Enjoy the Art of Japanese Traditional Comedy Through the Show “Shoten”

  • If you’re wondering how Japanese people like to spend their free time, most of them are actually watching television programs. Comedy makes up quite a large portion on Japanese TV and watching a comedy show called ‘Shoten’ is a very popular way to kill some time. If you have watched TV in Japan on Sunday night you will have probably already caught this show. Famous rakugo (a form of Japanese verbal entertainment) performers wearing colorful kimonos compete to make the best jokes. If you want to find out what this colorful show is about, keep reading!

    How It All Started

    Shoten started to be aired on May 15, 1966. It is based on the traditional way of Japanese storytelling, where a host gives questions to a panel of rakugo storytellers or performers who are then obliged to give a comical response. The person who gives the wittiest response will be given more floor cushions to sit on. If a response is not funny, a cushion may be removed from the performer until he sits on the floor. In order to win, you have to collect as many cushions as possible: the ultimate aim is to sit on a stack of 10 cushions. The judge chooses the performer who sits on the highest number of cushions in order to declare him the winner.

    Rules of the Game

    Contests last for 15-minutes. The host asks the performers 3 questions. Each performer has to answer each question. They are also allowed to answer the questions as many times as he wants. Answering the question is done by raising a hand and waiting for the host to call your name. A witty answer will gain you one cushion. However, the performers have to be careful, as an insulting answer (to either host or audience) will lose him one or more cushions. Host Utamaru (pictured above) is said to love removing cushions from performers especially if they seem arrogant. It is considered rare for anybody to achieve the magical 10 but it has amazingly occurred twice in a row in 2014 after the host was in a good mood.

    If your Japanese is good enough, you should try catching the show on the Nippon TV every Sunday evening which runs for 24 minutes. Watching this show is s fun way of tickling your mind while enjoying the witty responses of the performers!

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