Increasingly recognized internationally, rakugo, a traditional humorous performance, is a quintessential art form in Japan. Artists take on a range of various characters to tell comical or sentimental stories. Once reserved for men, rakugo is experiencing a revival thanks to female comedians who have been noticed for their talent.
Ok, it's not exactly stand-up comedy; rakugo has its own characteristics but in some ways it is similar to stand-up. It's a traditional form of comedy show in Japan. The performer, called a "rakugoka," is alone on stage, often dressed in a kimono, and tells timeless stories as well as classic tales from Japanese history. Literally, "rakugo" means "fallen words."
Sitting on a cushion throughout the performance, the storytellers use no stage set. Their only props are a small piece of cloth and a fan; the rest relies on the spoken word. And as in a one-man show, the rakugoka embodies several characters to make the story a dramatic narrative wrapped in puns and wordplay.
Very widespread in Japan since the Edo period (1600-1868 approximately), rakugo remains a very popular art form today. Performances take place every day in Tokyo, Osaka and other cities in Japan.
According to a 2015 survey by Hapiken, 26.4% of Japanese have attended a performance.
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