As an ode to Japanese traditional culture, the Wabi-Sabi area, set up by Japan Moment on a 840 sqm area, offered endless treasures. Looking like a real matsuri, it included an exhibit, a performing stage, a demo stage, a tea house, many demo booths, and a real torii at the entrance.
On the Wabi-Sabi stage
For the very first time at Japan Expo, Master KANROKU and the Mokugûsha group performed a joruri puppet show, one of the 3 major arts of Japanese theatre along with nô and kabuki. Ouen-za also offered outstanding performances, telling about the hectic life of a beautiful courtesan through nihon buyô dance and medieval action scenes. The 11 members of Takarabune gave a modern interpretation of a 400-year old discipline: awa odori dance.
Traditional music was in the spotlight. Wadaiko drums made the air vibrate with Satsumasendai Odoridaiko who mingled music and nihon buyô. Through a subtle mix of rock and traditional music, Wagakki Band showed how to use modern instruments along with traditional ones such as tsugaru shamisen, shakuhachi or koto. While duo Tsukiyoi took you to unknown lands with fresh tunes, the MORIKAWA sisters, Sukippa Hasuppa, enchanted the audience with folk songs to the sound of Kunie’s koto and Hiroe’s voice.
Sansanar were promoting an original style of music: Neo Okinawa Pop, a happy mix of Okinawa songs and ryûkyû dance. To keep on with your trip to Okinawa, Megumi ABIKO played sanshin along with singing Okinawa folk songs.
Gorgeous kimono fashion shows by Be Japon invited you to wander far away, along the four seasons… Through spring, summer, fall, and winter, modern kimono paraded and danced to the music of the violin.
Calligraphy had pride of honor too and several artists performed live to the rhythm of taiko. Miho, Rio Haruki, the Nagiya sisters, and Hiroko Watanabe thus showed you their art!
When a talected choreographer meets high tech, the performance is worth a look at: dance and video mapping mingled with Nammy MIKAMI’s songs for a surprising show.
Authentic craftsmen had come to show the beauty of their arts and crafts. Demonstrations and workshops introduced traditional painting styles, calligraphy, bunka embroidery, patchwork, ichimatsu doll making, sand art, wind chimes, etc. during the 5 days of the festival.
Tea ceremony is an art in Japan. The greatest master of the Enshu school as well as the Chikumei-dô family company who has been making tea whisks for several generations were sharing the precious art of tea, and an Urasenke tea room had been set.
The Wabi-Sabi exhibit
Back for the 4th year in a row at Japan Expo, the Wabi-Sabi exhibit showed many Japanese arts and crafts items: hina dolls made of ancient material ; India ink paintings; pearl flowers; materials such as yuzen dye, Edo era crepe or traditional jidaigire patchworks; paintings on Arita China; or Japanese lacquerware.
A video of the Wabi-Sabi area and programming by Japan Moment
Music & performances
To allow most people to enjoy their talent, artists from the Wabi-Sabi area were also on Japan Expo’s cultural stage, and for some at the Live House like Wagakki Band who mixed traditional instruments and rock rhythms that matched perfectly the atmosphere of the festival’s music stage, or on the Main Stage like Tsukiyoi, Sansanar, Satsumasendai Odoridaiko, and Ouen-za.
For the very first time, Japan Expo hosted real geisha: Chika and Momoko, two geisha from Kagurazaka, a district in Tokyo, with Kazuko WATANABE, an okami who owns a traditional restaurant hosting geisha. They explained to the audience what being a geisha means, showed their talent on stage during the 4 Season Dances and even hosted workshops for the attendees. Photo shoots were also organized with them and the public.
A kamishibai company amazed you with their paper theater. Highlights were on taiko with Tsunagari Taiko Center: the heady rhythm of Japanese drums resonated harmoniously around the cultural stage.
Everyone needs support, and sometimes even YOSHIKI: the joyful cheerleader group Aozora Ôendan gave everything, and especially their voice, to encourage all our guests and attendees!
Arts and crafts
On top of the exhibit and the demonstrations at the Wabi-Sabi area, Japan Expo offered many opportunities to get to know more about Japanese arts and crafts, for instance by going back to the origins of Japanese culture at the Saiko ! Japan area with Jômon Musée Japan.
In 2011, Japan faced a terrible earthquake followed by a devastating tsunami. 4 years later, some wounds are still open but art contributes to relieve the pain. The Mushae exhibit is a good example of this, launched to support Minamisôma city, which suffered a lot from the 2011 events. The exhibit was born from a project started by the illustrator Mamoru YOKOTA who involved many artists with drawings of horseriders in armors catching wild horses, to support the century-old Sôma Nomaoi festival. The Okiagari Koboshi Project was created with the same idea in mind: decorated by famous people and artists, okiagari koboshi dolls from Fukushima were exhibited at Japan Expo. A strong symbol, those roly-poly kind of dolls always right themselves when pushed over.
Other areas were here to let you find out more about arts and crafts and to propose you to learn some basics, even for kids who could try origami on the kids’ area. The booth Au fil de la lame showed live forging demonstrations, while Pigments et Arts du monde invited you to enjoy traditional nihonga painting. Yuai Association proposed many workshops, such as calligraphy, Japanese language, yukata wearing or kokedama, the art of moss and bonsai.
Japanese food is famous for its many tastes and there were plenty opportunities to enjoy it: bento or California maki were explained step by step, and a French chef and a Japanese chef fought to make the best ochazuke recipe, a rice and green tea dish. Of course, any peckish feeling could be relieved thanks to the many restaurants attending the festival. The Saiko ! Japan allowed you to get to try and know more about Kobe beef or Japanese pastries.
Attendees could also learn and play Japanese traditional games such as go, shôgi, or othello, and also the Chinese but very popular in Japan mah-jong. Learning the basic rules, getting better, fighting tournaments: everything was brought together to enjoy great moments!
Last but not least, time to relax: you could enjoy the zen spirit with Butsu Zen Zone who taught zazen meditation, peaceful and a bit funny.