Rakugo is a traditional Japanese art of story telling. The stories usually involve some type of humorous twist and are performed by one person while sitting on stage. In the last few decades in Japan, Rakugo performed in English has become a popular form of entertainment and, as a result, Rakugo materials for English language learners have also gained popularity. However, there are very few Rakugo materials based on Japanese language education. Consequently, this website rakugogaku.com was developed to provide Japanese language learners with an alternative form of self-study while providing a resource for Japanese educators. The objective of the website is to:
- Help students acquire skills in speaking and communication while developing listening and comprehension skills.
- Supply learning material for Japanese learners and educators.
- Introduce one of the traditional cultural and speaking arts of Japan.
Despite not being included in Japanese educational materials as frequently as other cultural materials, Rakugo has been cited as having educational merit for a number of reasons. First, it is a speaking art with application in Japanese education and learning. Second, Rakugo includes the universal element of laughter. Third, the cost can be kept low since it is a single person performance. It should be noted that Rakugo also solicits the use of a teaching method called total physical response (TPR). A recent study on the use of TPR in foreign language classes has shown to increase student performance, content retention, and student motivation.
This website rakugogaku.com was designed to feature short Rakugo stories as a comprehensive learning material since previous Japanese language learning Rakugo materials have taken a one dimensional approach. While some Rakugo based Japanese language materials focus on art appreciation and presentation, others focus only on using the material as a listening activity or reading comprehension activity. Rakugogaku.com functions to include all elements of Rakugo as the study of language and cultural art.
As a comprehensive approach, the website first introduces the basics of Rakugo to be appreciated as a cultural art. The Rakugo Basics section introduces the audience to how a Rakugo story is told, use of props, gestures, musical elements, and use of the audience’s imagination. This introduction gives the student a basic understanding of how to observe and appreciate a Rakugo performance.
Following an introduction to Rakugo as a cultural art, the student is introduced to four different short stories featuring Katsura Asakichi. Katsura Asakichi is a professional Rakugo performer skilled in storytelling in both English and Japanese. Asakichi is a perfect fit in this case because the material in English and Japanese helps the Japanese language learner better understand Japanese culture and different elements of language translation. Asakichi also helped select appropriate short stories that were often taken to be funny or humorous. Humor is an important element of Rakugo and previous Rakugo language materials failed to share this with their audience.
In addition to observing the art of Rakugo, the Japanese student is able to use the material to develop their Japanese language skills. Each story includes a page that lists the vocabulary, explains the grammar, shares cultural insights from the storyline, and shows the script in Japanese and English.