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Thursday, Dec. 2, 2010

Performers reach out to Iraq kids

Staff writer

A "rakugo" comic storyteller, a magician and a manga illustrator are visiting elementary schools and refugee camps in Iraq on a humanitarian mission, the philanthropist who arranged the trip said.

News photo
Iraq-bound: "Rakugo" storyteller Shofukutei Kakusho speaks to reporters in Chuo Ward, Osaka, on Monday. KYODO PHOTO

The four left Tuesday night. They will stay in Iraq until Dec. 7 and return to Japan Dec. 8, Fumikazu Nishitani, the representative of Iraq no Kodomo wo Sukuu Kai (the Association to Salvage Iraqi Children), said Tuesday.

"We want to not only deliver goods but also laughter," said Nishitani, who visits Iraq often but has never brought entertainers there. "It will undoubtedly be the first time rakugo is performed in a refugee camp in Iraq."

Shofukutei Kakusho will tell his stories in Japanese without translation, but he uses puppets and "children will probably understand by watching the facial expressions" of puppets and him, Nishitani said.

Kakusho, who has brought his rakugo to many countries, was appointed a cultural ambassador by the Cultural Agency in 2003 and established a nonprofit organization, Kokkyo Naki Geino-dan (Talents Without Border), in 2006. He now resides in London after living in Singapore four years.

Magician Noboru Sakano will perform magic and manga illustrator Shinichi Takamiya will draw faces of children and people in Iraq.

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