• Kyodo

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Traditional Japanese storyteller Katsura Koharudanji said Tuesday that he has established a nonprofit organization to promote the comic storytelling art of “rakugo” overseas to deepen cultural exchange through laughter.

Koharudanji, 48, said at a news conference in Osaka, where he is based, that he got approval to set up the International Rakugo Promotion Committee from the Osaka Prefectural Government in July.

Koharudanji, who claims to be the first rakugo storyteller to set up an NPO, said he “would like to see people in other countries understand, through rakugo, the Japanese as they are.”

“People in other countries don’t understand Japanese wordplay but they share a sense of humor with the Japanese,” he said.

Rakugo is a traditional form of storytelling consisting of humorous monologues.

Koharudanji has performed in 12 countries other than Japan. He performed in Britain in 2000, aided by English subtitles.

He said he established the NPO because it was difficult to raise funds for travel and expenses to perform abroad. NPOs can receive subsidies and donations more easily, he said.

Koharudanji plans to hold a monthlong rakugo exhibition in New York next February in a cultural exchange mission endorsed by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, which operates under the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry.

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