The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Vol. 145 Updated Feb. 5, 2021
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Performing Arts in JapanInternationl Presenter
Artist Interview
Artist Interview: Masako Yasumoto’s World of Dance   Realms that can only be reached through dance
Masako YasumotoMasako Yasumoto is a dancer whose journeys through lands from Southeast Asia to Africa have shaped her unique physicality and movement; and she is also one who feels free to venture into the world of entertainment as well. Since giving birth in 2009, she moved to Japan’s southwestern island of Kyushu. After some time spent away from dance to devote herself to child rearing, she made a comeback in 2017 with a work titled ColaCola (Children + Parents based on that experience. Under the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions of 2020, she released her new work Full Automatic Worldly Desires zuizuizu, in which eight dancers perform wildly to the sounds of Gamelan music. This interview seeks to reveal Yasumoto’s realm of expression that she feels can only be reached through dance.
Artist Interview: Satsuma Biwa Performer Kakushin Nishihara Traditional classics coexisting with contemporary noise
Kakushin NishiharaKakushin Nishihara is a professional performer/artist of the traditional Japanese musical genre of Satsuma biwa (lute) music who left her rock band to pick up this ancient instrument when captivated by the allure of its boldly elegant form. At the young age of 17, she experienced a life-changing encounter with the music of innovative Satsuma biwa master Kinshi Tsuruta (1911-1995). Since becoming an accomplished professional biwa-uta (biwa accompanied classic song) performer in her own right, Nishihara has venture into collaborations with performers of Western instruments and, sporting full-body tattoos, she has gone on to create an unprecedented world of new, avant-garde compositions incorporating noise, electronic sound and more.
Artist Interview: An Interview with Akira Takayama Revealing a new “With Corona” Perspective
Akira TakayamaAkira Takayama is known for the way he reads the life of urban landscapes, perceives things seen and heard on the streets from a perspective of theatrical physicality and turns them into performance works to tour the theater scene. Now, with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic spreading worldwide and driving people off the city streets, and with the risk of infection connected with events where people gather having led to the adoption of a new “with corona” lifestyle, Takayama has introduced his new Heterotopia Garden project that embraces the “Stay Home” spirit in a positive new light. In this interview, he speaks about the vision behind this new venture.
Presenter Interview
Presenter Interview; YCAM’s new Curator, and the Concept of Arts Professional Collectives
Leonhard BartolomeusBased in Indonesia’s capital of Jakarta is the artistic collective “ruangrupa” that engages in a wide range of community-centric activities, from organizing exhibitions and festivals, producing radio broadcasts and engaging in online publishing, surveys, research and more (including serving as artistic directors for documenta 15 in 2022). As of 2019, a member of the collective, Leonhard Bartolomeus, has joined the curator team of the Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media (YCAM), an organization known for its progressive explorations of forms of expression utilizing media technology. In this interview he talks with us about his involvement in a variety of projects as an independent curator and as a member of ruangrupa, as well as the new challenges he has taken on at YCAM.
Presenter Interview; Promoting Rakugo Storytelling for New Audience As an Art of “Acceptance of Human Nature”
Sankyu TatsuoWhile serving as an instructor in Japanese linguistics and other subjects, Sankyu Tatsuo (sankyu being Japanese pronunciation of thank you) is also active as a researcher of comedy known in Japan as “o-warai.” In addition, he performs as a standup comedian (manzai-shi) under the stage name Kometsubu Shakyo. In 2014, he was commissioned by the live-performance theater EUROLIVE in the Shibuya entertainment district of Tokyo to organize regular productions of Rakugo (a Japanese tradition of [primarily comic] storytelling) titled “Shibuya Rakugo” (commonly abbreviated as Shiburaku). With it, Tatsuo has won attention by using mostly young performers in well-planned programs to introduce the enjoyable appeal of traditional Rakugo while creating a new style of performances in the process. In this interview, Sankyu Tatsuo talks about his approach as curator in communicating the appeal of Rakugo as a performance art characterized by its positive “Acceptance of human nature.” He also talks about things like the his new for-pay streaming of programs to accommodate the new needs amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Presenter Interview; Building the Environment for Contemporary Dance with Production Connecting the Public and Private Sectors
Eri KaratsuEri Karatsu is active as Japan’s only dance-specific producer who works as a civil servant. In her post at the Aichi Arts Center and the Aichi Prefectural Art Theater, Karatsu has spent years exploring possibilities for a positive environment for contemporary dance. In 2019, she worked with the Sega Sammy Arts Foundation to establish the Dance Base Yokohama (DaBY). In this interview we talk with her about her vision for contemporary dance.
