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Sunday, Sept. 19, 2010

'Rakugo' star spins his tales in English

Staff writer

More than 100 readers of The Japan Times attended an English-language "rakugo" comic performance Saturday held in celebration of the paper's 40,000th issue.

News photo
Make-believe: "Rakugo" storyteller Kaishi Katsura performs for readers of The Japan Times on Saturday in Tokyo, while audience members act out — with Katsura's guidance — how to eat noodles like a rakugo performer. YOSHIAKI MIURA PHOTO

"A rakugo performer is not just a storyteller, he's also an actor who plays several characters," said professional rakugo performer Kaishi Katsura as he gave several examples of his art during the performance in Minato Ward, Tokyo.

He added that rakugo relies heavily on the audience's imagination.

Katsura performed three stories at The Japan Times-Nifco Hall, including a classic rakugo story of a man's ordeal as he hires different rickshaw pullers.

He also explained the art and attraction of the 400-year-old comic entertainment, as well as how to use the only two props allowed — a fan and traditional cotton cloth.

Katsura, who has performed in 30 countries, also taught the audience how to eat noodles "the rakugo way" — by using their imagination and acting it out.

"I might actually try it out in front of my English students," said Australian Catherine Wallace, a researcher and resident of Tokyo who volunteered to give it a try on stage with instructions from Katsura.

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