The Kennedy Center

Kaishi Katsura


Rakugo is a Japanese comic storytelling art that has been used as entertainment for over 400 years and is still widely popular today. A Rakugo artist wears a kimono, sits on a small cushion, and uses only two small props – a Japanese fan and a hand towel – and will play any number of characters, be they a samurai, geisha, merchant, or drunkard. These characters represent qualities within all of us, parts of the human personality. The artist speaks to the audience’s imagination, and single-handedly creates the hilarious side of traditional Japan. Tonight, you will be able to enjoy this unique narrative art with master Kaishi Katsura, the world’s top performer of English Rakugo.

Kaishi Katsura has been a renowned professional Rakugo performer in Osaka, Japan since 1994, performing in Rakugo theaters, on TV, and on the radio.  Mr. Katsura began performing Rakugo in English in 1997, and uses his skill to convey a more direct understanding of Rakugo and Japanese culture abroad. In 2007, he was appointed Cultural Ambassador by the Agency for Cultural Affairs of Japan. Mr. Katsura has won numerous prestigious awards and has performed over 300 times around the world, including in the U.S., Canada, Singapore, Australia, Brunei, India, and England.

Last year, Mr. Katsura completed his 6-month tour of the U.S., during which he performed 75 times in 33 cities around the country. Starting in New York and travelling through the U.S. in a motor home, Mr. Katsura performed in a variety of venues, from large theaters to restaurants, camping sites, a fire station, and a school. Mr. Kasura’s first U.S. tour culminated in two shows performed on Broadway in New York.

In recognition of his efforts and achievements, Mr. Katsura won 2009’s Japan Foundation Performing Arts grant, which has made tonight’s event possible. This performance will be followed by a continuation of Mr. Katsura’s second U.S. tour, during which he will perform around the country. His program will include the show, along with educational workshops in schools, and visits of nursing homes and children’s hospitals where he hopes to encourage people through laughter. Mr. Katsura has performed in almost half of all U.S. states and is determined to extend his tours until he has performed in every state of the country. Spreading Rakugo is Kaishi Katsura’s life-time mission.
Kaishi Katsura