Gonzaga University will present famous Japanese comedic storyteller and Rakugo performer Katsura Kaishi at 2 p.m., Sunday, April 27 in the Jepson Center’s Wolff Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.
Poster Courtesy Erik Hollingsworth, Gonzaga Student Body Association
The event, which is expected to last an hour and 20 minutes, is part of Spokane’s annual Japan Week, which begins on Saturday, April 19. The Japanese government appointed Kaishi as a cultural ambassador for the country this year. Kaishi begins a six-month U.S. tour April 20. The tour starts in Seattle and ends on Broadway in New York City in September.
Originated in the Edo-period (1603-1868), Rakugo is a traditional, 400-year-old form of Japanese entertainment that is known in Japan as “sit-down comedy.” A Rakugo-ka (comedic story-teller) sits on a stage wearing kimono and telling funny stories. The Rakugo-ka uses a folding fan and a hand towel to express all kind of items mentioned in the stories. He narrates the stories and also acts out all the characters in them.
What has made Katsura Kaishi special among other Rakugo performers is that he performs in English. In 1997, after getting into the Rakugo career, Kaishi started to translate Rakugo stories into English. In 1998, he performed his first English Rakugo in Los Angeles. Since then, he has performed in 32 cities in 12 countries, including the United States, Canada, England, Singapore, Australia and others. Kaishi also has performed at the Sydney Olympics. His most recent U.S. show last September drew many New Yorkers at the Sage Theater on Broadway. That’s why he will finish his tour on Broadway with his first-anniversary performance.
In Japan, Kaishi’s performances can be seen on TV and in theaters; he appears in an English language program on a national TV station and has his own radio show. Kaishi will tour with his wife and two children in a mobile home to meet and interact with as many Americans as possible during the tour.
Kaishi performs Rakugo in English not only to promote this unique storytelling art form but also to change a negative stereotype of Japanese as what he calls “economic animals.” The Japanese storytelling is certain to give all Americans a good, hearty laugh, said Seiko Katsushima, senior lecturer and program director of Japanese studies in Gonzaga’s modern languages department.
More information on Rakugo and Kaishi can be found at the following Web sites: Japan Events, Japan Travel, and JapanTimes.
Asahi Shimbun, one of Japan's leading newspapers, has started a special series titled, "Katsura Kaishi's U.S. Tour." The series will inform its readers how Katsura Kaishi's tour is going for the next six months.
Like the Japanese performance by Chonkake Goma at GU in September, this show was made possible through collaboration with the Japanese Cultural Center at Mukogawa Fort Wright Institute. “I am very happy to bring in Katsura Kaishi to Gonzaga University,” Katsushima said. “I would like many people to experience the laughter from Japan.”
For more information, please contact Seiko Katsushima at (509) 323-3951 or via e-mail.