What is Kamigata Engei?

“Engei” refers to performing arts that are casually enjoyed by many people. Originally, this also included kabuki, movies and other similar forms of entertainment. However, nowadays Engei refers to popular entertainment such as rakugo, manzai, koudan, and rokyoku. Among these is “Kamigata Engei”, which describes engei performed in “Kamigata”: an area located around Kyoto and Osaka.

In the past, the lifestyle of people living in Edo (modern day Tokyo) was very different to those in Kyoto and Osaka. Edo was home to many samurai and artisans, whereas Kyoto and Osaka were led by court nobles and merchants. This meant that peoples’ tastes regarding food, clothing and housing were also different. Each region had distinct ways of speaking, as well as differences in intonation and words. In other words, one could say that their entire cultures were different.

As it is closely related to daily life, engei performed in Edo (Tokyo) and Kamigata (Kyoto/Osaka) have been different since the olden days. Stories are, of course, produced according to the tastes of those who create them. The ways to make the audience laugh and the characters themselves also differ in each region. A clear example of this contrast can be seen between Kamigata Rakugo’s “Toki-udon” and Tokyo Rakugo’s “Toki-soba”.

However, in recent years the differences between Tokyo and Kamigata Engei have lessened dramatically due to the growing exchange of information between the two regions as well as the development of transportation.