The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
An Overview
Japan’s Performing Arts on the Internet  
Japan’s Performing Arts on the Internet  

Since the e-Japan project was launched in 2000 by the cabinet of Prime Minister Mori Yoshirô, the national infrastructure has been expanded to the extent that by February 2006, 57.3% of households were connected to the Internet (with total usage rising to 85.4% of the adult population). Furthermore, in 2003 the government prioritized their “plans for the digitalization and archiving of a range of information and its transmission in Japan and abroad in order to enhance understanding of Japan’s culture,” which made specific support available under their Measures to Improve Contents.

This led to the creation of the National Diet Library’s comprehensive portal site “PORTA” to access digital information, and “Dnavi” Database Navigation Service gateway to their extensive database of Japan-related sites. These have greatly facilitated research, with 930 links to arts-related sites as of January 2008. Furthermore, the governmental archive on regional traditional and classical performing arts has dramatically increased the amount of information available on the Net.

In addition, the free encyclopedia Wikipedia is rapidly expanding with new articles being added daily by users, and now holds over 200,000 articles in Japanese and 2 million in English. The amount of information varies according to genre, but a lot of basic information is available especially on the classical performing arts and animé. Also, with many new sites selling CDs, tickets, and so forth, depending on the site it is now possible to get the latest news and information for free.

Since about 2002, blogging has become hugely popular and is now a significant arena for exchanging information. In the area of culture and the arts, an increasing number of artists, journalists, producers, arts administrators and others are providing information through blogs. There are both good and bad sites, from online diaries to people in the know about the latest trends, but there are some real gems to be found. However, there is very little in English, and individual blogs are not always reliable, sometimes providing different information to that available on official sites, so care must be taken.

Sites on Japan’s Performing Arts

Wikipedia has a substantial amount of basic information on Kabuki, as does the private English site KABUKI 21, which also includes the latest news, a database on actors, plays, and even a program archive. The Stanford Japan Center run by Stanford University provides useful links. Shôchiku, the entertainment corporation that runs the Kabuki-za theater in Tokyo, also provides an English page giving the latest schedules, as well as a link to the Shôchiku Kabuki Pavilion where you can see the various kumadori make-up styles along with other useful introductory information on Kabuki. “The World of Sound” on the “Let’s Take a Look at the World of KABUKI” page enables you to listen to samplers of nagauta, takemoto, kiyomoto, tokiwazu and so forth.
 The Japan Arts Council provides a Digital Cultural Library in Japanese with video clips on the basics of Kabuki as well as images. Waseda University’s Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum is one of Japan’s best resources related to theater, and has the “Ukiyoe Viewing System” database of 47,000 ukiyo-e images. A journal specializing in traditional performing arts, Kensyo, operates a site providing access to full-length interviews with various artists in classical theater. The Nôson Kabuki (regional Kabuki) also offers a very comprehensive site on regional Kabuki called Kabuki & Nôson Kabuki Link.

Nôgaku and Bunraku
Many initiatives aim to provide substantial information on Nô and Kyôgen, which have been designated as an intangible World Heritage, but these remain limited nevertheless. Sites providing extensive information on Nô and Kyôgen in English include Wikipedia. Basic information can be found on the Japan Arts Council’s site, which also provides video clips of plays. The Nôgaku Kyôkai provides a Japanese-only database of Nô plays and around 70 Nô theaters in Japan. Information on events is available on NOH-KYOGEN, and the NPO Sensu provides a handy set of links to sites giving information about actors.
 Wikipedia also provides comprehensive information on Bunraku. Other useful sites in English include the Japan Art Council’s Introduction to Bunraku and the official site of the Bunraku Kyôkai. The Yomiuri Shimbun in Kansai offers a Japanese-only page giving up-to-date news about Bunraku.

Folk Arts and Cultural Assets
Both national and municipal projects are underway to digitalize Japan’s folk arts and cultural assets. The Agency for Cultural Affairs provides Japanese-only information on database as well as the Cultural Heritage Online site on National and Regional Cultural Assets. The Regional Cultural Asset Portal offers video clips of regional traditional arts in English, Chinese, and Korean, while the Hokkaido Culture and Art Database covers various cultural resources in Hokkaido by category, from the industrial legacy to cultural facilities, in Japanese only. Lastly, there is a database of regional traditional performing arts on the website of the Center for the Promotion of Folk-Performing Arts.

Contemporary Theater and Dance
Compared to the traditional performing arts, Wikipedia coverage of contemporary theater and dance is decidedly limited. There are many sites on individual companies and artists, but few sites giving general information. The most comprehensive site in English is The Japan Foundation’s Performing Arts Network Japan, updated monthly, which includes a database of artists and plays, a festival calendar, interviews with artists and so forth.
 The Japanese-only Theater Guide provides ticket information and up-to-date news and press releases, and is useful for details on the latest shows. The Digital Archive Collection run by Waseda University’s Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum includes a useful database record of contemporary theater performances.
 The NPO Japan Contemporary Dance Network operates a site providing information in Japanese on over 100 artists and companies, complete with photos (they also provide a booklet in English).

Classical Music
The most comprehensive English-language site for information on classical music in Japan is NEC Navigates JAPAN’s CLASSICAL MUSIC ARTISTS, operated by the Japan Association of Classical Music Presenters together with NEC Corporation. This covers Western classical as well as traditional Japanese music, with a database of musicians with profiles, CDs, and access data. It also provides the latest news updates, so is worth checking regularly. The long-standing private site CLASSICA gives links to orchestras and opera houses in Japan and abroad, but is in Japanese only.

Wikipedia provides introductory information on a wide range of Hôgaku traditional Japanese music genres. Japan Traditional Cultures Foundation runs Japo Net Classics with a comprehensive database and commentary of musicians, while the Japanese Traditional Music site run by Columbia Music Entertainment has very thorough explanations of instruments and history. Anyone wanting to find out about wadaiko drummers and groups can use the database on Wadaiko Don Don Dot Com. Wikipedia has detailed information on Gakaku court music, while Nakata Taizô’s personal site Gagaku is also comprehensive. In addition, the specialist magazine Hôgaku Journal provides links to musicians on their site.

Theatre Support are compiling a database of 1,500 venues throughout Japan on their site HALL IN ONE, while the site TOKYO SOURCE and REAL TOKYO have their fingers on the pulse of the latest artist trends, but both are in Japanese only.