Katsura Kaishi is the premier performer of Rakugo in English. He was recently awarded the Ministry of Culture award for Cultural Exchange. He has won numerous prestigious awards for Rakugo, including the NHK Japan National Television Award for Young Artists, the Ministry of Culture Yew Artist Award, The Hanjoutei Yose Theatre Award for Explosive Laughter, and others. He is one of the most popular storytellers in Osaka, Japan. Up until now, Rakugo could only be seen in Japan. But, in order to bring this art form to the world, Kaishi has, since 1997, performed in over 12 countries including England, Australia, Canada, India, Brunei, and The Phillipines. In all he has performed abroad over 200 times! In 1999 he made his debut at the Just for Laughs comedy festival in Montreal, Canada. In 2007, he presented a full “Yose” lineup Off-Broadway, a full week of sold-out shows that drew the attention and acclaim of both the Japanese and American media. He is currently touring the United States on a Ministry of Culture grant for cultural exchange.
Having been awarded the Japanese grant for cultural exchange, for the purpose of introducing Rakugo to the world, Kaishi begins his journey on April 1, 2008 in New York. From there, he will travel by car to Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Los Vegas, Chicago, and other cities and towns on a grand American tour ending again in New York.
Piling just his living essentials and his Rakugo tools kimono, fan, hand towel, cushion, and unique sense of humor, Kaishi will perform Rakugo in English in more than 30 States.
And not just in theatres! Comedy clubs, schools, on top of bar counters, on the back of tractor trailers... Kaishi can turn almost anything into a platform for Japanese traditional comedy! America, prepare to laugh your heads off, Japanese style!
Today’s performance was held at Gonzaga University.
When I entered the site, I saw my Rakugo fliers everywhere.
I even recognized some people were wearing T-shirts with logo of "RAKUGO – MAN-IN-ONREI(Full House)."
Our staff team made the T-shirts and gave them to the guests in order of arrival.
Our PR department had launched a campaign to get more attention from locals. My greatest aim for this tour was to introduce Rakugo to Americans. Our effort finally paid off. Some local TV, radio, and newspapers had reported on my performance today. Usually the percentage of Americans in the audience was 70% but today it was nearly 90%!
The theater could hold 200 guests, but we had to add folding chairs. In addition to that, there were guests who were forced to stand. Some of them had to leave because there was absolutely no space. There were nearly 300 people!
At first, Ms Umeda, the Producer, greeted the audience and gave an introduction on Rakugo. She is such a great icebreaker to warm up the crowd, since she has experience as a radio DJ.
After the VTR, finally it was my turn!
Today's audience was truly captivated.
I felt so good while I performed.
When they laughed out loud, I thought, "I made the Americans laugh by my own Rakugo!!"
Everyone laughed a lot, young
and old alike.
Literally, everyone had great smiles on their faces. In turn, I could not help but fully enjoy my performance. I felt the connection to the audience.
I hope those guests will talk about Rakugo from now on, asking their friends, "Do you know what Japanese Rakugo is? It's really fun!"
Today’s success made me to believe I would be able to make Rakugo much more popular in this country!!
Special thanks to Mr. Katsushima. Your support and enthusiasm made this performance a success!