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Katsura Sunshine: Rakugo Comedy Master

Note: This page is from a previous year’s HYPER JAPAN Christmas Market event, please see our schedule for an up-to-date list of performances and activities.

Katsura-Sunshine2(small)Bringing the best of traditional Japanese culture to the UK as usual, we’re welcoming a very special guest to HYPER JAPAN Christmas Market this November, international Rakugo Master Katsura Sunshine! Sunshine is the first ever Western Rakugo storyteller in the history of the “Kamigata” Rakugo tradition, based in Osaka, and only the second ever in the history of Japan (the first was Australian Kairakutei Black (1858-1923), who performed in the Edo tradition, based in Tokyo). Sunshine is the only active Western professional Rakugo storyteller at this time.

Rakugo is a 400-year-old tradition of comic storytelling in Japan, a minimalistic performance art, that features a lone storyteller dressed in kimono, kneeling on a cushion, who, using only a fan and a hand towel for props, entertains the audience with a comic monologue followed by a traditional story. The storyteller differentiates characters in conversation by moving his head from left to right, as well as with subtle changes in tempo, posture, intonation, etc. Rakugo is an ancient art form, but it is still very much alive and well, with over 700 professional storytellers practicing today in the two main traditions of storytelling, that of Tokyo (Edo) and that of Osaka (Kamigata).


Katsura Sunshine was born in Toronto, Ontario, to parents of Slovenian origin. He studied classics at the University of Toronto, then came to Japan in 1999 to pursue studies in Noh and Kabuki Theatre, while working as an instructor of English Language at the prestigious Daigakushorin International Language Academy. He continued to write and produce musical theatre during this period.

In 2008, Sunshine was accepted as an apprentice to the great Rakugo storytelling master, Katsura Bunshi VI (then named Katsura Sanshi), and subsequently received the name Katsura Sunshine. In the Rakugo tradition, he received both his master’s last name and part of the first (his master, Sanshi combined the first part of his name, “San”, meaning “Three”, with the Japanese word for “Shine”, and gave it the Japanese pronunciation of the English word “Sunshine”). Making his professional debut in Singapore in 2009, he completed his three-year Rakugo apprenticeship in November, 2012.

Sunshine currently appears regularly on television in Japan, and has been the subject of several short documentaries made for television news. Sunshine has also been appointed Cultural Ambassador for the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Japan, and Friendship Ambassador for Japan and the Republic of Slovenia.