The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Vol. 144 Updated Nov. 24, 2020
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Performing Arts in JapanInternationl Presenter
Artist Interview
Artist Interview: Satsuma Biwa Performer Kakushin Nishihara Traditional classics coexisting with contemporary noise
Akira TakayamaKakushin 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.
Artist Interview: Satoko Ichihara’s Reality Judged by a Unique Physiological Sensibility
Satoko IchiharaSatoko Ichihara (born in 1988) has drawn attention as a playwright with a new perspective. Her latest work, The Bacchae – Holstein Milk Cows, tells a story of a world in which a woman who had worked as a technician in livestock artificial insemination manages to create a half-human, half-cow beast (Dionysus), which won the 64th Kishida Kunio Drama Award. In this interview, we seek to reveal the source of the physiological perceptions that Ichihara puts her faith in.
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; 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.
Play of the Month; Crying Romeo and Angry Juliet by Wishing Chong
Re-setting the story of Romeo and Juliet in the postwar confusion of Japan’s Kansai (West) region, this adaptation of the classic drama is written by performed in the Kansai dialect. In the “Verona” of this adaptation, a district dominated by small factories, two local forces battle for dominance, with the “Capulets” being a reborn Japanese yakuza gangster clan and the Montagues, a group led by Korean-Japanese bosses. The play’s good-natured young Romeo who speaks with a stammer meets Juliet, who has just moved into town from the countryside in a love story—played by an all-male cast—that draws in a good number of lost souls struggling to find a way in the new postwar world.
Arts Organization of the Month
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).
Arts Organization of the Month: World Dance Alliance Asia-Pacific (WDA)
The predecessor organization was the Asia Pacific Dance Alliance founded in Hong Kong in 1988. After the establishment of the World Dance Alliance as an international organization at the Hong Kong International Dance Conference held in 1990, the name was changed to World Dance Alliance Asia-Pacific in 1993. WDA is dedicated to spreading awareness and understanding of the increasingly diversifying world of dance expression and contributing to its development.
Japan Topics
“TPAM-Performing Arts Meeting in Yokohama 2021” schedule announced (Feb. 6 – 14, 2021)   New! (Sep. 29, 2020)
Presenter Topics
The Local Meeting for the “IETM Multi-location 2020” network to be held in Yokohama (Oct. 1 – 2, 2020)   New! (Sep. 29, 2020)
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. 72 “Japanese art blossoming in the United States”   New!