What is Rakugo? 

A storyteller sits in front of the audience and tells a humorous story with gestures. The story ends with witty words (ochi, sage=punchline), which draws laughter from the audience.

It is said that Rakugo developed from Buddhist monks’ sermons. More than 300 years ago in the Genroku period, Tsuyuno Gorobe, Shikano Buzaemon, and Yonezawa Hikohachi appeared in Kyoto, Edo and Osaka respectively. They were professional Rakugo storytellers and worked actively. At the end of Edo period, Rakugo was so popular that every town had one theater. Thus stage names, which are last names and inherited up to the present, including “Katsura”, “Shofukutei”, and “Hayashiya” appeared. The golden age of Kamigata Rakugo is said to be the middle of the Meiji period. Later, Roukyoku, Manzai, and moving pictures stole some of the limelight. In such circumstances, the 1st  generation Katsura Harudanji played an outstanding role. He left a lot of records. Moreover, the 5th Shofukutei Shokaku published a magazine named “Kamigata Hanashi”, with the aim of passing on Kamigata Rakugo to the next generations.

After the Second World War, the 6th Shofukutei Shokaku, the 3rd Katsura Beicho, the 5th Katsura Bunshi, and the 3rd Katsura Harudanji , who were called the big four, trained many pupils, leading to the success of Rakugo today.