OSAKA, Japan – Onstage, Niyo Katsura is wearing a pink kimono. With her slim figure and high-pitched voice, she can easily win in college than the 35-year-old comedian in Japan.
However, when he got into his habit of pretending to be a drug dealer – a middle-aged man – the audience laughed out loud when the man uttered his words and stabbed himself in the arm in an attempt to portray drugs. secret oil.
Ms. Katsura’s extraordinary ability to portray drunks and fools, many of them men, has earned her the respect of rakugo, an ancient form of Japanese comedy. Last month, she became the first woman to receive the highest award for newcomers to rakugo in the 50-year history of the award.
Taking the cup, Mrs. Katsura said, “Do you see me now, seniors?
For nearly three centuries of rakugo existence, the slapstick cousin of Japanese sports games such as kabuki and noh, many of these actors have been men who portray several people of all races. Ever since the women entered the profession more than 40 years ago, they have faced opposition from fellow professionals, critics and listeners. Women represent only one in 16 of the approximately 1,000 rakugo artists currently working professionally.
Ms. Katsura’s success was significant not only because of her gender, but also because she made a case for all men. Some of the older female actors, in an effort to attract unsatisfied female actors, turned the men in the story into women.
But Ms. Katsura was as determined to tell the story as she had been before. “I wanted to do rakugo the same way men do,” said Ms Katsura, who received a brilliant goal from all five judges of the competition, with the help of NHK, a public broadcaster. I see that history has changed.
Rakugo is an oral tradition in which stories – about 600 of which are published among athletes today – are given by the masters to students. The equipment has strict rules: Athletes sit on a pillow in the middle of an empty stage, and use very few materials, such as a cotton swab or cotton handkerchief.
The talk lasts about 10 to 30 minutes and consists of a series of letters, which are indicated by changes in face, voice and body movements above the waist.
“I have never seen anything like it in his story,” said Kenichi Horii, a cultural critic who witnessed Mbats Katsura’s successful performance. “To the audience, you just want it to be fun. You don’t care if the singer is male or female.”
Growing up in Osaka, Ms. Katsura – born Fumi Nishii and uses the stage name – was raised by unmarried parents, which is unusual in Japan. The family was less restrictive in gender roles than traditional families.
He says: “My mother always said it was unwise to say ‘because you are a boy’ or ‘because you are a girl.’
While studying Buddhist arts at a college in Kyoto, he became involved in rakugo theater. Her favorite ones reminded her of the classmates who were being punished by the teachers. He said: “I thought that people were talking nonsense and making fun of me in public. “I really enjoyed this.”
He felt it was difficult for women on stage. As one woman sang, “the audience was not laughing.” He read a book by a well-known rakugo artist who wrote that women made men “uncomfortable.”
After completing his studies, he sought out a mentor who was willing to take him on to study. The first time he stood outside the door of the dressing room of Yoneji Katsura, a well-known rakugo healer in Osaka, Japan’s comedy capital, told him that he would not allow any woman to study with him. The second time she asked him, he again refused.
Katsura, 64, says: “I could not believe that this strange girl wanted to teach me.
He remembered that he always saw her at his games, and often sat in front of her. He also said he heard a voice from heaven, forcing him to take advantage of him. The third time Ms. Katsura comes knocking, the singer agrees to look at how she does other classes.
For six months, while he was working part-time in a supermarket, he visited Mr. Katsura’s home and attended an exam. In 2011, Mr. Katsura welcomed him to a three-year course and gave him the stage name “Niyo,” meaning two pages. He also took the family name he received from his mentor.
But even though he recognizes his gifts, Mr. Katsura does not know that women belong to rakugo. “The basis of rakugo is that it is a skill that men should practice,” he said.
For Ms. Katsura, it is understandable that “if men can do better for women, then women should do better for men.” Eventually, he adopted a haircut signature that fans call “mushrooms”. Yet he does not want to lower his voice to play men or to use other methods that he believes will deceive him.
One year before he won the NHK competition, he was a finalist. Another judge told her that she needed more knowledge to make her appearance.
In the summer, Ms. Katsura became infected with coronavirus. She was scared but thought it might help her skills. “Maybe this is a bad thing to say, but I thought, maybe I’m about to become a professional rapper because I’m experiencing ideas that I’ve never had before,” he said.
After winning last month, Gontaro Yanagiya, a judge who gave her a strong answer, said she was overjoyed to see Katsura’s progress. “It was as if he had come back to push the game in front of me,” said Mr Yanagiya.
Ms. Katsura admitted that she came to the surface because of the women who came in front of her.
Tsuyu no Miyako, a 65-year-old woman who is known as the first female athlete to become a professional racer, recalled how her male counterparts used sarcastic remarks about women or slapped her in the buttocks. He said that he had learned to repay, but he especially needed to get help.
“I just thought that was the country I signed with,” said Tsuyu.
Onstage in Osaka earlier this month, Ms Katsura told two stories, including an old 30-minute story about a father who instructs one of his artisans to investigate the interest of his loving son.
In Ms. Katsura’s hand, a twisted fan turned into a sword, two sticks and a long smoking pipe. With a roll of his shoulders, he awoke to the man’s slide, and with the touch of his chin, he pulled out his beard.
At one point, Ms. Katsura invited a former artist, Hanamaru Hayashiya, 56, to join the stage. He told her that some of the most common words in the old rakugo stories now sound like sex. For example, the word “yomehan” is commonly used to describe a woman, combining the Chinese characters for “woman” and “house.”
“I do not think this statement is inconsistent with the country in which we live,” said Katsura.
“Words are very difficult,” said Hayashiya. “I think this shows that rakugo is a human world.”
In the dressing room after the show, Ms. Katsura folded her kimonos and gave a brief overview of her work.
“They were good listeners,” said Katsura. “They laughed.”
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