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Japanese comedy / Rakugo

Japanese comedy / Rakugo

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Japanese comedy

I will introduce 'Yose' (comedy theater) and the comedies perfomed at the theater.
The types of the comedy which are performed at the theater are, Rakugo, Manzai, Mandan, Magic, Rokyoku, Kodan and so on.

History of Yose (Comedy theater)
There are several stories about the origine of Yose. One is said to go back to the period of Civil War (16the century) in Japan, 'Otogishu' (storytellers) who were military and political advisors of feudal lords. They were feudal lords' conversation parteners as well as informing the situation of other countries to the lords. It is said that their stories spread to the common people and later became Kodan (storytelling).
The other idea is that it started in Edo period (17-19th Century) street performance which told the military epics with the beat. Then it became to Kodan (starytelling).

The first Yose (originally called Yose-ba) was built is the pricinct of Shitaya Shrine in Edo in 1798. Because there were very few entertainment at that time ,it rapidly spreaded and it is said that there was one Yose in every town.

But now, by the influence of TV and Manzai, there are only 7 Yoses are existing.

Variation of comical performances
Rakugo storyteller wearing kimono sits on his legs on the cushion. He forwards the story only with gesture and talk. It is an advanced technique because one Rakugo storyteller has to perform several personalities by tone of voice,facial expression and gesture.
Rakugo literally means the story with punch line, but also there are human-interest stories without punch line.
We call the programs which were produced in Edo and Meiji era (17-early 20th century) Classical Rakugo, and the other programs are called New Rakugo. Both programs are perfomed along with the scripto but there is no written book. All the programs are handed down from person to person by the mouth.
The program varies from punch line story to human-interest story and drama including ghost story. Anyway, most of the stories came from the everyday life of common people.
They use Japanese fans and Japanese washcloth as gismo. Fan is used as chopsticks, pen, sword, pipe or telescope. Washcloth is used as wallet, letter and so on.

Storyteller sits at the table called Shakudai, and forwards the story as beating the desk with fan or long stick to keep rythm. It is similar to Rakugo the way to forward the story by one storyteller, but the story came from historical story or Samurai story. The way he talks is not intimate but like teaching to the audience.
We can say that this is an entertainment to enjoy the tempo and clear-cut talk.
The golden days of Kodan was 19the century. The contents were transformed to the Kabuki programs, news or books. But by the birth of television, it declined.

It is an entertainment to let the audience lauch by the comical conversation of 2 comedians.
Manzai was named in 1933 by the entertainment company Yoshimoto. The origin of it was the new year's celebration greeting by 2 men which was performed from ancient time.
Rakugo and Kodan declined by the influence of TV, but Manzai is still very popular now.

It was started by the narrator of the silent movie in early 20te century. He appeared at the comedy theater by using his talking technique. Today, we generally call the comical story by one standing storyteller Mandan.

Rokyoku or Naniwabushi
The entertainment by the accompaniment of Shamisen (string instrument) originally came from Joruri. The program varies from Samurai story to tragic love story and comical story. Today, we call the story between love and duty which stir the soul Naniwabushi.

Shinjuku Suehirotei
Comedy theater Suehirotei in Shinjuku

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