The Japan Society

Upcoming Events

ONLINE LECTURE - The Comic Storytelling of Western Japan, with M.W. Shores

Monday 15 November 2021 / 6:45pm
ONLINE LECTURE - The Comic Storytelling of Western Japan, with M.W. Shores

Monday 15 November 2021
6.45pm (GMT)
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Booking Details
Online Lecture
Free – Donations Welcome
Registration essential

Book online here

The activities of the Japan Society are made possible thanks to the support of its members. This event is free of charge and open to all. We realise that this is a difficult time for many people. However, if you are planning to attend and do not have a membership subscription as an individual or through your employer, please consider making a donation. You can find details of membership and how to join the Japan Society community here.

Rakugo, a popular form of comic storytelling, has played a major role in Japanese culture and society. Developed during the Edo (1600–1868) and Meiji (1868–1912) periods, it is still popular today, with some top contemporary Japanese comedians having originally trained as rakugo artists. Rakugo is divided into two distinct strands, the Tokyo tradition and the Osaka tradition, with the latter having previously been largely overlooked. In this lecture M.W. Shores will offer a history of comic storytelling in Kamigata (modern Kansai, Kinki) from the seventeenth century to the present day. Considering the art in terms of gender, literature, performance, and society, Shores will ground Kamigata (Osaka) rakugo in its distinct cultural context and sheds light on the “other” rakugo for students and scholars of Japanese culture and history.

Shores will also explore his twenty year relationship with the art, which included informal apprenticeships with two respected practitioners. As one will learn, rakugo training requires apprentices to carry out menial tasks around the clock with few actual rakugo lessons, yet one learns precisely how to charm and cultivate audiences and, eventually, make a living. Rakugo training, as it turns out, is also helpful for those going into teaching, or any undertaking that requires one to deal with other humans or any living thing requiring some degree of care. The lecture is based on his new monograph The Comic Storytelling of Western Japan: Satire and Social Mobility in Kamigata Rakugo, a pioneering study of the Kamigata rakugo tradition which presents the first complete English translation of five classic rakugo stories. 

* Images: (left) Detail of a woodblock print by Hasegawa Sadanobu III (1881–1963) showing a rakugo artist on stage in pre-World War II Osaka (courtesy of Osaka Prefectural Nakanoshima Library), featured on the cover of the book The Comic Storytelling of Western Japan: Satire and Social Mobility in Kamigata Rakugo; (right) Katsura Bunshi V (1930-2005), hailed as one of the shitenno (four greats) of post-World War II Kamigata rakugo - Shores trained with Bunshi V from 2002 to 2004 (photograph by M.W. Shores).


M.W. Shores is a scholar of Japanese literary arts and entertainment, with a focus on rakugo and its early-modern precursors, literary and otherwise. He began his career at Cambridge, where he was Director of East Asian Studies and a Governing Body Fellow at Peterhouse, Cambridge’s oldest constituent college. He is now Lecturer of Japanese at The University of Sydney, Australia’s first tertiary institution. Shores has spent over a decade in Japan for research and training with Kamigata Rakugo masters Katsura Bunshi V and Hayashiya Somemaru IV.
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Book Discount

Those wishing to purchase The Comic Storytelling of Western Japan will receive a 20% discount by using the code CSWJ2021 at checkout (expires 30 June 2022).

If you have any questions, please call the Japan Society office on 020 3075 1996 or email

Booking Info

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