The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Yuki Hata
Yuki Hata
Yuki Hata studied musicology at the doctoral course of Ochanomizu University. While doing her Masters degree studies she participated the Japan Foundation’s Asian Traditional Performing Arts program as a research staff member and became involved in introducing performing arts from the various Asian countries to Japan. In 1989 she joined the newly founded ASEAN Culture Center (later renamed Asia Center) of the Japan Foundation as the Performing Arts Coordinator, and since 2004, she has been the same Coordinator at the Performing Arts Division of the Foundation. Throughout these activities Ms. Hata has been involved in presenting the contemporary performing arts of Asia.

Asian Traditional Performing Arts (ATPA)
This project introduced Asian traditional performing arts to Japan in a series of five programs beginning in 1976 that involved performances, seminars and reports. The titles of the five program cycles were “Asian Musics in an Asian Perspective” for cycle one (1976), “Musical Voices of Asia” for cycle two (1978), “Theater of the Gods” for cycle three (1981), “Itinerant Artists of Asia” for cycle four (1984) and “Dance and Song of the Asian Spirit - Expressions of Love and Prayer” for cycle five (1987). The regions represented included East Asia, Southeast Asia, and South Asia and as far west as Iran and Turkey. Pamphlets and English-language reports on these five programs can be viewed in the Japan Foundation Library. Recordings and 16mm films of the performances are now out of print but some of the soundtracks are available in the JVC WORLD SOUNDS BEST 100 series. A book on the Itinerant Artists of Asia program is published under the same title (Asahi Bunko edition published by Asahi Shimbun; 1985).

+ Reports published in English
“Asian Musics in an Asian Perspective - Report of Asian Traditional Performing Arts 1976” (Heibonsha Limited, Publishers; 1977. Re-released by Academic Music in 1984)
“Musical Voices of Asia - Report of Asian Traditional Performing Arts 1978” (Heibonsha Limited, Publishers; 1980)
“Dance and Music in South Asian Drama - Report of Asian Traditional Performing Arts 1981” (Academia Music Ltd.; 1983)
The Japan Foundation Contemporary Theatre Program
Performing Women
Performing Women
Performing Women
view clip
A Collaboration of India, Iran, Uzbekistan and Japan
Performing Women - 3 Reinterpretations from Greek Tragedy

(0ct. 2007 at Bunkamura Theatre Cocoon)
Presenter Interview
Connecting the theater people of Asia   The Japan Foundation international collaboration program 
Since the founding of the Japan Foundation in 1972, there have been ongoing and concerted efforts to promote cultural exchange particularly between the countries of Asia. The programs have ranged from Japanese language education overseas, Japanese studies and intellectual exchange, and arts and culture exchange. Among these efforts, we should take special note of the role that the Foundation has played in introducing the theater of Asian countries to the Japanese audience. In this interview we spoke with Ms. Yuki Hata, who has been working in the Japan Foundation’s ASEAN Culture Center (presently incorporated within the Japan Foundation) since its establishment in 1990, specializing as a coordinator in the performing arts and concentrating efforts on the production collaborative works between Asian theater people, such as the production titled Performing Women that brought together directors from India, Iran and Uzbekistan in a collaborative work that has just recently been performed in Seoul and Tokyo.
(Interviewer: Tadashi Uchino, Professor of Tokyo University)

You were involved in inviting Asian performing arts productions and introducing them to the Japanese audience back in the 1980s before you joined the Japan Foundation. What is it that got you involved in the Asian scene in the first place?
When I was studying musicology in graduate school, my professor, Yoshihiko Tokumaru, was a supervisor of the Japan Foundation’s “Asian Traditional Performing Arts (ATPA)” program launched in 1976, and through him I became one of the research staff for the project.
In the early years after the Japan Foundation was established back in 1972, the programs centered mainly on introducing Japanese culture and arts abroad. The Foundation had been established with the dual aims of promoting overseas understanding of Japan and also increasing understanding of foreign cultures by the Japanese. In order to promote this kind of mutual understanding with other countries, a project was launched to introduce Asian performing arts that were until then relatively unknown in Japan. Eventually this project went through five three-year cycles of surveys and plan-making the first year, performances and seminars the second year and record compiling in the third year. In each cycle there would also be a rich array of peripheral programs like the large-scale mask exhibit titled “Gods Incarnate - Exhibition of Asian Masks” that we organized in connection with the cycle on Asian mask theater. The record included the detailed report book in English which not only recorded the results of the seminars that had been held but also added a lot of subsequent research result, music records, and films, etc., to create valuable resource materials that have entered many university libraries around the world.

