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!
There is a Japanese joke that goes like this:
How do you get a Japanese guy to laugh on Monday? Tell him a joke the previous Friday.
For some reason, Japanese have a reputation for humourlessness.
But, but, but, that is a big mistake!
The Japanese answer to stand up comedy is Rakugo, Japanese sit-down comedy! A traditional comic storytelling art that has been entertaining the Japanese for over 400 years and is still wildly popular today!
One dose of Rakugo and you will never again associate the word humorless with the Japanese!
Rakugo started about 400 years ago in the Edo period.
It may be traditional, but it is anything but old-fashioned. Throughout its history, storytellers have always put their own modern stamp on the old stories, and are always coming up with new stories as well!
Rakugo is a very special form of comedy. The storyteller kneels on a cushion on a stage called a “Koza”, and plays any number of characters.
Samurai, geisha, merchants, farmers, thieves, drunkards, ghosts, and even dogs all come to life in Rakugo, and the storyteller does this alone.
The storyteller may work alone, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have friends! It that kind of show!
It’s a lot like a one-man play.
The Rakugo storyteller uses only two small props a Japanese fan and a hand towel, plus, the most important aspect of all the audience’s imagination.
In Rakugo, all kinds of characters and scenes from daily life in Edo period Japan come to life.
In the Edo period, theatres called “Yose” (yoh-say) were built especially for Rakugo. Along with Kabuki and Bunraku puppet theatre, Rakugo became one of Japan’s most popular entertainments for the people.
Four hundred years have passed, but Rakugo remains popular today, Yose theatres in Tokyo and Osaka presenting Rakugo 365 days a year, and the shows are regularly sold out!
Rakugo is usually performed only in Japanese, but Kaishi is turning Rakugo into an international entertainment by presenting Rakugo in English!
Come on out and see Kaishi’s English Rakugo, and experience this unique Japanese traditional comedy for yourself!