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Rokyoku, a Japanese traditional storytelling art


Have you ever heard about Rokyoku(浪曲, ろうきょく) or in more common name in Japan, Naniwabushi?🤔

My first time listening to Rokyoku was back to 2018. I had a chance to watch a Rokyoku performance in Hungary.🇭🇺

Since then, I really love to watch it. And I monthly go to Mokubatei, a Rokyoku theatre in Asakusa Tokyo to watch performances when I am in Japan.😀

Rokyoku is one of traditional Japanese storytelling arts, such as Rakugo(落語, らくご) and Kodan(講談, こうだん).🎙️

In a Rokyoku performance, normally, there are two people on the stage.

One standing at the centre of the stage is called Rokyokushi. The Rokyokushi tells the story sometimes chanting and sometimes singing.🎤

The other person sitting at the edge of the stage is Kyokushi. Kyokushi plays on Shamisen, a Japanese traditional string instrument.🎸 The role of Shamisen in Rokyoku is to help the audience immerse in the world of the story.

A typical theme of the Rokyoku pieces is heroic story.🦸 They introduce Japanese heroes who valued duties and humanity. Some of those heroes are not so important figures in Japanese history. Even though, their acts of kindness are fully expressed in Rokyoku performance sometimes with full of tears and sometimes with funny taste.😂😭

However, recently, Tannhäuser from an opera composed by Richart Wagner appears in a Rokyoku.😮

Tamagawa Nanafuku, a rokyokushi, is trying to remake a masterpiece of opera into Japanese rokyoku. In her work, the name of the main character also became Japanese version, “Tan-no-hoi-zaemon.”🇯🇵

Nanafuku found Tannhäuser’s struggle with his love and the strict value of Christianity as a common point with Rokyoku.

Nanafuku made and performed a Rokyoku of Cinderella, an European folklore, in 2018, which was welcomed with huge applause.

Yes, this is the rokyoku which I watched for the first time in Hungary.

Including her Cinderella piece, I would like to share some Rokyoku recommendations.🎵

②Traditional Rokyoku with English subtitle:

I hope you enjoy and get interested in Japanese Culture including Rokyoku and this article motivates you to explore Japanese culture and language more!😁




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