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Rakugo Popularity & Survivability 2021/9/6 10:16
Hi All,

A few days ago - I watched the anime Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinji and was quite enamored with Rakugo.

I'm aware that anime is not a good representation of Japanese culture after visiting and living in Japan (kind of like saying The Simpsons or Southpark shows US culture) but noticed some interesting facets which are not often seen in a popular medium that is accessible to a western audience.

The anime covered the idea of censorship of stories just before WW2. The selling/adoption of children for apprenticeships, the fight between using traditional stories and updating to meet modern times, the expansion of different types of entertainment in the showa era and how that decimated more traditional cultural performances such as kabuki, rakugo, noh and bunraku etc.

What I was interested to hear about is how is rakugo seen in Japan today? Is it a common type of cultural performance or is it kind of dying out? Any good general information outside of the usual wikipedia pages would be appreciated.
by mfedley  

Re: Rakugo Popularity & Survivability 2021/9/6 14:19
The popularity of rakugo is huge in Japan today, perhaps more among those in their 40s and older.

Of course, the culture was always there with the help of the early-Sunday-evening long-running TV show "Sho-ten". But I feel that it became an enormous trend when the prime-time TV drama series "Tiger & Dragon", written by the already popular scriptwriter Kankuro "Kudo-Kan" Kudo, aired in 2005. The show starred former boy-band idol Tomoya Nagase (currently age 42), and it brought the Edo-period tradition to the generation of his fans as well as to Kudo-Kan (age 51) fans, both women and men.

Around that time, rakugo artist Danshi Tatekawa was brought to the spotlight once again for the last time in his life. He was always known as an extremely unconventional rakugo performer, and I suppose the liberal generation of the cities supported him, and still do after his death.

A lot of my friends are hard-core rakugo fans. The way they hunt tickets is the same way people would hunt rock'n'roll stadium concert tickets. But there are, of course, more minor rakugo performers who'd be invited to neighborhood events which are more accessible.

The art of rakugo is amusing in many ways. Most tales are well-known and fans enjoy seeing how they would be arranged while imagining how people spoke and lived in the old days. The atmosphere of a "yo-se" theater is another treat for many fans. But I feel that more people are interested in attending rakugo shows rather than wanting to become a performer.

I hope it helps.
by Uco rate this post as useful

Re: Rakugo Popularity & Survivability 2021/9/6 15:24
Rakugo is sort of unique, culturally speaking, in that it's largely considered a classical, or at least old-fashioned, performance art, but it's still one that's meant to be unpretentious and entertaining. That puts it in kind of a difficult position, though.

More serious classical arts, like kabuki and noh, or, for Western examples, ballet or live performances of Shakespeare plays, can benefit from being high-brow, "important" things. Many people enjoy them strictly for what they are, and even for people who don't find them to exactly meet their entertainment preferences, there's a sense that knowing about them and experiencing them makes a person a more cultured, refined individual.

Rakugo doesn't quite have that same benefit, though. It's definitely old-fashioned, and there's a general consensus that it has value as an indigenous, traditional Japanese performance art. But because it doesn't have as much of a sense of importance as the other art forms I mentioned, the question of "Will it be entertaining to watch?" becomes more important for people in deciding whether or not to watch rakugo. Unfortunately, rakugo often boils down to telling old-fashioned stories in old-fashioned ways, which usually isn't a very appealing combination for young people who're looking for entertainment.

Rakugo has been enjoying a bit of a revival in popularity recently, but like Uco mentioned, most enthusiastic fans are older. If you were to grab a random group of Japanese people who're all under 40, I doubt very many of them would have ever seen an in-person performance, nor would any say that they regularly watch recorded/TV broadcast rakugo either. Likewise, if you asked the average young person who their favorite rakugo comedian is, or what their favorite rakugo story is, I doubt most of them would be able to give you an answer, but would be able to tell you who their favorite TV comedians and comedy YouTubers are.

Overall, among young Japanese people, I think the general feeling is "Oh, yeah, rakugo seems kind of retro-interesting, and is a part of Japanese culture. I've never gone to see it, though, and I don't have plans to either."
by . . . . (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Rakugo Popularity & Survivability 2021/9/8 11:51
Thanks for this info. I'm guessing this will either be the last reply or a slow burn as this is a more knowledge specific topic than most on this forum.....
by mfedley rate this post as useful

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