That was truly a revolutionary project at the time, wasn’t it?
In the Japan Foundation at that time we had some highly motivated young people who worked with dedication on the planning of projects and getting researchers involved to carry them out. That is what made the projects so successful. It all began with gathering existing materials and documents, but then that proved to be insufficient, we began going to the various Asian countries to do our own surveys and research. It was very much like the type of fieldwork that is done in ethno-musicology.

What types of actual performance programs came out of the project?
The first two cycles were done in a format where we presented various countries traditional arts in the context of how they compared with Japan’s traditional arts. For example, one case compared the forms of Indonesian traditional music with that of Okinawa, and another compared the vocalization used in traditional Mongolian singing with that of Japanese folk singing. But doubts arose about this kind of format because it could also be seen as an attempt to find the roots of Japanese culture. So, from the third cycle we began introducing the Asian arts individually without the Japanese comparison component.
In the early stages of the project there had been a strong emphasis on seminars, which were quite academic in nature, but gradually a greater emphasis came to be placed on the performances themselves. In the process we came to organize the programs so that they have considerable value and significance as stand-alone performance programs. The themes of the programs were Asian mask theater “Theater of the Gods” for the third cycle (1981), the arts of traveling performers “Itinerant Artists of Asia” for the fourth cycle (1984) and the arts of prayer “Dance and Song of the Asian Spirit - Expressions of Love and Prayer” for the fifth cycle (1987).

Then in January of 1990 the “ASEAN Culture Center” was formed within the Japan Foundation to specialize in culture and arts exchange with the ASEAN region. This ASEAN Culture Center was established with the aim of deepening mutual understanding with the ASEAN region and to aid in the forming of new partnerships of the kind the Prime Minister Takeshita proposed in 1987 with his “Japan-ASEAN Comprehensive Exchange Program.” How did you become involved in this ASEAN Culture Center?
The ASEAN Culture Center became the first public sector organization in Japan to introduce Asian arts, and since I had been working at ATPA in a capacity that was somewhere between a researcher and producer, I was asked to take a position as a coordinator in the performing arts section and participate in the planning stage. I also participated in the study mission to determine what directions the Center’s activities should take, and in that capacity I went around the ASEAN region interviewing intellectuals and artists. From them I was given some very frank but passionate opinions about what we should try to do. That experience inspired me with the idea that we could do more than just ride the “ethnic arts boom” and take a more solid stance. Besides me, there were specialists appointed in the fields of film and visual arts, and I believe this represented a rather revolutionary approach for the Japan Foundation at the time.

What sort of policies did you have in the performing arts section at the start?
For the film and visual arts sections, as well as our performing arts section, “contemporary” was definitely one of the key words in our focus. In the performing arts field, there had been an increasing number of programs introducing traditional Asian arts, as with the ATPA projects I mentioned earlier, and along with the ethnic arts boom beginning in the latter part of the 1980s there was also an Indonesian gamelan music boom. However, there were not enough opportunities to see Southeast Asia in a contemporary eye. In the study mission I mentioned earlier we also found the contemporary to be a direction we should pursue.
I especially thought that it would be important to introduce the region’s contemporary theater. Although it would be much easier to introduce music and dance [due to the absence of the language problem], I thought that in terms of sharing what our contemporaries were thinking, theater would be the most effective genre. Theater is difficult for private sector presenters to introduce because of the difficulties of translation and the cost, and in fact there were almost no theater productions being invited to Japan at that time. So, I thought this was an area that the Japan Foundation should take the initiative in.
As a result the Center’s opening performance was a production titled The Ritual of Solomon’s Children by the Indonesian poet, playwright and director, Rendra of Bengkel Theater. This was the first theatre work by Rendra, who was eventually labeled an anti-establishment activist and imprisoned. It was originally performed in the late 1960s. It was a time when Indonesia and much of Southeast Asia was confronting the problems of modernization and individual confrontations, and the fact that this play dealt directly with these problems in the script surely made it a very avant-garde work for its day. This makes it one of the important plays that must always be considered when speaking about contemporary theater of Southeast Asia. One of the things that I recall most clearly from that performance in Japan was one Japanese theater professional who commented after seeing the performance how moved he was to discover how, during the same period in the 60s when Japanese theater people were rejecting the established form of theater and turning their efforts to the avant-garde “small theater” movement, people in Indonesia were doing the very same thing. It can be said that this opening production by the Center was a statement concerning the course it would take from that point onward. The plays that were introduced after this included the joint Singapore and Malaysia production Three Children, the Singapore production Beauty World, and the Philippine production El Filibusterismo, etc.
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