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Arts and Cultural Exchange

Contributing to the World through
Arts and Culture

Interactive, Collaborative Exchange Programs

We provide opportunities for artists and staff in Japan and overseas to collaborate over an extended period to produce a stage performance or exhibition. We then showcase the resulting work in Japan and overseas.

For such collaborative projects, we invite to Japan or send overseas, various specialists for a supportive role in arts and cultural activities. They include museum curators and performing-arts presenters and producers. Through our international symposiums and interactive events, these experts can network and reinforce mutual ties.

East Asia Co-production Series Vol. 1
Half Gods (Hanshin) produced and directed by Hideki Noda (Japan and Korea).

The play Half Gods, an international co-production by Japan and Korea, was performed in Seoul and Tokyo. It was written and scripted by Moto Hagio and scripted and directed by Hideki Noda.

Co-organized by Tokyo Metropolitan Theatre, Myeongdong Theatre and the Japan Foundation, the production employed a Korean cast selected from over 400 applicants while the stage design crew for the lighting, sound, etc., were from Japan. The stage design crew, under the direction of Noda, were all leaders in their fields. It truly was a Japan-Korea co-production, receiving high acclaim in both countries.

Although various cultural exchange projects between Japan and Korea have been held in the past, this production was very special because people in both countries were able to equally enjoy the same performance. The Japanese stage crew and Korean cast worked hand-in-hand for creative activities. The play held in Seoul and Tokyo thus heralded new artistic expressions and new ways for cultural exchange.

Stage photograph from Half Gods, an international co-production
Half Gods, an international co-production Photo: Takashi Okamoto

Curators' Workshops in Southeast Asia
RUN & LEARN: New Curatorial Constellations

As part of the cultural cooperation program, the RUN & LEARN: New Curatorial Constellations workshops were held to train young curators in Southeast Asia.

Workshops conducted by Japanese and local senior curators were held for promising curators in their 20s and 30s in Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Thailand. Fourteen of the young curator attendees were selected to study tours for two weeks in Japan. Through a number of surveys and discussions, they refined their exhibition proposals. From December 2014 to February 2015, they held exhibitions in nine cities in the above four countries. Each exhibition reflected the local art scene and turned out to be a most unique project.

After the exhibitions ended, a guide book was published which introduced each project and each country's dynamic art scene. We aimed to make this program another foundation for new art exchanges between Japan and Southeast Asia.

Support for ASEAN Orchestras

From the Meiji Period, Japan strived to adopt Western music and formed an orchestra before any other Asian country. After over 70 years of hard work by forebears, professional Japanese orchestras have become world-class. Since Japan has spent much time studying Western music from Europe and America, Japanese and other Asian orchestras may now have something to teach and something to be taught. To this end, we have started the ASEAN Orchestra Support Project with the cooperation of the Association of Japanese Symphony Orchestras.

This project has two pillars: One pillar invites management and planning staff from orchestras in ASEAN countries to Japan. The invited staff observe and study professional orchestras all over Japan. The other pillar sends Japanese musicians with experience in professional Japanese orchestras to ASEAN countries to coach orchestras.

In September 2014, three staff members from the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra (BSO) in Thailand came to Japan. They went on a 25-day study tour of five orchestras in the Tokyo area and provincial areas. It was a very stimulating tour for them to see how Japanese orchestras operated. They learned about franchising, fundraising, and even concert production and promotion. It was also a great opportunity for Japanese orchestra people to hear about management practices of orchestras in other Asian countries.

By continuing these two-way staff exchanges between Japanese and ASEAN orchestras, perhaps we can hope for a unique style of "Asian orchestras" to emerge.

Photo of Practicing at Bang Khun Phrom Palace in Bangkok for an outdoor garden banquet
Practicing at Bang Khun Phrom Palace in Bangkok for an outdoor garden banquet

Taking on Global Challenges

Since arts and culture transcend national borders and languages, we hold events for the world to think together about disaster recovery, preserving and passing on cultural assets, making international contributions through sports, and other issues.

Wrestling instruction by Coach Kosuke Sunagawa in Sudan

As part of Japan's SPORT FOR TOMORROW program to make international contributions through sports, wrestling coach Kosuke Sunagawa was sent to Sudan's capital of Khartoum to train promising wrestlers for two months. Coach Sunagawa was the former champion of the 2012 All-Japan Student Championship. He now teaches at Kashiwa-Nittai High School in Chiba Prefecture.

Traditional Nuba wrestling with a history of over 3,000 years is highly popular in Sudan. However, since Olympic wrestling rules have not really taken hold in Sudan, it is difficult to train local wrestlers for international competitions. Even after the civil war, deep animosities remain between the different peoples. To overcome such differences and bring everyone together as one nation through their mutual passion for wrestling, the wrestlers are aiming to appear in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics under the guidance of Coach Sunagawa.

Photo of Coach Kosuke Sunagawa and Sudanese wrestlers
Coach Kosuke Sunagawa and Sudanese wrestlers

Kaman Kalehöyük Archaeology Museum "Conservation and Restoration Training" Field Course

The Japan Foundation, The Kaman Kalehöyük Archaeology Museum in Turkey (built by the Japanese government's Cultural Grant Assistance) and the Japanese Institute of Anatolian Archaeology co-organized a training session for curators gathered from all over Turkey. A Japanese museum exhibition expert taught the importance of artifact conservation and restoration.

Many archaeological museums in Turkey do not have a conservation and restoration system in place. Artifacts that are received by the museum end up in storage without being processed. The training session used actual artifacts found at the Kaman Kalehöyük archaeological site to demonstrate how to examine, measure, repair, and photograph artifacts. Japan's highly developed conservation and restoration techniques were taught to the curators in Turkey. Upon returning to their provincial museums, the curators have been actively pursuing the conservation and restoration of artifacts.

Photo of Turkish curators undergoing artifact conservation and restoration training
Turkish curators undergoing artifact conservation and restoration training
Photo: Japanese Institute of Anatolian Archaeology

Lecture and Demonstration for How Did Architects Respond Immediately after 3/11--The Great East Japan Earthquake Exhibition

The How Did Architects Respond Immediately after 3/11--The Great East Japan Earthquake exhibition toured three cities in Indonesia It showed what architects did after the Great East Japan Earthquake. In conjunction with this exhibition, Ryo Yamazaki, a leading community planner in Japan, was sent to Indonesia to give lectures and workshops for specialists and students of Indonesian architecture and for the general public.

While Indonesia enjoys good economic growth, it has frequent natural disasters. Japan has a lot to offer to Indonesia. Before holding his lectures and workshops, Yamazaki saw architectural staff at work in Jakarta, the historical building preservation and restoration project in Medan, and the local activities of young people in Surabaya. He met with these people leading their projects. After understanding the actual conditions in Indonesia, Yamazaki was able to make his lecture's audience effectively understand Japan's measures for disaster preparation and architecture. Also, while citing actual examples of community planning in both countries, his lecture was an opportunity to think about what the community's role should be in times of disaster and how a cooperative relationship should be maintained henceforth.

Photo of Ryo Yamazaki and locally active young people in Indonesia
Ryo Yamazaki and locally active young people in Indonesia