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!
Brotherhood without borders

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!!
# by usarakugo | 2008-05-07 02:12 | diary
My impression of Oregon before visit to Portland was the country state with a lot of nature, but Portland was actually a charming town with a great combination of natural beauty and urban life style.

Not many of us know, but Portland has deep connection with Japan. For example, the very first English teacher who taught English to Japanese was from Portland.

I am going to perform at Portland State University tomorrow.

I went to check out the venue as soon as I arrived to the city.

First, I visited Prof. Kominz's class. Prof. Kominz had learned KYOGEN (a form of traditional Japanese theater) from Mr. Sensaburou Shigeyama and now teaches it to American students in English.

They were practicing very hard for the theater performance in June.

# by usarakugo | 2008-05-05 02:01 | diary
Western Washington University
Today’s performance takes place at the Western Washington University. The venue is “Old Main Theater.” It has a seating capacity of 200. It looks really nice.

I am really looking forward to seeing today’s audience!
# by usarakugo | 2008-05-02 03:24 | diary
Gonzaga University – Laugh Out Loud!!
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!
# by usarakugo | 2008-04-28 03:20 | diary
I appeared on local TV Show!!
I got to opportunity to appear on a local TV morning show!

I explained a little bit of Rakugo and its culture, and showed one of traditional Rakugo gestures, eating noodles. Suddenly, the reporter asked me to do the scene from the movie “KARATE KID,” where Mr.Miyagi catches a fly by chopsticks!!

In my head, I was thinking, “I cannot do that out of the blue! Are you kidding!? It’s a live show!!” But I did the famous scene with my own little twist… I ate the fly and had a big smile at the end. The reporter burst into laughter! Everyone in the studio seemed to love it too!! Yes!!!


From this experience, I learned you cannot predict what they ask you to do on a live TV show in America. After the show, the reporter came up to me and said, “The producer thinks that your performance was the best from today’s show.”

I appreciated the comment but I was like…

“Are you serious!? What kind of TV show is this!?”

# by usarakugo | 2008-04-26 03:23 | diary


What is RAKUGO?