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Bringing laughs to Tohoku: 'Hanaza' traditional comedy venue opens in Sendai

The entertainment hall "Hanaza" is adorned with lanterns in Sendai in this undated photo. (Mainichi)
The comedy duo "Knights" performs at the recently opened entertainment hall "Hanaza" in Sendai on April 1, 2018. (Mainichi)

SENDAI -- The Tohoku region's only permanent comedy show venue "Hanaza" opened its doors at the center of a lively shopping district here on April 1.

    Katsura Utamaru, the chairman of the Rakugo Geijutsu Kyokai (Geikyo), an organization of comedians practicing the traditional Japanese "rakugo" style of sit-down comedy, was named the honorary head of Hanaza. In celebration of the opening, Geikyo vice-chairman Sanyutei Koyuza, popular comedy duo "Knights" (Nobuyuki Hanawa and Nobuyuki Tsuchiya) and others made their way around the district in rickshaws, surprising Sendai residents and visitors who had come to shop.

    The push to open Hanaza came from the head of the Sendai office of Geikyo, Moriyasu Shiratsu, who had run a "yose" entertainment hall like Hanaza in Sendai that hosted events once a month for the last eight years.

    The new theater seats roughly 30 guests, and both the interior and the exterior are decorated with some 170 lanterns. Along with being home to the program "Michinoku Sendai Yose," which will run for a total of 10 days each month from the 1st to the 5th and the 21st to the 25th, rakugo acts belonging to Geikyo and other groups of comedians active in the Tohoku region also will hold shows periodically.

    The arrival of Hanaza comes seven years after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster hit Sendai. Local rakugo comedian Rokkatei Yuka, who performs her routines in the Tohoku dialect, welcomed the change.

    "I overcame the toughest times with laughter," she explained. "I hope this will become a place where the people of Tohoku can come to have a laugh."

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