Japanese Deaf students make hearing people enjoy comic story telling in JSL

The Prefectural Kumamoto School for the Deaf (81 students enrolled) , located in Kumamoto City, Japan has a unique club, called the JSL traditional comic story telling club (rakugo), the kind of only one in the country.

The JSL Rakugo Club has 17 boys and girls from the junior high school and the high school. They perform the traditional comic story telling in JSL with a lot of use of the gesture and facial expression, saying that they would like a lot of people to laugh and enjoy it. (See the photo in the link below)

The group started 20 years ago. In order to make it formal, it was promoted to the club as recognized by the school administration in 2006.

Because the JSL Rakugo doesn't use the voice, how the content of a story is conveyed on through the body movement and the expression is vital. For example, in the "Sumo," a Japanese traditional sport, to show the mouth is swollen in the stretching scene the face frowns, and the hands are thrust out slowly. As for the scene that one is pushed back, the student acts as if he desperately endures not to fall behind. There are about 20 repertoire, all of which the club members invented.

They practice for about one and a half hours after school on Wednesdays. Expression is practiced more by performing the theme such as "a cat that challenges the vermicelli flow."

Ayaka Kono (18), a high school senior and sub leader, says that she studies how to express the feelings, etc. by observing people around her, and seeing the TV comedy program.

Her friend, Tomoko Yamaguchi (17) joined the club because she had been shy and wanted to change the personality." She came to be able to go up to the platform in a dignified manner to perform rakugo in JSL. Her mother Yoko (49) is pleased, saying that "The JSL Rakugo gave her confidence."

The club members perform outside of the school over ten times a year. It takes a performance 5 or 10 minute per person.

Nobuo Goto (44), a teacher and adviser of the club, stays under the stage, interprets concisely for the audience.

The JSL Rakugo Club was invited by a sign language circle in Oita Prefecture to perform in the public hall in July, and about 150 hearing people roared with laugher.

Before the open house at the school, the members increased the practice day at the school, worked hard with the family and friends at their home or the dormitory. Ryo Sakai (18), the leader, was enthusiastic and said that the club members all would love to see a lot of people enjoy the JSL Rakugo.

Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov.22,2008

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