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OSAKA — A professional picture-card storyteller and a planning and advertising firm are teaming up in Osaka to preserve and hand down the old-time art of picture-card shows.

Professional storyteller Yushi Yasuno, 65, and Manga Artists Network Inc., led by Fumio Miki, plan to produce the next generation of storytellers, which the company will employ as regular workers and send them out to perform at events.

“There’s no age limit in this job. We’ll be able to help increase employment in our own small way,” Yasuno said.

Yasuno, from Tsuruoka, Yamagata Prefecture, and active chiefly in the Kansai region, has been a picture-card storyteller for about 40 years. Dressed in “hakama” skirt and dark hat, he uses clackers to attract kids to his show, typical of such storytellers.

“These days, children just aren’t satisfied with only the classics,” he said. To keep their attention, he throws in the occasional quiz.

More and more performance requests are coming in for the five-man Yassan Ichiza troupe, which Yasuno leads.

Yasuno worries picture-card storytelling will be forgotten unless it is firmly established as a profession instead of seen as a volunteer activity.

Manga Artist’s Miki agreed to help out and decided to employ five to 10 people as trainees with a monthly salary of about ¥130,000.

Manga Artists Network anticipates that most of those hired will be the newly retired.

After the war, up to 50,000 picture-card storytellers, many who had been repatriated, traveled around the country by bicycle telling stories with the aid of picture cards. They also sold candy and snacks to help attract their youthful audiences.

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