Japonismes 2018: les âmes en resonance
The largest festival of Japanese culture and arts in this century

Korehito Masuda
Director General of the Japan Foundation Secretariat for JAPONISMES

I wonder if the readers of Wochi Kochi Magazine know that a design similar to an ukiyo-e by Katsushika Hokusai was used on the cover of the first version of the musical score for Debussy's The sea, three symphonic sketches for orchestra. In the recently released movie, Gauguin Voyage de Tahiti directed by Edouard Deluc, there is a scene in which Gaugin, played by Vincent Cassel, gazes at a drawing of this ukiyo-e. At the time, Japanese ukiyo-e fascinated many artists in Paris, and that artwork had a significant impact.

Japonism was born in France, and like the massive wave depicted in Hokusai's ukiyo-e, was an art movement that had a wave of influence on global cultures and artists.

Even today in France, Japanese art is synonymous with ukiyo-e. Art museums in Paris frequently hold ukiyo-e exhibitions, and they are always popular.

However, as if undermining the expectations of French people, the program for "Japonismes 2018: les âmes en resonance" to be held this year will not include an ukiyo-e exhibition. Why? Because Japonismes 2018 is not that Japonism.

Japonismes 2018 will be held in Paris, France from July 2018 until February 2019. The extensive project introduces a wide variety of Japanese culture and art from traditional to contemporary that includes exhibitions, performances, films, and lifestyles. Through Japonismes 2018, we hope French people will experience new surprises and discoveries as they did in the 19th century, and a new Japonism sensation will arise.

The story behind Japonismes 2018

Japonismes 2018 will be held in 2018, which marks the 160th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and France, based on agreement between the leaders of the two nations. A Secretariat was established in the Japan Foundation, and preparations have progressed through cooperation with various cultural organizations in France and with support from the governments and private corporations in both Japan and France.

And what is the concept on which Japonismes 2018, aimed at the modern world, is being based? The answer is the "aesthetic sense" of Japanese people that respects nature and prizes harmony between differing values.

Japanese people have always incorporated different cultures and blended them with our own. While at times we have clashed with conflicting values, we have come to value the beauty that exists in that harmonious coexistence.

Japanese culture is comprised of an array of arts rooted in our day-to-day living, from the Jomon Period that could also be called the starting point of Japanese culture, the painter Itô Jakuchû , and the Rinpa School of painting to the latest media art, anime, manga, and games; as well as stage performance from kabuki, noh/kyogen, and gagaku (Japanese court music) to modern plays and Hatsune Miku, and including foods, festivals, Zen, martial arts, tea ceremony, and flower arrangement. This diversity of Japanese culture, underlying sensitivity, and aesthetic sense will perhaps become clues to resolving problems that the present-day global society experiences, as social exclusion adds another layer of confusion.

With the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games on the horizon, we hope to promote the allure of rural Japan, encourage tourism in Japan, and help promote products such as Japanese foods, sake, and tea to other countries. We also believe that creativity in areas such as design, fashion, architecture, and technology, and the aesthetics of streamlining that avoids waste can be counted among Japanese culture that is globally attractive.

Coloring France with shades of Japan

Though it is impossible to introduce here all the endeavors to be unfurled in over 20 venues centering in Paris, I will tell you about a few signature programs.

First, the exhibition, "teamLab: Au-delà des limites" will begin in May ahead of the program's launch at La Villette in northwest Paris. La Villette (opened in 1986) is a science and culture facility whose establishment and concept were encouraged by Jack Lang when he was Minister of Culture. An exhibition that makes the most of Japan's latest technology and art will be held on a grand scale that truly fits that original concept.

teamLab : Au-delà des limites

From the exhibition "teamLab: Au-delà des limites"

After the official opening of Japonismes 2018, numerous events will be simultaneously held in July. To start, a planned performance will be given by the Japanese taiko drum group, DRUM TAO, which has dazzled audiences in 500 cities in 24 countries. In addition, "FUKAMI-une plongée dans l'esthétique japonaise," an exhibition that embodies the overall concept of Japonismes 2018, will open at Hôtel Salomon de Rothschild near Avenue des Champs-Élysées. The exhibition is a composition of ideas by the Japanese actor, Masahiko Tsugawa and is arranged by Yuko Hasegawa, a leading curator in Japan. Large sculptures by the artist, Kohei Nawa will be displayed within the famous pyramid at the Louvre Museum, and screenings are planned of a new film directed by Naomi Kawase who is a charismatic and popular director in France.

In September, the French cultural season also begins, and every day will be filled with major events. Paris will indeed be colored by shades of Japan.

For the first time in Europe, "Colorful Realm of Living Beings," a masterpiece by the brilliant artist Itô Jakuchû from the mid-Edo Period, and the Shaka Triad will be exhibited at Petit Palais, a prominent Paris museum; and folding screens of the Wind God and Thunder God, a national treasure by Tawaraya Sotatsu belonging to Kennin-ji in Kyoto, will be shown at the Cernuschi Museum in Paris.

