.co.jp

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