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Annual Report 2012/2013 Contributing to the World through Arts and Culture

Contributing to the World through Arts and Culture

Joint Production of International Theater Performances

The Japan Foundation works with other countries on joint-production projects spanning a period of several years with an eye to enhancing mutual understanding and ultimately deepening exchange in the future. The year 2012 saw the completion of theater performances in the works for the past several years, and their unveiling in Japan and abroad.

A Combination of Kunqu Opera and Noh Theater The Spirits Play

A Combination of Kunqu Opera and Noh Theater The Spirits Play
©Johnny Au

In October 2012, the Japan Foundation and Za-Koenji Public Theatre (Creative Theatre Network) co-organized performances of The Spirits Play in Tokyo and Singapore as part of the project "Memory, Place, Dialogue." The joint production project launched by Japan and China two years ago was cocurated by contemporary theater directors Makoto Sato (artistic director, Za-Koenji, Tokyo) and Danny Yung (artistic director, Zuni Icosahedron, Hong Kong), and featured leaders of traditional Chinese Kunqu opera and Japanese Noh theater alongside actors of contemporary theater in an adaptation of the play by a Singaporean playwright.

In Tokyo, the performances were accompanied by a symposium exploring the present and future of traditional Japanese and Chinese theater, titled "Bodies in Noh, Bodies in Kunqu," organized in cooperation with the Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum of Waseda University, for an academic approach that took the theatrical exchange project to a deeper level. In December, the project expanded to China in the form of a workshop, lecture, and debate at Ibis (Toki) Arts Festival 2012, sponsored by the Kunqu Opera House of the Jiangsu Performing Arts Group in Nanjing, for a down-to-earth arts exchange event in spite of tensions in diplomatic relations between Japan and China. In the three cities combined, an audience of more than 2,000 experienced the fusion of traditional performing arts from Japan and China. (photo)

Theater Performance The Trojan Women

Between late December 2012 and early January 2013, the Japan Foundation organized performances of the Greek tragedy The Trojan Women directed by Yukio Ninagawa at the Cameri Theater in Tel Aviv, celebrating the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and Israel. The production starring actors from three different cultures-Jews and Arabs in Israel, and the Japanese-represented the fruit of an aspiring three-year-long collaboration with the Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre and the Cameri Theater. Following two years of preparation, including workshops in both Japan and Israel, the rehearsals consisted of layer upon layer of collaborative work, as the individual actors created movements and expressions based on their own experiences and backgrounds, resulting in an inspiring clash of cultures and histories. The unique production in which the chorus narrates the story in the Japanese, Hebrew, and Arabic languages attracted a great deal of attention in Israel even befor e the first show, and drew a large audience when the show opened. Kayoko Shiraishi, who played Queen Hecuba, put on a particularly dynamic performance that invited a boisterous round of applause from the Israeli audience. The performances drew interest also in Japan, where newspapers and television reported that the joint production project received a warm welcome in Israel and that it was an ambitious and significant endeavor.(photo)

Theater Performance The Trojan Women © Masaru Miyauchi

Creating a Network of Experts

Japan-U.S. Curatorial Exchange Program

Since 2008, the Japan Foundation has carried out a program of inviting curators from museums in the United States to introduce Japanese arts and artists. In the fifth year, fiscal 2012, it invited nine curators and researchers specializing in photography from major American museums and universities to introduce a wide range of Japanese photographs and photographers, and hold an open symposium in which experts from both countries could exchange their views. The experts had a valuable discussion around the main theme of photography from the late 1960s through the 1970s, a fascinating era that prompted a reexamination of photography as media as well as various technical experiments.

A product of the five-year-long curator exchange program is an expanded network; for example, curators invited to Japan have organized exhibitions in the United States that introduce Japan or Japanese artists.

Curatorial Exchange-Inspired Exhibition "Omnilogue:Your Voice is Mine"

From 2007 to 2012, the Japan Foundation carried out JENESYS programme of inviting young Southeast Asian curators to Japan, which inspired a series of exhibitions of contemporary Japanese art in Australia, India, and Singapore in and after 2011.

The exhibition "Omnilogue: Your Voice is Mine," the last edition of the Omnilogue series, which ran for three months starting in January 2013 at the NUS Museum of the National University of Singapore, featured six Japanese artists selected by four curators from Japan and Singapore. The exhibition tackled various challenges such as the historical relationship between Singapore and Japan, the unique context of the multiethnic society of the city-state of Singapore, and display methods taking into account the museum's permanent exhibitions.

