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~The New York Times




Day 98 - New Year's Resolutions

So this is three days into New Years and I haven't broken any resolutions yet.

That's because I haven't made any resolutions.

There is a saying in Japanese - Mikka Bozu (三日坊主)meaning, "Becoming a monk for three days." The gist is becoming a monk takes a very strict apprenticeship and indeed is a life-long commitment to study and asceticism, so if you call someone, or usually yourself, a three-day monk, this means you make big commitments or big resolutions to undertake something, and usually give up very quickly.

For some reason Japanese likes to express these ideas with the number three. There is an opposite kind of expression Ishi No Ue Ni Mo Sannen (石の上にも三年)meaning, "Three years upon a stone." This expression is about perseverance. The gist of this one is even the coldest stone will warm up if you sit on it for three years. No matter what you want to accomplish, if you are patient and persevere, it will come to you.

The image is particularly apt for Japanese traditional culture. Our apprenticeship for Rakugo is three years, but much of it feels like you are doing little more than sitting upon the stone waiting for it to warm up. Waiting defines much of the apprenticeship - waiting for the Master to call upon you, waiting in front of his dressing room until the Master's performance time, waiting, waiting, waiting. It is valuable, really essential in a way. Just don't rush. Let things happen. No need to be nervous. Stop looking at your watch. Use the waiting time to think, imagine, put your thoughts in order, rehearse Rakugo in your head, joke around with the other apprentices but quietly so you don't disturb the Master, or just relax...

I believe very strongly in the power of sitting on a stone for three years, however if I defined myself, I would probably say I am much closer to the monk for three days. lol! What can you do?

But this is a big year for me - we will debut Rakugo off-Broadway in April, so here it goes. My New Year's Resolutions!!

1. Lose 20kg - one way or another. This is actually essential. Rakugo is performed in a strict kneeling position called "Seiza" (正座)which literally means correct sitting, a definition I have some problems with, but perhaps invented by the Japanese hundreds of years ago to torture foreigners. Lately getting so heavy that my legs fall asleep, which will be detrimental to me doing my job, so wish me luck on this one.

2. Learn Chinese. Ever since one of my Rakugo videos got 8 million views on Weibo (the Chinese version of YouTube), I have committed myself to performing Rakugo in Chinese, so here we go! Look forward to the first Rakugo in Chinese at our New York theatre around summer (?!?!)

3. I will learn to slurp noodles like a proper Japanese - both in real life and on stage using my Japanese fan as chopsticks. I can't call myself a proper Rakugo-ka until I get this down - it's high time...

Let's keep in to three in keeping with the theme of threes.

So as a three-day monk had I made these resolutions the would already be abandoned by now, the third day of the year, so that's why I waited! Let's hope I can get past day 6!

For those of you enjoying the blog please feel free to sign up to the Sunshine List below - Sunshine Listers will all be offered deep discount tickets to select Rakugo performances off-Broadway when we begin in April. See you then!

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