Tokyo Institute of Technology: Audience enjoys rakugo as Ripro hosts 15th special lecture

Participants were in for a treat on January 27 as Tokyo Tech’s Ripro, formerly known as the Student Skills Discovery and Development Project, hosted online its 15th special lecture for students, faculty, staff, and members of the public. Entertaining the audience was rakugo artist Komichi Ryutei with her lecture and performance titled “The secrets of living through talk: A rakugo artist’s fundamentals.”

Rakugo session kicks off on Zoom

Rakugo session kicks off on Zoom
Komichi is an inspirational pioneer. After graduating from Waseda University, she entered work life by joining a publishing company. In 2003, she became the disciple of the 7th Enshi Ryutei to begin her journey in the rakugo world. In 2017, she was promoted to shin-uchi, a full-fledged master of storytelling. This is a grand achievement for Komichi, a mother of two. She is only the sixth female storyteller to achieve this rank.

Traditional rakugo stage set up for online show

Traditional rakugo stage set up for online show
In the first half of this special lecture, Komichi gave the inside story of her time as a warm-up storyteller who entertained the audience before the main act. She emphasized the essence of communication that she gained during this time. In the second half, the master gave two rakugo performances. She cleverly inserted phrases such as “Tokyo Tech” into her lines, constructing a more familiar setting for her audience. Both halves of the event were followed by a Q&A session, during which Komichi did her best to answer questions in the limited time available.

Komichi during first half of her performance

Komichi during first half of her performance
A total of 138 people participated in this special lecture, demonstrating the high level of interest in communication created by a rakugo artist. The survey conducted after the event was full of positive comments.

Master Komichi provided a great story, not just as a rakugo artist but also as a wonderful human being. Starting from tomorrow, I will make full use of what I heard.
I really enjoyed this because, for the first time in a long time, it took me to a world where I complete forgot about COVID-19.
I burst out laughing many times during the lecture and performances. This event really lightened my heart and cheered me up.
Thank you very much for the valuable lecture on communication and the interesting rakugo stories. All the content was interesting, but her description about her time as a warm-up storyteller was particularly captivating. I learned so much, and will be more aware and prepared, whatever comes in the future. Again, thank you for this precious opportunity during these difficult times.
I had never seen rakugo before, but it was great fun! The Edo-style story included phrases such as “Tokyo Tech,” making it easier to relate to. I will definitely go to a live performance once the COVID-19 situation calms down.
It was particularly special to hear a unique story from a female rakugo artist. She was very interesting. I am in my fourth year of work life now, and I once again felt that, whether you are a student or a working professional or a rakugo artist, the point of “delighting the counterpart” in any type of communication is a concept that runs throughout our entire lives.
The story mentioned the importance of thinking in advance about what your counterpart wants, and I felt this relates to all aspects of life. I have always somehow felt this, but was never able to express it verbally. At this event, this concept was put into words, and I will be sure to keep those words in mind.
Comments from moderator
Even moderator Akizawa’s mask could not hide his smiles
Even moderator Akizawa’s mask could not hide his smiles

Yuki Akizawa

3rd year, Systems and Control Engineering*

This special lecture was held for two main reasons — to provide some enjoyment and laughter amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, and to improve the communication skills of Tokyo Tech students. The results of the participant questionnaire showed that most people very much enjoyed the session, but it also reaffirmed the fact that more opportunities to improve communication skills are needed at Tokyo Tech. I think this event was a fresh way to meet the needs of many students.

This was only the second special lecture to be organized online, and I am glad it finished without any major problems despite our lack of experience. I believe the things we learned while arranging and executing this event under such uncertain circumstances will be useful in our future research and other activities. We are currently planning the second online special lecture on communication. Through the Ripro project, we hope that Tokyo Tech students and all other participants will continue to grow together.

*Affiliation at time of event

What is Ripro?
Ripro, formerly known as the Student Skills Discovery and Development Project, is a student-centered initiative backed by Tokyo Tech’s Student Success Support Division (formerly Student Initiative Support Section) which aims to foster creativity and leadership, mainly among bachelor-level students. The goal is also to “provide a place for growth” where junior and senior high school students, Tokyo Tech students, faculty, and staff, and local residents can deepen their understanding on a broad range of topics. Currently, Ripro members mainly focus on four types of projects — holding special lectures, hosting symposiums, conducting special projects, and visiting domestic academic societies.

Ripro activities were obviously restricted in academic year 2020 due to COVID-19, but the group managed to implement their third special project over the summer by supporting Den-en Chofu Gakuen junior school students with their research. In October 2020, the 14th special lecture, which focused on the application of clinical psychology to ease concerns caused by the coronavirus, was also held online for Tokyo Tech students, faculty, and staff members.

By continuing to plan and conduct a variety of student-centered projects, Ripro hopes to foster in participating students not only creativity and leadership, but also planning, negotiation, and communication skills.

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