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Sanyutei Enraku VI, 'diplomat' of Japan's rakugo world, dies at 72

Sanyutei Enraku VI performs solo in a local "yuki tsumugi" silk kimono in Oyama, Tochigi Prefecture, in this Nov. 8, 2012 photo. (Mainichi/Maiko Nagata)

TOKYO -- Sanyutei Enraku VI, a Japanese rakugo storyteller who was widely popular for his regular appearance on long-running Japanese TV comedy show "Shoten," died of lung cancer on Sept. 30. He was 72.

    Enraku, whose real name was Yasumichi Ai, also produced several major rakugo events across Japan. Capitalizing on his high profile as a TV regular, he became an energetic "diplomat" in Japanese rakugo circles, promoting active exchanges among the different rakugo schools and associations.

    After his master Sanyutei Enraku V passed away, Enraku VI devoted himself to raising the level of the entire rakugo world as a representative of the Enraku family group, expanding rakugo fandom to rural Japan.

    He was one of a kind in a rakugo community where many storytellers tend to pursue individual performances.

    "Rakugo is the best form of entertainment created by the people of Japan," was one of his pet phrases. He would also say that one can find in rakugo what Japanese people have left behind, such as kindness and empathy toward others.

    (Japanese original by Motoko Hamada, Editorial Board)

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