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- Efforts of Toyo Kogyo Co., Ltd. Asakusa Engei Hall
Efforts of Toyo Kogyo Co., Ltd. Asakusa Engei Hall 1-43-12 Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo
A place for our guests to enjoy
Our yose (vaudeville) theater is a sanctuary of laughter where special needs are carefully considered to ensure that anyone can have a good time
Asakusa Engei Hall is located in Rokku, Asakusa, a place that has turned out various entertainers. It is also a famous Asakusa sightseeing spot. As a result, many tourists visit by bus every day, and the hall is also a gathering place for long-time yose theater fans. The hall is always full of laughter, and everyone always goes home with smiles on their faces after the show ends. Yoshiyuki Matsukura, the president of Asakusa Engei Hall, talked to us about the efforts of his establishment, which has entertained various kinds of guests over the years.
Asakusa Engei Hall, a place loved by elderly guests
Asakusa Engei Hall opened for business in August 1964. The foundation of our hall was a France-style theater that opened its doors here in 1951. At the time, the building had three floors. Between the main France-style theater performances, there were skits and other light comedy performances, and Kiyoshi Atsumi gained popularity as a result. Due to the increasingly good reputation of the theater, Toyo Theater was born in 1959, and entertainers that included Hachiro Azuma and Kinichi Hagimoto were active during the following years. When Toyo Theater was established, floors 4 and 5 were built, and an elevator was installed at the same time, for which Takeshi Kitano famously worked as an elevator boy. In 1964, the France-style theater signboard was taken down, and floors 4 and 5 were opened as Asakusa Engei Hall. Floors 1 and 2 were used as Asakusa Engei Hall starting in 1971.
Many of our guests are elderly people, and the majority of them are in their 70s or older. There are a lot of elderly people in Asakusa due to the nature of the location, and our hall in particular welcomes a lot of elderly guests. As a result, there are people with canes and wheelchair users here almost every day. I suspect that we also have a lot of visually and hearing-impaired guests. In particularly, because rakugo can be enjoyed just by listening to it, a lot of visually impaired guests come here for that.
Flexible service in response to feedback from our guests
We learn whatever we can from the various kinds of guests we come into contact with every day, and we try to utilize their feedback as much as possible. For example, in response to complaints that our women's restroom was insufficient, we borrowed part of the neighboring land, built a passage outside the main building, and added another restroom. We also built a restroom that can be used by wheelchair users as well about 10 years ago. However, we didn't really have any barrier-free-related knowledge at the time, so we didn't install handrails initially. We added handrails later in response to complaints from our guests that the restroom was hard to use.
Because the 1st floor of the yose theater is flat, people in wheelchairs can come in. Although we don't have any special wheelchair seats, there are places in the passages, etc. where wheelchairs can be stopped, and we guide guests who want to sit in their wheelchairs while watching the show to those spots. Guests who would rather watch from a seat can temporarily leave their wheelchairs with us.
In addition to helping people in wheelchairs, our staff members assist visually impaired people, cane users, etc. by opening and closing doors as well as by providing other guidance, and this assistance includes opening and closing restroom doors, etc. If we have a guest who seems to have a hearing impairment, we guide the guest to a seat close to the stage from which the show can be seen clearly.
Our yose theater is a place all kinds of people can enjoy
We would like to emphasize that even disabled people can enjoy yose theater. For example, yose theater includes not only rakugo but also variety shows, which include magic, kamikiri (papercutting), and other highly visual shows that even hearing-impaired people can enjoy. In addition, we are considering introducing simultaneous voice conversation software, etc. I think this software will help our guests from abroad as well.
For us, the most encouraging thing is when our guests say that they had fun, appreciated our kind staff, or want to come visit us again. Our hall's mission is to make our guests laugh and feel better about life. All the roads around Senso-ji temple are barrier-free, and our hall is easy to get to from Asakusa Station (Tsukuba Express), so we encourage everyone to come check us out.
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