Itô Jakuchû, Chickens (One of the thirty scrolls of Colorful Realm of Living Beings)
Dated before 1765, Sannomaru Shôzôkan (The Museum of Imperial Collections), Tokyo

As for stage performances, there will be 10 Japanese performances at the world-famous Paris art event, Festival d'Automne. This is extremely unprecedented. For the first time in 14 years, kabuki will be performed at the Théâtre national de Chaillote. Shido Nakamura and Shichinosuke Nakamura will present Narukami and Kasane. At the Paris municipal theatre, Espace Pierre Cardin, Japan's living national treasure, Mansaku Nomura, his son, Mansai, and his grandson, Yûki, will each give their own rendition of Sanbasô, produced by the contemporary artist, Hiroshi Sugimoto. The performance merits attention for showing how the younger generations are continuing the Japanese tradition. Moreover, there is a scheduled performance of the noh play, Yûgen that uses 3D images produced by the global director, Amon Miyamoto.

We anticipate that French people will be impressed not only by the works of Hideki Noda and Satoshi Miyagi, figures in contemporary theater, but also by productions from talented directors not yet widely known in France, such as Hideto Iwai and Shu Matsui.

(Reference Photo)
Three generations of kyogen performers, Mansaku Nomura, his son, Mansai, and his grandson, Yûki, perform in a stage production by the contemporary artist, Hiroshi Sugimoto.

Of the film projects, special attention should be given to "100 Years of Japanese Cinema." It is well known that France is home to many enthusiastic fans of Japanese film. The directors, Yasujiro Ozu, Akira Kurosawa, Nagisa Oshima, and Takeshi Kitano are well recognized. This exhaustive program includes over 100 films--from silent to the latest films--that will be screened in Paris at the Cinémathèque française and Maison de la culture du Japon à Paris. Some films will also be shown in regional locations. This includes films that have never been shown in France before and films restored with the latest 4K technology. It is a must-see for film enthusiasts.

Looking at the culture of everyday life in Japan, one of the feature presentations of this program is the "Local Cultures and Matsuri" to be held at the park, Jardin d'Acclimatation and the Japan Cultural Institute in Paris. The park is a Parisian leisure spot located at the entrance to Bois de Boulogne in west Paris. In addition to introducing seven Japanese festivals, food stalls will be set up within the park so that visitors can enjoy a variety of inexpensive, everyday Japanese foods. Japanese cuisine is one of the cultural forms of which Japan is most proud, and rather than simply provide Japanese foods, this endeavor will also include lectures at cooking schools, Japanese sake and tea tasting at restaurants, introduction to local food cultures in the UNESCO headquarters, as well as symposiums on food held at sites such as the Centre Pompidou.

During Japonismes 2018, the residents of Paris will be able to fully experience Japan.

A resonating spirit

This program will utilize cultural facilities in Paris and regional sites and encompass over 50 projects. Bringing so many endeavors to fruition was no easy task. Itô Jakuchû, who is extremely popular in Japan, is not well known in France, and given the short preparation and exhibition periods, talks with the museums were quite difficult. Fortunately, Director Leribault of Petit Palais City of Paris' Fine Arts Museum made adjustments to the schedule spanning several years to make it happen.

There were also many efforts made to reflect requests from France. For instance, the programs for stage performances and lineup for "100 Years of Japanese Cinema" were accomplished after repeated discussions among Japanese and French experts to winnow the artworks. Depending on the endeavor, local permission was required, and the relevant French authorities proffered their cooperation.

We are thankful for the support received from people who can be called key figures in Japan-France exchange, including Thomas Sirdey, the co-founder of Japan Expo, which draws over 250,000 youth each year, Louis Schweitzer, former chairman of Renault, and Jack Lang, the former Minister of Culture.

France is a nation of art and culture that has the world's pre-eminent history, and President Macron, a man who understands culture and art, has a strong interest in Japonismes 2018. Though the setting for this program is France, we are also focusing on getting the word out in Japan so that the impact of this program will be directly conveyed to Japanese people. We especially hope the youth of Japan will realize that Japanese culture is appreciated overseas and will step out into the world with confidence.

Our heartfelt desire is that Japonismes 2018 will in some small way inspire Japan and France to tackle the various problems faced by the global community in the 21st century with shared sentiment and collaboration, thereby contributing to greater common accord around the world.

japonismes_2018_en_04.jpg Korehito Masuda
Director General of the Japan Foundation Secretariat for JAPONISMES
Mr. Masuda joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1990. He served as the First Secretary of the Embassy of Japan in France (2003-2006), the First Secretary of the Embassy of Japan in Tunisia (2006-2008), again as the First Secretary of the Embassy of Japan in France (2008-2012), the councilor of the Embassy of Japan in Mali (2012-2016), the Chief Officer of the Cultural Affairs and Overseas Public Relations Division in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2016-March 2017), and assumed his present position from April 2017.

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