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Rakugo artist Utamaru bids farewell after 50 years on comic show

Katsura Utamaru, left, is all smiles with his successor Shunputei Shota at a news conference after his last appearance on the popular comic show "Shoten" in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward, on May 22, 2016. (Mainichi)

Legendary rakugo artist Katsura Utamaru made his final appearance on May 22 as the host of the long-running TV comic show "Shoten," naming another rakugo performer Shunputei Shota as his successor.

    The 79-year-old rakugo-ka has been with the show since it first aired in 1966 and has served as its host for the past 10 years. He announced in April this year that he would be retiring from the show due to "physical limitations."

    "I told myself that this (the last appearance) is another Shoten episode, but to be honest I'll miss it," Utamaru told a news conference after the May 22 live broadcast. He also revealed that he cried after the show was over.

    Utamaru encouraged his successor during the broadcast, saying, "I want Mr. Shota to forget about how the show has been until today and host it in his own way."

    Shota, 56, who joined the show after Utamaru became its host in 2006, commented, "I do feel pressure because I'm replacing master Utamaru, but thinking about it won't do any good. I'll do my best."

    On reasons why Shota was given a shot to host the half-century-old show, the Shoten producer said, "We came to the conclusion that it would be best to hand the position to the person who knows the (Shoten) team well." Shota will become the show's sixth host starting from May 29.

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