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!
I bumped into someone very special today here in Portland.
I try to recall when it was…
Whey I still served my apprenticeship to Shisho (“master” or “teacher” in Japanese) Bunshi Katsura as a Rakugo performer, I met Matt who came all the way from America to Japan in order to study Rakugo at a Japanese university.
My Shisho also loved Matt very much and took good care of him like a real apprentice, teaching Rakugo, showing around, and treating for dinner. By knowing not only my Shisho's skills by his personality, Matt seemed to be more fascinated with Rakugo world.
I still remember they were having a great time together as they were real Shisho and apprentice. Their relationship was actually more than that.
The very man, Matt, came to see me all the way from Hawaii to Portland!!
Matt said, "Katsura Shisho took great care of me back then. I really owe him for his kindness. If his apprentice (me) comes to my hometown (he was from Portland!), I have to come to support more than anything."
I was waiting for me to arrive at the hotel lobby.
But I made him wait for 1 hour…
If Shisho was here, he must be furious and kick my butt…
Instead, Matt welcomed me with his big smile. He even sent beautiful roses with a warm message to my hotel room.
Matt is not an official apprentice brother, but he, in my heart, is my brother who received the same love from Shisho.
I almost cried when I thought Shisho made us meet from heaven.
My Shisho was really a great man, who was loved by fans even beyond countries.
I have to put my 120% to tomorrow's performance in front of Matt.
I cannot embarrass my Shisho!!