There was a time when parents in Osaka used to scold their kids by threatening, “I will send you to Yoshimoto!” if they were fooling around. Today, though, Yoshimoto Kogyo Co. has become Japan’s largest entertainment agency, and most parents would be happy if their children worked for it. Its tarento are now so popular that it is almost impossible to watch prime-time or late-night television without seeing one of them.

Yoshimoto Kogyo was founded nearly 100 years ago by a woman named Sei Yoshimoto, who opened a theater for rakugo comic storytellers in the precinct of Tenmangu Shrine in Osaka’s Kita Ward for her husband, Kichibei Yoshimoto. The owner of a housewares shop, Kichibei was such a big fan of theater and rakugo that Sei thought it would be good if they had their own theater.

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