Asakusa’s Comeback

Until the 1960s, Asakusa was considered the premier entertainment district in Tokyo, the place where Japan’s best actors and comedians got their start on stage and learned their craft.

With the rise of TV, the area declined and became mainly a haven for traditional theatre forms patronized by tourists and old-timers.

Since November, Asakusa has seen a huge resurgence of interest, thanks, ironically, to television. Yoshimoto Kogyo, the Osaka-based talent agency that mostly handles comedians, opened a revue at the 325-seat Kaminari Hall last fall that has been sold out ever since.

The revue features Yoshimoto acts that have become famous through television appearances. The comedians are all from Osaka and use the colorful Osaka dialect, which used to be a hard sell in Tokyo, but Japanese TV now is dominated by comedians who use the Osaka style.

Other theatres in Asakusa have reported a synergistic effect, with admissions rising since the Yoshimoto crew decamped in their neighborhood. Most importantly, the increase in admissions has been mainly among young people, who never came to Asakusa before.