落語/Rakugo is a combination of the words “fall” and “word”.
It is a kind of performance on stage with only one performer.
There’s no props, no stage decoration – just their words.
The performer, or rakugoka, will usually sit on a cushion throughout the whole performance.
If you imagined it, I guess you’d think it was quite serious or boring – just one person sitting and talking, right?
Actually, they tell funny stories and use their voice and gestures to entertain the crowd.
Here’s an example of rakugo being performed in English:
It’s a uniquely Japanese stage performance.
It evolved from Buddhist monks trying to make their sermons more engaging with changes in voice, gestures and so on.
A popular story is まんじゅうこわい/manju kowai, which means “I’m scared of manju” .
A cheeky guy pretends he’s scared of manju so his friends try to trick him by leaving manju in his room. He makes a big fuss pretending to be terrified while scoffing handfuls of manju.