The World Expo 2010 Shanghai: Young artists perform traditional Japanese music at the Japan Pavilion!

Akira Saji
Overseas Program Coordination Div.
Overseas Policy Planning Dept.
The Japan Foundation

From June 7 to June 10, 2010, the World Expo Japan Pavilion in Shanghai was the stage for a performance of traditional Japanese music by six young Japanese artists and the screening of a documentary film titled "Japan as Seen through the Eyes of Chinese High School Students," based on the Long-Term Program for Chinese High School Students organized by the Japan Foundation China Center to invite Chinese high school students to Japan.


Traditional Japanese music played with Japanese instruments

This Shanghai World Expo was the largest in Expo history, both in terms of the area of the site, and the number of pavilions, and over 70 million people were expected to visit. The theme of Japan's exhibition was "Harmony of the Hearts, Harmony of the Skills," and the pavilion was divided into three zones introducing Japanese culture and technology.


"Japanese Songs and Music--Sounds of Japan with Song, Japanese Flute, Shamisen and Taiko," organized by the Japan Foundation, brought together six artists in five different programs for a total of twenty-nine performances over the four days. Led by Shigeri Kitsu, a performer highly acclaimed in Japan and abroad for her style of singing while playing the drum, artists on Japanese flute, Shamisen and Taiko created a unique experience every time they appeared on stage. The Shanghai audience sang along in Chinese when the familiar Takeda-no-komoriuta (Lullaby of Takeda) was sung. Listening to the people talking, I could tell that about eighty percent of the audience was from parts of China outside Shanghai, and we saw visitors from countries other than Japan and China as well. There were people of all age groups, and some came back several times during the day. Visitors asked various questions, wondering for example if Japanese people still play traditional instruments. The performers were pleased with the reaction, saying "The audience would call 'Hao! (Good!)' when they liked the music, so we were happy to hear that."

Screening of a documentary about the experiences of Chinese high school students staying in Japan

A documentary titled "Japan as Seen through the Eyes of Chinese High School Students" was shown before the music performance. In the film, Chinese high school students who were invited by the Japan Foundation to study for a year in Japan, describe, in Japanese, the experiences and challenges of living in a different culture. (Narration in Chinese with Chinese and English subtitles) The audience seemed very interested in Japanese manners and customs, and bursts of laughter and cries spread throughout the hall as they watched episodes like the scene where a Chinese student staying in Akita Prefecture met the Namahage (folklore demons) for the first time. The film can be viewed on the Japan Foundation China Center community website "Heart to Heart."

201008-01.jpgThe World Expo 2010 Shanghai offered us an opportunity to introduce Japanese culture to the many visitors who came from all over China. It also gave us the chance to show how important it is to promote exchanges between young people to strengthen the base for long-term friendship between the two nations. The approximately 200 seats were filled at each of the 20-minute film and music performances, leaving standing room only every time, and a total of 6,000 people enjoyed the shows over the four days.

In association with the World Expo, the Japan Foundation held two exhibitions in Shanghai in 2010: "The Japanese and Manga Characters" in September, and "Cities and Buildings" in October.

Page top▲