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Yoshimoto Kogyo Co., Ltd. (吉本興業株式会社 Yoshimoto Kōgyō Kabushiki-gaisha?) is a major Japanese entertainment conglomerate, with its headquarters based in Osaka. It was founded in 1912 as a traditional theatre, and has since grown to be one of the most influential companies in Japan, employing most of Japan's popular owarai (comedy) talent, producing and promoting the shows they appear in, and even maintaining its own amusement park.
Yoshimoto is said to be almost single-handedly responsible for the development of Japanese manzai after World War II and, in fact, the kanji that are now used for the word manzai were introduced by Yoshimoto in 1933, spelling a new era for the comedy style. Although pure manzai is no longer the dominant form of entertainment in Japan, Yoshimoto's influence remains and the spirit of manzai lives on in modern Japanese comedy, as can be seen by the prevalence of the Kansai dialect in many owarai productions.
The current director of Yoshimoto is Isao Yoshino, who replaced the long-standing ex-senior director Masao Kimura in January 2005. Kimura had been part of the company since entering in 1969, and in the 35 plus years that Kimura worked with Yoshimoto, it expanded greatly and its reputation as a successful company grew enormously. Fresh out of university, Yoshimoto is still the goal for many young comedians, and many of them hope to be accepted into the 'New Star Creation' school in Osaka, or one of others across Japan.
Yoshimoto now boasts more than 650 entertainers, possibly the most famous being the owarai kombi (duo) Downtown, successors of the manzai duo Yasu-Kiyo in the 1980s. As in much of Japanese culture, there exists a strong bond between sempai (senior) and kōhai (junior) members of the entertainment industry. Many lower level employees of Yoshimoto do not receive full salaries but rather benefit from the advice and guidance of senior members of the company.
- Sanma Akashiya 明石家 さんま
- Shimada Shinsuke 島田 紳助
- Kōji Imada 今田耕司
- Koji Higashino 東野 幸治
- Masaki Sumitani 住谷正樹 (aka Razor Ramon HG レイザーラモン HG)
- Takashi Fujii 藤井隆
- Hanako Yamada 山田花子
- Shoji Murakami
- Downtown ダウンタウン (Masatoshi Hamada and Hitoshi Matsumoto)
- Ninety-nine ナインティナイン (Takashi Okamura and Hiroyuki Yabe)
- Rozan ロザン (Fuminori Ujihara and Hirofumi Suga)
- London Boots ロンドンブーツ1号2号 (Atsushi Tamura and Ryō Tamura)
- Chutorial チュートリアル (Yoshimi Tokui and Mitsunori Fukuda)
- Kirin 麒麟 (Akira Kawashima and Hiroshi Tamura)
- Harisenbon ハリセンボン (Haruka Minowa and Haruna Kondou)
- Penalty ペナルティ (Hide and Wakki)
- Regular レギュラー (Kōta Matsumoto and Akihiro Nishikawa)
- Jichō Kachō 次長課長 (Junichi Kōmoto and Satoshi Inoue)
- 130R (Hon Kon and Itsuji Itao)
- License ライセンス (Kazuhiro Fujiwara and Takafumi Inomoto)
- Cocorico ココリコ (Shōzō Endō and Naoki Tanaka)
- Bad Boys (バッドボーイズ?) (Kiyoto Omizo and Masaki Sata)
Yoshimoto has been expanding its business in recent years, due to the so-called 'warai boom'. They now have their own comedy theme park in Otaru, Hokkaido and have begun signing the likes of musicians, producers, athletes and singers alongside business with the Japanese owarai industry.
Yoshimoto Kogyo is the owner of a number of corporate offices and stages, most situated in the downtown areas of Osaka and Tokyo. The company has two headquarters, Osaka HQ (大阪本部) and Tokyo HQ (東京本部) and a number of stages, namely Lumine the Yoshimoto (ルミネtheよしもと), 5 up Yoshimoto (5upよしもと), NMB48 Theater (NMB48劇場), Nanba Grand Kagetsu (なんばグランド花月), and a new stage in the popular Shibuya district of Tokyo, Yoshimoto Mugendai Hall (ヨシモト∞ホール). Yoshimoto also has an amusement park in downtown Osaka called Yoshimoto Shōtengai (吉本笑店街).
Yoshimoto Kogyo is a branch of the Yamaguchi-gumi, the largest organized crime group in Japan.
- Martin, Alex, "YOSHIMOTO, Entertaining the nation: For almost 100 years, Yoshimoto has been clearinghouse for comics", Japan Times, May 18, 2010, p. 3.
- Adelstein, Jake "Yakuza Goes Hollywood", The Daily Beast, September 23, 2011
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