Rakugo Storyteller Utamaru Katsura Passes Away at 81

posted on by Jennifer Sherman
Performer voiced characters in Fusé: Memoirs of a Huntress, Rakugo Tennyo Oyui

Rakugo (comic storytelling) performer Utamaru Katsura passed away at 11:43 a.m. on Monday. He was 81. In recent years, Katsura had been in and out of the hospital with aspiration pneumonitis and other conditions.

Katsura, whose real name was Iwao Shiina, was head of the Rakugo Geijutsu Kyōkai (Rakugo Art Association). He is known for appearing on the comedy television program Shōten for many years. In anime, Katsura voiced Takizawa Bakin in Fusé: Memoirs of a Huntress and played himself in Rakugo Tennyo Oyui.

Katsura began his rakugo career at the age of 15 under Kokotonei Imasuke V in 1951, and he took the name Imaji. He later left the world of rakugo for two and a half years before moving and taking the name Yonebō to study his senior fellow apprentice Yonemaru Katsura in 1961. He changed his stage name to Utamaru in 1964 and became a headlining rakugo performer in 1968.

Since Shōten debuted in 1966, Katsura was a regular performer on the program, but he did step down at one time. His interactions with Sanyūtei Koenyū and Sanyūtei Enraku VI on the program were popular in Japan. Katsura replaced Sanyūtei Enraku V to become the fifth host of the show in 2006, and he served in the role until 2016.

Katsura became the head of the Rakugo Geijutsu Kyōkai in 2004, and he began working as the head of Yokohama Nigiwai-za Hall in 2010. He received several honors in his lifetime, including the Order of the Sacred Treasure, Gold Rays with Rosette in 2007, as well as public recognition from Japan's Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology in 2016.

Sources: The Mainichi Shimbun (link 2) via Hachima Kikō

Image via The Japan Times

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