A MASTER STORYTELLER!
~The New York Times
THE KING OF KIMONO COMEDY!
"Best Unique Theatrical Experience!"
-Nomination: Off-Broadway Alliance Awards
Executive Producer Joe Trentacosta
Executive Producer Yoshitaka Tanaka
Artistic Producer Marie Fukuda
Associate Producer Yumi Shinozaki
JAPANESE COMIC STORYTELLING
BROADWAY AND BEYOND
Rakugo ran for six months at the New World Stages theater complex and is scheduled to run through September to reach one year. (Currently on hiatus due to Covid 19 restrictions)
REVIEWS AND PRESS:
Rakugo received universally positive reviews from the New York media, including the New York Times, The New Yorker, and Reuters.
BEST UNIQUE THEATRICAL EXPERIENCE
Rakugo was nominated for Best Unique Theatrical Experience for the 2020 Off-Broadway Alliance Awards
G20 SUMMIT, OSAKA 2019
Sunshine served as bilingual MC for the opening reception of the G20 Summit in Osaka
OSAKA WORLD EXPO, 2025
Sunshine served as spokesman and ambassador for the successful bid to hold the 2025 world fair in Osaka. He received personal praise from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for his efforts and the widely seen promotion video shown in Paris before the final judging took place.
JAPAN'S 400-YEAR LONG-RUNNING COMEDY!
Rakugo is a 400-year-old tradition of comic storytelling in Japan. The stories have been passed down from master to apprentice aurally through the centuries.
Every Rakugo story is preceded by a comic monologue which consists of the individual storyteller’s own“material”, much like stand-up comedy.
In order to become a recognized professional Rakugo storyteller, one must apprentice to a Rakugo master. The apprenticeship lasts for three to four years, and is very strict, nearing indentured servitude.
Sunshine went to his Master's home every morning for 3 years, did laundry, cleaned, carried bags, folded kimonos, and watched and learned in the way that every Japanese apprentice has done for hundreds of years.
A NOTE FROM SUNSHINE
ABOUT THE LOVE OF HIS LIFE
LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT
I will never forget the first day I saw Rakugo - in a tiny tatami room on the second floor of my favourite Yakitori shop in Yokohama.
Two storytellers did two stories each. They came out in Kimono, accompanied by Taiko drum and Shamisen, kneeled on a purple cushion, bowed formally and then proceeded to have the audience of 30 in absolute stitches.
The first half of each set was like stand-up comedy - observational humour, personal experiences and all very self-deprecating, which made them endearing.
The second part was the story proper - learned from masters who had learned from their masters, stories from one or two hundred years ago that were just awesome.
The details could fill a book - which I am working on, but suffice it to say I fell in love at first sight: This is what I was born to do!!
The Yakitori shop owner my dear late friend and mentor Ken, said impossible.
Three year apprenticeship.
Of 800 professional storytellers, not one was Western, or any kind of foreign for that matter. He couldn't fathom me putting myself through it nor could he imagine a master would take me.
It took a few years, but one master did indeed take me.
(I think he may have regretted it on many an occasion but... LOL)
And what a master! Katsura Bunshi VI, one of the most prolific composers of new Rakugo stories in history, a television star in Japan for the last 50 years, and a living national treasure in every sense of the word except the official government one...
He gave me the name Katsura Sunshine with a beautiful play on words with the kanji characters, because he wanted me to bring warmth and humour all over the world, like a true Sunshine.
And then he commanded me to bleach my hair.
Although one can never repay one's master for what they have done for you, debuting Rakugo on Broadway last year made him very very happy.
And so I hope to share with you some part of the sheer joy I have inherited from this elegant, minimal, universally hilarious and at the same time uniquely Japanese traditional performance art.
A SHORT BIOGRAPHY
ABOUT KATSURA SUNSHINE
Katsura Sunshine was born in Toronto Canada and holds Slovenian citizenship as well as Canadian.
He began in entertainment as a playwright, composer and producer of musical theatre, and his musical Clouds ran 15 months in Toronto's Poor Alex Theatre and toured Canada.
In 2008 he became the 15th apprentice to the great Rakugo Master Katsura Bunshi VI, from whom he received the name Katsura Sunshine.
Sunshine was the first ever Western Rakugo-ka in the Kamigata tradition (Osaka / Kyoto) and only the second in Japanese history, after his predecessor Kairakute Burakku a hundred years before.
Sunshine has toured over 5 continents performing in 3 languages (Japanese, English and French).
He made his London West End debut and New York Off-Broadway debut in 2017 for three-week runs in both cities. His open-ended run Off-Broadway at the famous New World Stages stopped at six months interrupted by the Covid-19 Pandemic, and is scheduled to re-open when Broadway theatres resume performances.
Sunshine divides his time between Tokyo, New York, London and Toronto.