On New Year’s Day, many traditional Japanese performance arts come into their element. Rakugo is a time-honored version of standup comedy. Well, sit-down really, since the kimono-clad performer actually sits on a cushion and uses nothing but a towel and a fan as props — any kind of prop that may be required. The tragicomic stories that these linguistic magicians tell are countless.

A rarely performed piece deals with a little prince who has lived a very cosseted life. So aloof is he from worldly things that he knows not what money is, nor what it looks like. Thus, when he sees a coin pierced with an artistic hole in the middle, he thinks it must be a sword guard that has detached itself from a saber belonging to a princely doll not unlike his own royal self.

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