• Kyodo

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More than 60 “rakugo” comic storytellers and 200 local shop owners and residents celebrated on Tuesday the completion of the Tenma Tenjin Hanjo Tei, a rakugo theater that will open next month in Kita Ward, Osaka.

The two-story theater, built on the grounds of Osaka Tenmangu Shrine, seats 250. Construction began late last year and local merchants and residents donated 180 million yen for the project. Donations are also being solicited to cover the theater’s operating costs.

“The theater we desired is finally complete. I am really grateful to be back where Harudanji Katsura I (a popular 1920s practitioner) used to ride around in a red jinrikisha,” Sanshi Katsura, president of the Kamigata Rakugo Association, said at the completion ceremony.

About 60 rakugo artists gathered in front of the theater and celebrated with banzai cheers.

Before the war, the district surrounding Osaka Tenmangu Shrine was home to many rakugo theaters and was famous for its close connection with the traditional storytelling art, but the theaters all closed down after suffering damage during the war.

The official Sept. 15 opening will mark the first time in 60 years that a permanent rakugo theater has been located in the area.

In rakugo, the performer portrays scenes and events using vivid vocal and facial expressions.

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