This article, which digs deeper into the topic of the month, is written by a scholar or a researcher in and outside Japan on his or her thoughts on the topic.
The performing arts program for Japonismes 2018 encompassed 36 projects in theater, dance, and music. Forming the core was a carefully crafted lineup of theatrical productions that ranged from genres steeped in history and tradition to ones with a vibrantly contemporary feel, from small- to large-scale, and from the commercial to the avant-garde.
Although she has lived mainly in Germany since 1982, the poet and writer Yoko Tawada freely crosses barriers of country and language as she travels between Germany and Japan. Her work in both German and Japanese has received a number of prestigious literary awards in both countries. In recognition of the important contribution she has made to promoting true mutual understanding that transcends national and cultural barriers, she has been chosen as the recipient of the Japan Foundation Award 2018. The following is Tawada's contribution based on the talk she gave at the Japan Foundation Awards Commemorative Lecture, entitled "Journey Carrying Words, Looking for Words."
I developed a strong interest in Japan, and at the age of 15, I started studying Japanese in earnest. What I really liked at first was the existence of hiragana and katakana. They're so convenient - once you memorize them, you can start writing words in Japanese and using verbs! But there are so many of them, so I decided to make a kana memory game I could play by myself. I'd write a hiragana on one card, and on another card I'd write its equivalent in Roman letters.
My first impressions of Havana were of peace and tranquility, almost as if time had stopped in the mid-twentieth century. The Old Havana area in Cuba's capital is a magnet for Western sightseers, and has many classic American cars that were imported in the 1950s before the country's relations with the United States soured. Repaired over and over to keep them running, the cars are a wonderful match for the colonial-style architecture painted in pinks and greens. The area has plenty of music, too, with the son and rumba reverberating from ubiquitous street-corner cafes and restaurants.
Since 2017, the Japan Foundation, together with UNIJAPAN (Tokyo International Film Festival Secretariat) and the Shanghai International Film & TV Festival Co., Ltd. (Shanghai International Film Festival Secretariat), has been promoting Japan-China exchange programs in commemoration of the 45th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between Japan and China. In May 2017, the "1st Japanese Film Week in Guangzhou" took place. In December, the Japanese Film Festival was held in the Chinese cities of Shanghai, Shenzhen and Kunming, during which nine new films were screened in each city.
This year's Festival d'Automne à Paris (the Paris Autumn Festival) will kick off in September, coinciding with the nearly eight-month gala of Japanese culture that Japonismes 2018 will stage in France. Since its inception in 1972, the festival has remained at the forefront of the European art scene as an annual celebration of performing and visual arts held in and around the French capital. As always, the program for this fall will feature a stunning array of theatrical, dance, and other artistic performances at many public venues, including national theaters and the Théâtre de la Ville. And, an extra dimension will be added this year as the festival and Japonismes 2018 team up to present ten-plus works from Japan. To find out more about the story behind the festival's special bonds with Japan, we spoke with Marie Collin, artistic director for the Festival and face of the French performing arts world.
The title that Frederik L. Schodt chose for this lecture, Cultural surfing: Riding the waves of transnational history, technology, and pop culture, describes the long career he has led using his superb Japanese language skills to serve as a bridge for cultural exchange by riding the many waves that have tied Japan and America together over the years.
I have spent my career working in Kanazawa, a place where traditional culture like the tea ceremony and townscapes featuring historic machiya houses can still be found. It was in this quaint old setting that our contemporary art museum was established, and here I have long curated exhibits of today's artworks. In the process, I have also encountered the local traditional culture and been electrified by what it has to offer. At times, these cultural experiences have nimbly transcended the boundaries set by the museum as a modern Western institution.
Film director Ryota Nakano, famed for his 2016 film Her Love Boils Bathwater, visited the Philippines from July 6 to 9, 2017, at the invitation of the Japan Foundation, Manila. Immediately after returning to Japan he met for the very first time with "satonao" or Naoyuki Sato, Executive Vice President of the Japan Foundation* to talk about his experiences during the Japanese Film Festival (JFF) in the Philippines, its impact, and the significance of introducing Japanese films to an overseas audience.
Born in 1962, Pascal Rambert is one of the most prominent modern French stage directors and playwrights. Based on his personal relationship of trust with Japanese playwright Oriza Hirata, Théâtre de Gennevilliers (T2G), where Rambert served as director from 2007 through the end of 2016, realized numerous joint projects with Komaba Agora Theater, and has become one of the major hubs of contemporary theatrical exchange between Japan and France. Since 2003, Rambert has regularly visited Japan to present his original works and to direct their Japanese language versions at Komaba Agora Theater and other theatrical venues. Parallel to these activities, he has invited numerous productions of contemporary Japanese playwrights such as Oriza Hirata, Toshiki Okada, and Yudai Kamisato to T2G.