The Yoshimoto Theater, the esteemed comedy theater in Namba, is deeply intertwined with a very important entertainment conglomerate that emerged from the traditional theater practice. The Yoshimoto Kogyo is the agency for the comedians that perform at the theater in Namba, and the Yoshimoto Kogyo is responsible for the popularization of the owarai style of comedy that has come to be synonymous with Osaka entertainment. The Yoshimoto Theater, which gives many Japanese comedians their first opportunities to rise to stardom, is considered to be the “base theater” of the famed talent agency, the Yoshimoto Kyogo. The theater itself was founded in 1912 for the purpose of supporting the popular rakugo style of Japanese storytelling. Rakugo was the basis for the manzai comedy of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, and the continued popularity of both of these styles contributed to the need for a comedy agency in Osaka.
Yoshimoto Kogyo, and by extension, Yoshimoto theater, just celebrated its 100th anniversary on April 8, 2012. In recent years, the Yoshimoto Kogyo conglomerate has expanded from sponsoring only comedy acts to also supporting athletes, actors, and pop stars. Yoshimoto Kogyo has also expanded from its humble beginnings to create a comedy theme park in Hokkaido and a second comedy theater in Shinjuku, Toyko. The 100th anniversary celebration, which took place at the Namba Grand Kagetsu theater, the original Yoshimoto theater, featured more than two hundred comedy acts. Tickets immediately sold out, and tickets went for astronomical prices — some at more than $1000. Recently, Yoshimoto Kogyo has started to expand to the worldwide stage, partnering with entertainers in China, Korea, and the USA. This is likely due to the popularity Japanese comedy has been gaining in other nations, particularly in the US. Game shows in the states, after all, have been largely inspired by the Yoshimoto style game shows of similar themes. As the kings of comedy in Japan, Yoshimoto Kogyo may eventually take the world by storm. For this comedy conglomerate, the sky is the limit.