Showko Showfukutei is a Japanese comedian, ventriloquist and Japanese Rakugo (traditional comedy) performer. She has lived and worked internationally in London, Tokyo, Osaka, Singapore and Melbourne and has performed at major comedy clubs, festivals and events. Her real name is Ayako Ono but the stage name Showko Showfukutei was awarded to her after completing a 3 year Rakugo apprenticeship. Rakugo is a 400 year old traditional form of Japanese comedy storytelling.
Showko was born and grew up in Kobe, Japan which was a very vibrant, cosmopolitan city at the time and graduated from Kobe Yamate Women’s College with a degree in psychology.
Being interested in puppets and ventriloquists she found a career opportunity at the Police Station to teach traffic safety using a ventriloquist puppet. It was the first time she used a ventriloquist puppet and started doing ventriloquism.
After working for three years at the Police Station she decided to live in Canada for one year to study English. During her stay in Canada she tried to avoid meeting any other Japanese so she could improve her English by being fully immersed in it. When she was lonely she would often listen to the radio in English which ultimately influenced her decision to be a professional radio announcer upon her return to Japan.
She went to “Fame” announce school in Osaka to become a professional announcer and just one year after graduating had regular programs at Radio Osaka, FM Uji, Yes FM and Beach Station FM in Japan.
In 1998 she was offered an international work opportunity and decided to move by herself to Singapore to work at Comm Pte.Ltd as a Radio Producer and Presenter for FM96.3 at Media Corp running regular live programs.
After a successful five years she met her future Rakugo Master “Kakushow Showfukutei” at an event and had him as a guest on her radio show. Kakushow had adapted traditional Rakugo into his own style to be more visual and slapstick and used handmade puppets as part of his show.
Seeing how his performance could make anyone laugh regardless of age or language she instinctively knew this was what she wanted to pursue and decided to quit being a radio producer and presenter to become a Rakugo performer. To be a professional Rakugo performer you have to ask a Rakugo master to become his protégé. Usually the master will say “No” ten times to check their passion, desire and guts to see if they really want to be a Rakugo performer.
In her case she went through the same ordeal but her time to convince him was limited as Master Kakushow then moved to London as a cultural ambassador sent by the Japanese Government. Not one to give up she left her boyfriend (who later became her future husband), everything in Singapore and flew to London one day before Master Kakushow arrived and welcomed him at Heathrow Airport. Master Kakushow finally approved and accepted her as his protégé as he could see she was serious about being a Rakugo performer.
Showko trained as a Rakugo performer under Master Kakushow for four years in London and is still the only Rakugo performer to complete the protégé period outside of Japan. During her Rakugo training she also performed at many comedy clubs in London, Covent Garden and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Her style of Rakugo is combined with stand-up comedy and ventriloquism
Rakugo is a very male dominated traditional art form and only a person who can complete training for 3 years can be accepted as a Professional Rakugo performer with many people giving up during the hard training period. She trained with him in London, receiving the 400 year old traditional name Showko Shofukutei upon completion. She is one of 1500 Rakugo performers, only a handful of women and the only one living overseas.
Later her Australian boyfriend that she left in Singapore followed to support her. They got married in 2005 and she gave birth to a son at the Queen Charlotte and Chelsea hospital in London.
As her Master and his family decided to move back to Japan’s comedy’s mecca Osaka where the Kamigata school of Rakugo is from, she also decided to follow them and moved to Osaka with her family.
Surrounded and immersed in the traditional culture Showko learnt the very strict Rakugo society manner amongst other Rakugo performers and Masters and mainly performed at the Hanjyotei Rakugo Theatre in Tenjinbashi, Osaka as well as other theatres, events and festivals around Japan. As she was so busy and followed the Japanese Rakugo society, she hardly ever came home early and left her non Japanese speaking husband and 2 years old son home. After two years she decided to move to Singapore as a performer and a better family life.
Showko concentrated on performing in English again and performed in Singapore and other countries as well as hosting a regular program at FM 96.3 radio station and the Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific inflight radio programs. She regularly went back to Japan to work and to keep her bond with the other Rakugo performers and the Rakugo society.
Showko decided to move to Melbourne which has a big comedy scene and hosts major Comedy, Arts and Cultural festivals as well as being a good environment to live for her family.
After living Melbourne for one year she took the opportunity to move to Tokyo for one year to experience
She is now based in Melbourne with her husband and son, performing internationally mainly as a Stand-up Comedian and Ventriloquist occasionally as a Rakugo Performer. Showko is the only fully trained professional Rakugo performer living outside of Japan.