The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Energizing the Performing Arts Through International Exchange
Energizing the Performing Arts Through International Exchange
Private-Sector Promoters Hosting International Productions

Another recent trend is the involvement of private-sector promoters in overseas productions. Kyodo Tokyo, for example, a private-sector promoter known primarily for popular music concerts, has been hosting many overseas entertainment productions for about fifteen years. Since the 1990s, the popular music market in Japan has been centered on J-POP (Japanese popular music), so that performances by major musicians from other countries no longer have the same impact they used to. This promoter sought a replacement, and was quick to introduce Japanese audiences to new, highly creative forms of entertainment that have a strong musical element together with powerful visual appeal.

The Broadway show Blast, which highlights sensational performances by a marching band, was a great success playing to full houses in Japan in 2003. It was also Kyodo Tokyo that invited Stomp, highly acclaimed for its unique performances making dynamic use of common tools and implements as rhythm instruments, and Villa Villa from Argentina. Another private-sector promoter, Hayashi International Promotion, has started engaging in similar activities with its invitation of Riverdance, a combination of Irish dance and Celtic music.

In 1992 Fuji Television Network hosted the Canadian company Cirque du Soleil. Formed in Montreal in 1984, Cirque du Soleil integrates acrobats, music, costumes, and theatrical design in a distinctively dynamic and fantastic stage production. Assisted by Fuji TV’s advertising, the tour of their Fascination show around eight cities in Japan, including Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, Sapporo, Yokohama, and Sendai, attracted audiences totaling 710,000. Since then, Cirque de Soleil has staged regular, long-run performances all sponsored by major corporations. In the fall of 2008, a permanent theater, Cirque du Soleil Theater Tokyo, will open in the Tokyo Disney Resort.

From 2000, with private-sector promoters and television networks in on the act, overseas productions have been coming to perform in numbers reminiscent of Japan’s economic “bubble” period. Other factors include lower ticket prices, now costing 10,000 yen on average, and a well-established following among well-traveled women in their late 20s and 30s who have enjoyed productions of this type on trips abroad.

Another major factor is that overseas entertainment has also become fashionable in Korea, primarily among the newly affluent levels of society, so that productions visiting Japan can also be booked for performances in Korea. This sector appears likely to become even more active with high-growth locations in the broader emerging Asian market such as Shanghai and Taiwan.

In March 2008, Akasaka ACT Theater (1,300 seats) will open under the management of a private TV network. Its opening presentations will feature overseas entertainment such as ABBA Gold and Riverdance. This trend looks set to continue.
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