What is Koudan?

Koudan, is also called Koushaku.  Like Rakugo, it is performed by one person sitting down, but there are times he/she places a book on a desk (shakudai) and reads it aloud. The stories are about historical events including battles and revenge, and about the lives of people related to the historical events.

Originally, a masterless samurai who read “Taiheiki” and combined their own battle experience is “Taiheiki-yomi”.  In the late Edo period, performances done by those who were involved in Shinto is “Shinto-koushaku”. Around this time, reading methods were improved by making pauses, reading in varying speeds, strengthening intonation, etc. and developed as a performance.

It is said that the golden age of Kamigata Koudan was the middle until late Meiji period. At that time, there were 30 to 40 Koudan stages in Osaka City, and more than 50 professional storytellers in Osaka and Kyoto. Around that time, Koudan stenographic books became popular, and soon “Tatsukawa-bunko”, Koudan stories written as fiction (kaki-koudan), gained popularity, which led to the making of heroes such as Sarutobi Sasuke.