Comedy, Commemoration, Cultural Politics, Heritage, Manzai, Rakugo
Rakugo and other genres of popular comedy are increasingly used as themes and topics in popular culture. Manga, television shows and popular essays often emphasize the importance of genre masters for younger performers. This article explores the different forms of commemoration and the various strategies of commemoration that are employed within the comedy culture of Japan. The first part of the paper explores how San’yūtei Enchō, one of the most respected masters, is frequently used as a point of reference in commemoration to define and promote rakugo and to establish a connection between fans and performers. This is achieved by examining references to Enchō in an interview in a popular Japanese television programme and the relevance of a popular festival acting as a space of interaction between performers and members of the rakugo audience. The second part of the article explores questions of cultural politics, and the relevance commemoration has for comedy culture in the Kansai region. The case of the Osaka Prefectural Museum of Kamigata Comedy and Performing Arts (Wahha Kamigata) is examined and the recent discussions regarding its necessity, fuelled by the plans of the former prefectural governor, Hashimoto Tōru, to move and downsize the institution, are described.