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Rakugo is a tradition of comic story-telling in Japan.

The West has "stand up comedy". In Japan, the comics sit in a kneeling posture (seiza).

There are two traditions of rakugo: koten, the classical rakugo and shinsaku, modern or "new" rakugo. Classical rakugo has a repertory that became fixed during the Meiji (1868-1912) and Taisho (1912-1926). Modern rakugo is of course more contemporary.

With only a fan and a hand towel as props, the rakugo-ka assumes the parts of various characters cheating, lying to, seducing, and arguing with each other. The fan can become a sword, hashi, scissors, cigarettes, a pipe or a pen. The towel can be a book, a bowl, a coiffure.

The stories are presentations of the foibles and failings of all people through the assuming of stereotypical characters.

Such great masters of the art as the late Kosan Yanigaya can easily bring tears of pity to be soon flipped over into laughter, like turning over the palm of his hand.

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