Yose (a place where rakugo stories are mostly told for audiences) (寄席)

A yose originally referred to a permanent hut operated by a promoter where professionals of rakugo (traditional comic storytelling), rokyoku (naniwabushi recitation), kodan storytelling, manzai or a comic dialogue, or magicians entertained their audiences by exhibiting their skills in speaking or trickery.


Now, most yose aren't huts but are placed in a reinforced concrete or steel-frame building, but still they're located in city areas as they were.

In the past, there were yose for kodan storytelling, yose for Rokyoku (naniwabushi recitation) and yose for iromono (various entertainments other than storytelling), respectively, in addition to yose for rakugo. At the present, nearly all yose are for rakugo. In the yose for rakugo, as a matter of course, rakugo storytelling is most often performed, so the performances other than rakugo are called iromono. The last performance in a program is rakugo, in principle, and the person who performs the last rakugo is called a tori. On the advertising board for a yose, the name of a tori is written in the boldest, largest letters. In principle, only shinuchi (full-fledged master of storytelling) rakugo storytellers can play the role of tori. However, very rarely, a rakugo storyteller who is not a shinuchi or a performer of other program may play the role of a tori.

The number of yose has decreased due to financial difficulties and inheritance problems. However, it is astonishing that the yose has kept its position as the flower of urban culture since the early Edo period while serving to support the traditional performance arts related to performances in rooms (such as geisha dance). Rakugo or other programs are sometimes performed in a rural place, for example, in a civic hall in a local municipality, and in a broad sense, such a place can also be called yose (on a trip).

It is said that, of all the yose described above, yose in a strict sense are limited to only four theaters--the Suzumoto Engeijo theater, the Shinjuku Suehirotei theater, the Asakusa Engei Hall and the Ikebukuro Engeijo theater--excluding the National Engei Hall and other theaters in most cases.

According to a remark by Gintaro KITAMURA, the first owner of the Shinjuku Suehirotei theater, a yose and rakugo cannot be separated because, for rakugo storytellers, yose are only the place where they can polish their storytelling techniques, and audiences also enjoy the growth of the performers and the differences in the performance of each rakugo storyteller; it is said that while 'complete' performances are presented in the rakugo performed in halls, rakugo in yose are, due to their being 'incomplete,' interesting and performed seriously.

An engeijo theater generally indicates a place where iromono are performed principally from the viewpoint of financial reason, but it is said that 'live spaces for comic performances' by major companies are included in the engeijo category.
Therefore, the theater of this type is significantly different from 'yose.'

In Kamigata (Osaka), in Osaka City from the Meiji period to the early Showa period, particularly around Hozen-ji Temple in South Osaka, the 'Kobaitei' theater, which symbolized the Sanyu school, and the 'Nanchi Kanazawatei' theater (which was later taken over by Yoshimoto Kogyo Co., Ltd., and became the 'Nanchi Kagetsu' theater), which symbolized the Katsura school, were located on the northern side and southern sides, respectively, and competed with each other.

In addition to the 'Eirakukan' theater (which was later affiliated with Yoshimoto and became 'Kitashinchi Kagetsu Club'), located in Kitashinchi in the northern region of Osaka City, at least ten yose theaters specialized in rakugo; they were located in Uehommachi, Horie (in Osaka City), Matsuyamachi, Shinmachi (in Osaka City), the Matsushima Yukaku red-light district and around Osaka Tenman-gu Shrine. After that, Yoshimoto placed a priority on manzai for performances in yose, and promoted an exclusive contract with Harudanji KATSURA and other rakugo storytellers, having them perform only in 'Kagetsu', a yose that Yoshimoto operated. Consequently, the yose culture in Kamigata rakugo (rakugo in Osaka) was extinct.

After the war, as momentum for restoring Kamigata rakugo heightened, the Ebisubashi Shochiku theater (of Sentochi Kogyo (later Nippon Dream Kanko)) opened in Minami (the southern area of Osaka City). It won popularity as the only yose in Osaka. After 1957, when the theater closed due to financial difficulties, the yose culture in Osaka was kept by local supporters in the style of 'local yose' by using temples, civic halls and soba-noodle shops as rakugo theaters (for example, 'Tanabe yose' and 'Iwata yose'). On September 15, 2006, the 'Tenma Tenjin Hanjotei' theater opened beside the Osaka Tenman-gu Shrine, the first yose in half a century to do so.

Additionally, in Hokkaido many yose theaters existed from the Meiji period to the early Showa period. Generally, the yose culture has declined here as well, mainly due to the prevalence of television. Now, a Heisei Kaishintei theater has opened with the second Shiko KATSURA as its principal rakugo storyteller.


During the early Edo period, storytelling events, being very similar to Kodan storytelling, were held in borrowed spaces in the premises of temples or shrines, which were the origin of yose. However, it isn't likely that such events were held with any regularity. Following to this original form, the first exclusive yose was held in 1798 by Karaku SANSHOTEI 1st in the premises of the Shitaya-jinja Shrine in Shitaya, Tokyo. The stone monument commemorating the birthplace of yose is located in this shrine; initially, the place was called yoseba, which later became yose. After that, many yose theaters opened in and around Edo toward the end of the Edo period. Because not many entertainments were available at that time (in contrast to the present), it is said that each town had a yose. During the Meiji and Taisho periods after that, large-scale yose also appeared. However, in the course of time various other entertainments such as TV appeared, significantly reducing the numbers of persons who visited yose and forcing the yose to close one after another. In recent years, people's interests in performance arts in yose, such as rakugo and kodan, have declined conspicuously, and now only a few yose remain. Therefore, it can be said that yose as a whole suffer from difficult conditions in their business.

Tools and terms used in yose

Koza (plate): The stage in a yose

Kami (or kamite), shimo (or shimote): Kami (kamite) indicates the right side when viewed from the audience side, and shimo (shimote) the left side. Mekuri: The sheets of paper, placed on the shimote side, on which the performers' names are written.

Edo-style characters (yose-style characters): The special style of characters written on the mekuri, the originator of which is Ukon TACHIBANA.

Debayashi: The music played when a rakugo storyteller or manzai storytellers come up to a koza
Such music was first played in Kamigata (Osaka).

Geza (ohayashi): The person who plays debayashi

Mogiri: The person who cuts the stubs of tickets at the entrance to a yose

Joseki: A place where rakugo is performed throughout the year, or the entrance to the place.

Sekitei: The operator or owner of a yose
(Called the 'president' concerning Asakusa Engei Hall)

Kin-chan: A customer

Ochako: A female specific to yose in Kamigata who attends performers in the backstage area. She sometimes serves to turn the cushion on the koza upside down as well.

Wari: The daily payments made for performers in yose, corresponding to the number of customers for the day and the respective performers' ranks.