News and Opinion

The Benshi as Vaudeville Performer

スクリーンショット 2023-07-31 午後11.28.27

I am in Japan for the summer doing research and preparing for future projects. As I mentioned when advertising the Verbal Arts in Japan event at Yale, I have been seeing a lot of rakugo in Japanning recent years, especially at yose, the vaudeville halls that feature rakugo in addition to other entertainments such as magic, juggling, voice impersonation, etc. Even though I’ve been going to yose from before COVID, it is possible some of my current attraction is due to the desire to re-experience a communally shared present/presence in physical proximity. But there are research reasons as well, as I have been teaching and researching Japanese comedy as a whole.

It was interesting, however, to see that my interest in film and yose found an object in common this summer: not only the presentation of films in yose, but screening of them with a film benshi. The benshi Sakamoto Raiko, whom I’ve worked with before, joined one of the main rakugo organizations, the Rakugo Geijutsu Kyokai, as an iromono (those who are not rakugoka and appear in yose). I attach his GeiKyo profile above. 

Everything © Aaron Gerow. Send comments and suggestions to