Arts & traditions: photo album
As the ideal meeting place of Japanese traditional arts, folk shows, and fascinating stage performances, the Sakura stage offered 50 shows, which makes 22 hours programming in all. Over a hundred artists performed on this 111 sqm stage which has a hanamichi, a sort of proscenium set on the side of the stage, like with kabuki stages in Japan. Those artists opened for you a window on yesterday’s and today’s Japan.
Traditional instruments are always popular with Japan Expo’s attendees and many of you loved the melody of Gaho TAKAHASHI‘s koto, the musician being a prodigy of this string instrument which has silk strings. You also discovered shigin, a kind of singing poetry, with the duo Xié. Taiko was also under the spotlight with Tsunagari Taiko Center, festival regulars who gave a concert and a panel about Japanese popular arts on stage, and initiations to taiko on their booth.
Nagauta – traditional music used in kabuki theatre and buyô dance – got a facelift to the sound of Fûka MARIWO’s crystal clear voice, mixed with shamisen (kind of lute with 3 strings), at the Nagauta Pop Live! show. As for the group Hiroshima Peace, they told the history of Japan with performances mixing video, music, and traditional songs. The group NEO Ballad, just like the singer Miô, ambassador of Japanese music, fused folk songs and modern music, with a techno-rock feeling for the first and Western accents for the other one.
For the first time, Japan Expo welcomed enka musicians, a genre of popular music from the 50s. Misaki IWASA, a former idol and member of AKB48 who has become a professional enka singer, joined the group Hayabusa – 3 singers of kayo kyoku, a type of enka – for the enka matsuri shows. A nice discovery for Japanese music fans! Other enka artists specializing in kobushi, the 3 members of Mizmo, also enlivened the Sakura stage.
With Bentenya, chindon-ya, musical street advertising, had pride of honor. They spread enthusiasm on stage and in the alleys of the festival, playing all sorts of music pieces.
The Sakura stage also featured dance shows, like with the troupe Yoshiwara Kitsune Shachu who performed Yoshiwara Kitsune, which is often associated with New Year, as they were dressed in bright-colored kimono and fox nô masks. Takarabune, a group who has among its members the first professional awa odori dancers ever in Japan, was back to lead you into the dance of the mad people, which is 400 years old. Yosakoi Paris Hinodemai, a French group, showed you the yosakoi dance.
To the sound of her voice and the rhythm of her dancing steps, .ekotumi. brought the Kojiki, the most ancient written text in Japan, back to life, adding a touch of pop modernity to it.
As popular as ever, the choreographed performances of katana fights attracted large crowds who had come to admire the outstanding katana moves of the troupe Katanaya Ichi, her mix of aikido, dance, and period costumes. In another sharp style, Kyokomachi Odorikotai, made of actors from Toei Tsurugikai, offered a chanbara show like in Kyoto’s old-fashioned swashbuckler movies, at the city’s booth.
Kikakuya, a professional kabuki theatre troupe, was performing amazing shows, giving to this famous theatrical tradition a hint of modernity.
Arts & Crafts
WABI SABI is about aesthetic values but it’s also a series of exhibits featured at Japan Expo since 2011. For the sixth year in a row, the WABI SABI exhibit was offering a change of scenery: through Japanese arts and crafts, a whole world unveils in delicate works made by craftsmen who came to share their passion with you.
Varied arts and crafts techniques are revealed in an area that showed the colors of Japanese summer through the decoration realized by the group KIRIE. To celebrate Tanabata, which took place on July 7, on the same day the festival opened, bamboo trees adorned the alleyways of the exhibit. You could hang your wishes and support messages for the region of Kumamoto, which suffered tragic earthquakes in April 2016. Kumamon, Kumamoto’s mascot, was here on this occasion.
Authentic and friendly, more than 60 craftsmen had come to show you the beauty of traditional arts such as ceramics, calligraphy, or painting. Photographs also attended the festival, as well as craftsmen making paper or earthenware dolls, fabric items, and kimono with stencil patterns. You have admired photos of geisha by Katsuhiro MIYAUCHI or koi carps by Yoshiko YAMAGUCHI, and amazing engravings by the artist Mitsui who mixes the strong make-up of kabuki actors and the most famous make-up of the band KISS. You also shivered looking at wooden demon masks made by Keiho NAKAHARA, and fell for traditional items engraved with the sweet figure of Hello Kitty, displayed by Sanrio.
The Yuai Association, on top of origami, invited you to try calligraphy, ikebana, and orizome, and helped you wear a kimono to take souvenir pictures! Children were also welcome with activities adapted just for them.
As for Pigments et Arts du Monde, the booth had a very artistic atmosphere. An exhibit set light on nihonga – Japanese traditional painting – through the works of Priscilla MOORE and Valérie EGUCHI. And for beginners, origami and etegami – a picture with a few words on a card – classes were organized.
Japanese culture and traditions are also part of daily life, part of a lifestyle. Hello Kitty’s Japanese garden proposed a full change of scenery, the kawaii way, with the traditional red bridge, a zen garden, and a tanabata tree full of good wishes.
Several booths invited the attendees to discover the art of tea and varied green tea types. Others sold crockery and other traditional objects to make Japanese tea at home.
Well-being is part of Japanese lifestyle: the Institut de reiki and Iokaï Shiatsu Paris invited you to take a break in the quiet of their booths hidden behind curtains. Free relaxation sessions invited you to try those relaxation techniques. In a less conventional, more fun style, Butsu Zen Zone initiated you to zazen.