Live Comedy in Kansai

ByJustin Hanus
Oct 29, 2021

Live Comedy in Kansai

Live comedy in countries such as the US and UK mostly conjures up images of listening to one person tell jokes and funny stories for an hour or so. But it often primarily involves groups or collectives of comedic theater performers putting on circus-like shows in many other places. Japan has a blend of both. Traditional stand-ups are plying their trade as well as theater groups performing styles such as slapstick and avant-garde. Like other regions of Japan, Kansai doesn’t have the plethora of live comedy venues that you’d find in London or New York, but there are a handful of venues that serve up belly laughs as part of an evening’s entertainment.

An overview of live comedy in Japan

Japan has a long tradition of performance comedy that goes back to the Heian period. The American-style of individual observational stand-up has broken through to an extent in recent years, and you can find both Japanese and expat comedians plying their trade in either English or Japanese in a few venues across the country these days. But Japan has its distinctive styles of comedy that have been wowing crowds for centuries. The main styles are:

  • Kyogen – performance comedy dating back to the 14th century, based on slapstick and satire. It’s often performed in an archaic version of Japanese, but that doesn’t matter too much as the comedy is largely physical.
  • Rakugo – more similar to what we know as stand-up, it involves a lone storyteller who basically weaves a clever plot often involving several characters.
  • Manzai – a traditional form of “double act” comedy performed at high speed and involving many jokes. Will often have contrasting characters – a straight performer and a silly one.

Here are the best places to see Japanese and international live comedy in Kansai.

ROR Comedy Club, Osaka

Osaka is often called the spiritual home of Japanese comedy, and the city boasts one of the best live comedy venues in the country in the ROR Comedy Club. Opened in 2011, largely in response to the growing English-speaking expat population and burgeoning demand for stand-up comedy entertainment, this club hosts English-speaking comedy acts from Japan and overseas. Names to have graced the stage include Phil Wang, Josie Long, and local favorite Yuriko Kotani. You can watch paid acts on Friday and Saturday nights, and there is an open mic evening on Tuesdays when anyone can perform.


Namba Grand Kagetsu, Osaka

This performing arts theater is a place to come to sample a more traditionally Japanese form of comedy. It’s run by the Yoshimoto Kogyo comedy group, set up in 1912, and Japanese TV regulars. Here, you can see all styles of Japanese comedy for around 4,000 – 5,000 yen and buy snacks such as salted popcorn, souvenirs and pose with cardboard cut-outs of popular comedians. The theater is a three-minute walk from Namba station in Osaka.

Address: 11-6 Namba Sennichimae, Chuo Ward, Osaka, 542-0075, Japan

Yoshimoto Gion Kagetsu, Kyoto

Originally opened as the Gion Kaikan in 1958, this theater in Kyoto’s geisha district hosts dance, theater, geisha performances, and a variety of live comedy. It’s another location run by the Yoshimoto Group, and most shows involve comedians and performers linked to this hub.

Address: 323 Gionmachi Kitagawa, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, 605-0073

Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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