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Annual Report 2012/2013 Introducing the Diversity of Japan's Arts and Culture Abroad

Introducing the Diversity of Japan's Arts and Culture Abroad

Sixtieth Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations
between Japan and Israel

The year 2012 was an important year for Japan and Israel, marking the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries. The Japan Foundation took this opportunity to organize numerous projects throughout the year, all of which captivated a great number of people across Israel, such as the Kabuki dance performance, the large-scale exhibition "DoubleVision: Contemporary Art from Japan," the Japan-Israel joint production contemporary theater performance The Trojan Women directed by Yukio Ninagawa (see),the tribute to Yasuzo Masumura at three venues including the Jerusalem Film Festival, and the tribute to Kaneto Shindo at the Haifa Film Festival.

Kabuki Dance Performance

Together with the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, the Japan Foundation co-organized a comprehensive project to introduce Kabuki in Israel. For four months starting in July 2012, the project presented a collection of Ukiyo-e prints and paintings under the theme 'Onna-gata,' or female roles played by male actors, as an introduction to Kabuki costumes. This exhibition was followed by the first Kabuki dance performances in Israel in late August. The titles Sagi Musume (The Heron Maiden) and Shakkyo (Lion Dance; pictured) featured splendid dancing by Kyozo Nakamura in 'Onna-gata' and Matsugoro Onoe in the 'Tachiyaku' leading male role, accompanied by a total eight live musicians on the 'Nagauta,' 'Shamisen' and 'Narimono' instruments. Staged twice each at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, and the Suzanne Dellal Center, an Israeli sanctuary of dance based in Tel Aviv, the authentic performances enchanted full houses of spectators with the beauty of Kabuki.

Alongside the performances, lectures were offered under the themes "the history of Kabuki theater," "the basics of 'Onna-gata'," "music and sound effects in Kabuki theater," and "costume of 'Tachiyaku': making process of 'Shishi'(lion)." By introducing the art form from various angles including the characteristics of its music employing the 'Nagauta,' 'Shamisen' and 'Narimono,' and even the dressing and makeup process-a glimpse behind the stage is a rarity even in Japan-the lectures provided an opportunity for the Israeli people to deepen their interest in and understanding of Kabuki.

Kabuki Dance Performance at the Israel Museum ©Miah

Exhibition "Double Vision: Contemporary Art from Japan"

The Japan Foundation presented a large-scale exhibition from July to December 2012 simultaneously at two venues in the Haifa Museums complex: the Tikotin Museum of Japanese Art and the Haifa Museum of Art. "Double Vision," planned by emerging curators from Japan and Russia, traveled from Moscow to Israel introducing a wide range of Japanese contemporary art from the 1970s to the present under the themes "reality/ordinary world" and "imaginary world/phantasms." The exhibition brought together a diversity of thought-provoking works by some 30 Japanese artists, both celebrated on the international stage and up-and-coming, such as paintings, sculptures, photographs, videos, and installations, some of which were newly created on site. Kenji Yanobe's Sun Child (2011; pictured), a gigantic six-meter-tall sculpture installed out of doors, became the talk of the town in Haifa.

The exhibition drew a great deal of interest, being recognized as a precious showcase of Japanese contemporary art as well as Israel's by far largest to date. It attracted a record 40,000 plus visitors, including those made a special trip to Haifa from abroad.

Kenji Yanobe's Sun Child (2011; pictured)

The Year of Friendship and Peace
between Japan and Timor-Leste
(Tenth Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations)

Music Performance "Creating a Circle of Music Together"

Throughout history, the people of Timor-Leste have turned to varieties of music as a source of encouragement and believed that music is tied closely with their national identity. In the wake of a long struggle for independence, the country has an extremely high percentage of population under age 15. With this situation in mind, in the 10th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and Timor-Leste, the Japan Foundation organized performances and workshops targeting youths-the leaders of the future in Timor-Leste-in November 2012 in the two cities of Baucau and Dili. The events featured a special unit of musicians who appeal to audiences both in Japan and abroad: percussionist Tomo Yamaguchi, who creates original instruments from waste materials, singer Sizzle Ohtaka, and violinist/violist Yuriko Mukoujima.

In the hope that creating spaces in which various facets of Japanese and Timorese cultures could meet will lead to an even longer-lasting friendship between the two countries, the Japan Foundation staged the exchange project in an orphanage, a high school, and a facility of a local artists' organization. In the workshops embodying the message "allthings have possibilities," the musicians and participants made percussion instruments from local waste materials and played them together, filling the venues with the children's laughter and cheers the whole time. The unit also performed a jam session with the local percussion group Haka, from Arte Moris, one of the few organizations promoting artistic activities in Timor-Leste. Without having much experience in jam sessions, the members of Haka initially appeared to be somewhat at a loss. However, as they created music in an impromptu manner, their rhythm and tempo gradually fused with those of the Japanese musicians and culminated in a moving moment when all musicians became one. The concerts covering traditional and folk music from different regions of Japan, a song expressing Japan's gratitude to Timor-Leste for support after the Great East Japan Earthquake, a number of popular Timorese songs, and even the joint performance with Haka went beyond merely introducing Japanese music in Timor-Leste to the two countries' creating a circle of music together.

Music Performance in Timor-Leste ©TOMO OFFICE

Strengthening the Exchange between Japan and U.S. for Further Deepening the Japan-U.S. Alliance-Exhibitions of Japanese Art at Major American Museums

Exhibition "Tokyo 1955-1970: A New Avant-Garde"

In line with the fact sheet "Strengthening the exchange between Japan and U.S. for further deepening the Japan-U.S. Alliance," based on the Japan-U.S. Summit Meeting in November 2010, the Japan Foundation is planning and supporting full-scale exhibitions to introduce Japanese art in the United States for a five-year period starting in 2012. The first event of this five-year plan was the exhibition "Tokyo1955?1970: A New Avant-Garde," held at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (MoMA) for three months starting in November 2012.

Among the numerous exhibitions of Japanese contemporary art held at major American museums in 2012 and 2013, all of which attracted a great deal of attention from both within and outside the country, "Tokyo 1955-1970" was most successful, drawing an audience of some 400,000. The exhibition comprised a total of as many as 300 works, including about 150 works from Japan in addition to the MoMA collection, with a focus on artists from myriad genres based in the metropolis of Tokyo in the critical years when Japan achieved a miraculous postwar economic recovery. By actively covering figurative expressions inspired by the human body-art forms that were seldom introduced outside Japan until now-the exhibition was recognized as a precious showcase of new and different Japanese perspectives by the media not only of the two countries but also of others. (photo)

To coincide with the exhibition, the Japan Foundation organized a series of film screenings titled "Art Theater Guild and Japanese Underground Cinema, 1960-1984" as well as symposiums and performances under the theme of postwar Japanese art. Combined with the publication of the anthology From Postwar to Postmodern, Art in Japan 1945-1989: Primary Documents, all of these aimed to introduce Japanese culture after World War II from a multifaceted viewpoint and gain a further understanding of the American people. Both the anthology and the exhibition catalog are expected to become cornerstones of future research into postwar Japanese art.

Exhibition "Tokyo 1955-1970: A New Avant-Garde"
Photo: Jonathan Muzikar © 2012 The Museum of Modern Art, New York