Message from the President
At the beginning of 2013, I would like to extend my warm greetings. I sincerely hope this will be the best of all years for you.
The Japan Foundation held the exhibition entitled “WARAI: Humor in Japanese Art from Prehistory to the 19th Century” through December 15 last year at Maison de la culture du Japon à Paris. Bunshi Katsura VI, the grand master of rakugo, performed at the cultural center on the occasion of the handover of Bunshi Katsura’s name. We hoped to create an opportunity for the audience to rediscover Japan and Japanese arts through the unique expression called “laughter” in Japanese arts between prehistory and the closing days of the Tokugawa shogunate and the early Meiji era by introducing selected works of traditional Japanese art, such as haniwa and dogu clay dolls, picture scrolls, books of illustrated stories, popular ukiyo-e and otsu-e drawings, Zen paintings, and Buddhist statues made by the priest Enku and Mokujiki holy men. As you can tell from one comment, “While watching the exhibition I couldn’t help smiling, thinking I was able to get a little closer to the soul of the Japanese people,” the exhibition was as successful as we had expected.
The Japan Foundation celebrated the 40th anniversary of its establishment in October last year, and we have continued to hold a variety of exhibitions like the one in Paris, as well as other events, to mark this milestone.
From December 29 last year to January 5 this year, a theater production was performed in Tel Aviv, Israel, by actors from three cultures – Japanese, Hebrew and Arabic – under the direction of Yukio Ninagawa. This collaborative performance of “The Trojan Women” was the result of a three-year project jointly undertaken by the Cameri Theater of Tel Aviv and the Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre beginning in 2010.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Gaza area intensified at one point last November, casting a dark shadow over the future of this project. However, a cease-fire was subsequently signed and, owing to the efforts of all those who worked hard to ensure security, the play was presented without incident.
How did it resonate with people who watched the performance in Tel Aviv? Some members of the audience as well as critics said, “I’ve never had the experience of hearing three languages (especially Japanese) in a theater. It was extremely interesting,” and “It was a very meaningful attempt.” Staff members and actors also commented: “I’ve had very valuable experiences, including Mr. Ninagawa’s direction. I’ve learned a lot.” “I’ve fallen in love with Japan that I visited for the first time!” And “I’d like to turn this project into an opportunity to deepen cooperation with Japan.”
Furthermore, we have been undertaking several projects with the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, one of the major museums in the United States, aimed at disseminating information about Japan’s postwar culture from various perspectives. At present, we are holding the modern art exhibition “Tokyo 1955-1970” at MoMA until February, coinciding with the special presentation of “Art Theater Guild and Japanese Underground Cinema, 1960 - 1984.” The exhibition includes many mediums and is designed to introduce from new points of view of the 21st century, various avant-garde attempts by artists who had absorbed the energy of Tokyo that had been rapidly growing and transforming itself. Many people visit the exhibition each day. One visitor said, “It dramatically increases our knowledge about 20th century modernism in Japan, a topic almost unknown until now.”
The Japan Foundation has been introducing wide-ranging aspects of Japan to the rest of the world. The Japan Foundation plans to promote various exchanges this year also, hoping that distances between the peoples of the world will become closer, that people will get to know each other better, and that friendships founded on mutual trust will grow. We appreciate for your continued support and assistance.
The Japan Foundation