Play of the Month
Play of the Month; Fifty-four Eyes by Wishing Chong
This is the newest play by Wishing Chong, a playwright who has made it his life work to record in his plays a postwar history of Japanfs resident Koreans. The story is modeled on a Korean school that actually existed on the island of Nishi-jima in the Seto Inland Sea. The setting for the play is the teachersf room of this school where both Japanese and resident Korean nationals studied together. The play tells the story of some 20 years in the lives of four of the schoolfs graduates (Ryohei, Changsoo, Manseok and Gunja) who live on with strength, though often made pawns of by the changing times, as told by from the warmly sympathetic eyes of Ryohei (the narrator).
Play of the Month; Tokusaburo Umadome by Sanae Takayama
This play is the winner of the 7th Chikamatsu Monzaemon Award. Living in a house deep in the mountains are Tokusaburo Umadome and his wife Minne. To their home, which is always a welcome gathering place for their elderly neighbors, one day a disreputable subordinate of the couple’s son stops by…. Performed in the local dialect of the playwright’s hometown in Shinshu (Nagano Prefecture), this play takes a real and empathetic view of the Kyojitsuhimaku (the theory of the great Kabuki playwright Chikamatsu saying that the appeal of art lies in the slender margin between the real and the unreal) in the daily lives of people suffering from dementia, spotted as it is with truth and lies and oblivion and delusion.
Play of the Month; The Council – Online edition by Daisuke Kitagawa
This play was rewritten as a coronavirus version of the play Kaigi (council meeting) which premiered in 2014 by Theater Company kamuyyassen (currently inactive) run by playwright, director and actor Daisuke Kitagawa. The new version (broadcasted on YouTube in April, 2020) is set amidst the coronavirus pandemic where the theaters are closed. The play takes place in a fictional town of Hagishima, Kamei County, Sachigasa Prefecture, Japan, where migrant workers from the Republic of Tomenia (also fictional) have settled. It depicts a council meeting being held online for the festival organized by the local commercial district. In the meeting, a series of previously unknown truths from the members’ private lives are revealed.
Arts Organization of the Month
Arts Organization of the Month: Live Art Development Agency (LADA)
This public-sector arts organization and registered charity organization was founded in London in 1999 for the purpose of supporting infrastructure for and the development of live art. Artists are offered professional advice, and aimed at society at large are events to heighten understanding of and viewing opportunities to expand access to live art, along with related publications. LADA is also tasked with providing funding and organizational assistance for Live Art UK, a network of promoters and facilitators.
Arts Organization of the Month: World Alliance for Arts Education (WAAE)
The World Alliance for Arts Education was established on the occasion of the first world conference on arts education held by UNESCO in Viseu, Portugal in 2006 as a network aimed at “research and advocacy for international arts education and promoting international cooperation.” Currently the network’s main organizations include the original group of international arts education organizations, namely the International Drama/Theatre Education Association (IDEA), the International Society of Education through Art (InSEA), and the International Society for Music Education (ISME), along with the World Dance Alliance (WDA) that joined subsequently. The Alliance’s aim is to promote arts education across all genres of the arts in public or private programs and for all age groups and types of learners.
Arts Organization of the Month: Sega Sammy Arts Foundation
Established in March of 2019, the Sega Sammy Arts Foundation is a general incorporated foundation dedicated to contributing to the development of cultural and artistic activities. Its programs focus particularly on the development of contemporary dance and music. The foundation’s programs are focused primarily in the three areas of independent productions, creating a dance base and support for artistic activities, and in April of 2020 the foundation opened a new base for dance named Dance Base Yokohama (commonly called DaBY, pronounced day-bee).
Japan Topics
Lineup announced for Kyoto Experiment international performing arts festival (Feb. 6 – Mar. 28, 2021)   New! (Feb. 16, 2021)
“TPAM-Performing Arts Meeting in Yokohama 2021” schedule announced (Feb. 6 – 14, 2021)   Sep. 29, 2020
Presenter Topics
Gisèle Vienne and Ryuichi Sakamoto named associate artists for the 2021 Holland Festival   New! (Feb. 16, 2021)
British theatre company Forced Entertainment broadcasts “COMPLETE WORKS: TABLE TOP SHAKESPEARE: AT HOME” presenting all of Shakespeare’s plays staged for the home kitchen   New! (Feb. 16, 2021)
The Festival / Market Calendar is being updated
The Festival / Market Calendar is now being updated with information on the international festivals that were cancelled, postponed or held online due to the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
News from the Japan Foundation
News from the Japan Foundation
A celebration of cultural exchange between Japan and Southeast Asia, “Asia in Resonance 2019” (June 22 – July 15, 2019)   May. 30, 2019
Japan Foundation 2018 – 2019 (first application period) Grant Program for Dispatching Artists and Cultural Specialists grantees announced   Jun. 26, 2018
2018 – 2019 schedule of the Japan Foundation supported PAJ for North America programs finalized   Jun. 26, 2018
2018 – 2019 schedule of the Japan Foundation supported PAJ for Europe programs finalized   Jun. 26, 2018
Wochi Kochi Magazine Vol. 73 “Crossing Borders, Engaging in Exchanges and Harnessing the Power of Creation amid COVID-19”   New!