An Interview With Cyril Coppini, French Rakugo Comedian In Japan
Cyril Coppini is a French national who has been living in Japan for more than 20 years. His love for the Japanese language has led him to live in Japan, where he is working as a translator, now specializing in manga. However, his love for words has expanded into another form. Cyril is also a performer of rakugo, a genre of Japanese comedy in which a single storyteller interprets many characters.
Cyril is as warm and good-humored as he appears on stage, and he shares a lot about both of his careers in this interview. Read on to discover the wonderful world of rakugo, learn about the challenges of translating from the Japanese language, and gain some Japanese language study advice.
Discovering Rakugo and Becoming a Performer
In rakugo, the story is explained by the characters themselves, and the rakugoka is playing all of them.
You are a translator, interpreter, and rakugo performer. What originally sparked your interest in the Japanese language and culture?
It dates from when I was in high school, about 35 years ago. I was aiming for what was called bac A2 [“bac” is the French high school diploma] at the time, and my high school majors were languages and philosophy. We were supposed to study three languages to graduate. I was already studying English like everybody else, and I was also studying Italian like most people in Nice, in the South of France, where I am from. However, my high school provided Japanese language classes, which was very rare outside of Paris, especially at that time. So, I thought, “Why not?” I was attracted to doing something that people usually do not do.
Then, I had an aesthetic encounter with the language. I immediately felt attracted to hiragana and katakana, and it awakened something in me. At the end of high school, my Japanese teacher recommended that I specialize in the Japanese language and go study at Inalco in Paris. I went and studied there for five years, although as a typical Southern French, at first, I was reluctant to go to Paris [laughs].
During one of those five years, I got the opportunity to go study at Shinshu University in Nagano Prefecture. There, all the strict and theoretical teachings I…