Japan-U.S. curatorial exchange program symposium,at the Izu Photo Museum
Japan-U.S. curatorial exchange program symposium,at the Izu Photo Museum (Photo: Kenichi Aikawa)

Initiatives to Support Recovery
from the Great East Japan Earthquake

Sendai Philharmonic Orchestra Concert Tour in Russia

In spite of being hit by the Great East Japan Earthquake itself, the Sendai Philharmonic Orchestra held numerous charity concerts starting immediately after the disaster of March 2011. Exactly two years later, in March 2013, more than 120 members of the orchestra set out to visit Russia to perform a total three concerts in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. The performances represented the orchestra's gratitude to various forms of support from Russia to Japan and from the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra to the Sendai Philharmonic in the wake of the earthquake, and to show the people of Russia that the disaster-stricken region is on a path to recovery photo1,photo2

The program included Toru Takemitsu's Requiem for Strings, in an expression of condolence for the earthquake victims;Dvorak's From the New World, a symphony that reflects the composer's nostalgia for his home country and which the Sendai Philharmonic performed in a concert right after the earthquake; and Tchaikovsky's Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, with Mayuko Kamio on solo violin. The numbers conducted by Pascal Verrot touched the hearts and captured the ears of the full houses of listeners. Performing the encore, the Japanese children's song "Furusato," members of the orchestra responded to the audience's cheers by raising banners carrying their message of gratitude, which invited an even larger round of applause and closed the concerts with a strong impression of Sendai's path to recovery through the power of music.

Sendai Philharmonic Orchestra Concert Tour in Russia

Exchange of Poems and Songs across the Pacific Ocean "Minamisanriku and Chile‒To Our Faraway Friends, With All My Heart"

High school students from the town of Minamisanriku, Miyagi Prefecture, hit by the great earthquake and tsunami of March 2011, and from the city of Constitucion, Chile, struck by the destructive earthquake of February 2010, reflected on their experiences of the disasters and wrote poems and stories, which were later turned into songs in an exchange project across the Pacific Ocean.

Having attended a series of workshops by Japanese and Chilean artists, the students from Minamisanriku and Constitucion reflected on their experiences of the earthquake and tsunami in their own country, expressed in poems and stories their feelings and thoughts for friends of the same generation suffering similar circumstances across the Pacific, and exchanged their literary works. The completed poems and songs were later transformed into two songs with help from musicians based in the two countries.

In the third February from the Chile earthquake, musicians associated with the Tohoku region who had participated in the local workshops visited the disaster-stricken city in Chile. They unveiled the song "To Our Faraway Friends, With All My Heart," encapsulating the emotions of the Minamisanriku students at a memorial ceremony for the earthquake, and interacted with the Chilean students. One month after that, on March 11, 2013, Keko Yunge, a popular Chilean singer-songwriter who had taken part in the workshops in Chile, attended a memorial ceremony in Minamisanriku for the Great East Japan Earthquake and dedicated to the victims the song "Farther than the Sun, "based on the stories by the Constitucion students. Finally, the musicians from both countries and the Minamisanriku students held a joint concert and shared their experiences and visions about their disaster-stricken hometowns. The project was an ideal opportunity for people across the Pacific to encourage and support each other, and build a strong bond as they walk a common path toward recovery.

Keko Yunge praises a second-grade student from Class 4 at Shizugawa High School after the joint concert at the memorial ceremony in Minamisanriku.
Keko Yunge praises a second-grade student from Class 4 at Shizugawa High School after the joint concert at the memorial ceremony in Minamisanriku. (Photo: Kenichi Aikawa)

Japan Pavilion at the Thirteenth International Architecture Exhibition, the Venice Biennale‒"Architecture.Possible Here? Home-for-All"

The Japan Pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2012 introduced the design process of the project "Home-for-All," initiated by architect Toyo Ito for the devastated city of Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture. This "Home-for-All" had become a reality through much research in the disaster-stricken city and discussion between the residents, Ito, young architects Kumiko Inui, Sou Fujimoto, and Akihisa Hirata, and photographer Naoya Hatakeyama.

The exhibit consisted of a panoramic photograph of Rikuzentakata covering the walls of the venue, logs of Japanese cedar damaged by the tsunami, images of the pre- and postdisaster landscape, more than a hundred models made throughout the design process by each of the architects, documentary videos, and materials. The project "Home-for-All" provided a place where people who had lost their homes and were forced to evacuate could gather and communicate; and through this project, the exhibit sought to explore the most primal themes of architecture-why and for whom a building is made. It touched the hearts and elicited the sympathy of people from around the world, drawing as many as 155,000 visitors in the three months starting in late August 2012. The Japan Pavilion won the Golden Lion for Best National Participation. (photos)

Japan Pavilion at the Thirteenth International Architecture Exhibition, the Venice Biennale-"Architecture.Possible Here? Home-for-All" Japan Pavilion (Photo: Naoya Hatakeyama)