Canadian brings Japanese comedy to the world

Canadian brings Japanese comedy to the world
Rakugo storyteller, Katsura Sunshine.

Rakugo, or Japanese traditional comedy storytelling, has been brought to stages in the countries of Europe and Africa.

Canadian rakugoka Katsura Sunshine translated some stories performed by his master Katsura Bunshi VI into English and staged them during his recent world tour, which kicked off in late July.

This summer, the 44-year-old had 28 rakugo shows in Britain, and he is scheduled to perform in several African countries in November. At the end of this year, Sunshine will endeavour to present Japanese comedy storytelling in French in Paris.

The stories he performs feature modern themes such as parent-child relationships and reincarnation.

"Punch lines that people find hilarious are the same in Japan and overseas, and it truly surprises me," Sunshine said in fluent Japanese.

"They roar with laughter," he said, recalling the positive response he's received from audiences at his shows abroad.

Formerly a comedy playwright, Sunshine came to Japan in 1999 to study kabuki and noh, but ended up finding himself immersed in the world of rakugo.

After being accepted as an apprentice in 2008, he became the first foreign rakugo storyteller in the history of Kamigata rakugo, which is performed mainly in the Kansai region.

Last summer, he performed on the stage in 20 cities in North America, including his home country.

His master gave him a supportive push toward the world tour, he said.

"You don't have to come back [to Japan] anymore," Sunshine quoted his master as saying.

"I'd love to make rakugo and its popularity a phenomenon all over the world," he said with a smile.

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