• Kyodo

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The Temma Tenjin Hanjo Tei, a theater dedicated to the comic storytelling art of “rakugo,” opened Friday in Kita Ward, Osaka, as the first new permanent rakugo theater in the city since World War II.

The theater was completed last month on the premises of Osaka Temmangu Shrine to the cheers of rakugo performers and area residents.

For the next 10 days, it will feature a series of special opening performances by about 200 performers, including Katsura Sanshi, who heads the Kamigata Rakugo Kyokai storytellers association, and Katsura Harudanji III.

The theater will operate year-round and is expected to become a major sightseeing spot for the Kansai region.

Construction began late last year, funded by some 200 million yen in donations from local merchants and residents.

The theater was made with Japanese cypress, a prized construction material, with the goal of ensuring the building will last for at least a century.

In front, the theater displays the calligraphic form of the character “raku” (fun) as rendered by Katsura Beicho, a rakugo performer and National Living Treasure.

The theater uses natural acoustics, allowing performers to deliver vivid vocal expressions without microphones to a full house of 256 people on two levels.

Before the war, the district around the shrine was home to numerous rakugo theaters and was famous for its close connection with the traditional Japanese storytelling art. The theaters all closed after being damaged in the war.

Organizers hope the new theater will help produce star performers from the youth and the current core of rakugo storytellers. They are also aiming for a prosperous coexistence with the community.

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