Traditional show photo album
If there’s a place at Japan Expo where traditional culture is under the spotlight, it’s definitely the Sakura stage. 111sqm large, it has a hanamichi, a kind of proscenium on the side like those on kabuki stages in Japan, and unveiled the beauty of the arts and folk culture from the land of the rising sun with 37 events, which makes 30 hours of programming in 4 days. 133 artists showed their talent on stage, among which about a hundred who had come along with the WABI SABI exhibit and who performed this year on the Sakura stage which had merged with the former WABI SABI stage.
Music is an important part of traditional culture, which Japan Expo is willing to highlight. The 16th Impact didn’t fail to keep its promise with many groups and artists who had come to unveil the splendor of traditional instruments, sometimes mixing ancient sounds to modern rhythms. And so NEO Ballad, an avant-garde duo combining Japanese folk songs and techno-rock tunes: an electrifying show!
A crystal-clear voice mingling with the mesmerizing sounds of the shamisen: in a more traditional way, Mariwo FUKA introduced novices to the beauty of shamisen, a sort of lute with a long neck and 3 cords which is played with an ivory plectrum. It’s one of the favorite instruments of geisha and often accompanies folk songs, as presented by Mariwo FUKA.
Traditional instruments adapt perfectly to modern rock music as proved by Yasuharu TAKANASHI & YAIBA on the Sakura stage. The 3 band members playing traditional instruments performed a great moment of music: an explosive trio with Hiroshi MOTOFUJI, star of taiko (traditional drums), -KIJI-, shamisen prodigy, and Kinohachi, shakuhachi virtuoso (traditional bamboo flute).
Taiko fans had many more opportunities to enjoy their favorite instrument thanks to Tsunagari Taiko Center. On top of a show on stage, the association gave initiation classes on their booth and gave a conference about Japanese traditional arts. As for the AOI Clothing fashion show, it went on to the rhythm of taiko with the band TaïkoKanou.
More about Yasuharu TAKANASHI & YAIBA, Le Lien,
and Pink Babies in our J-music report by clicking here
Traditional dance was beautifully represented by the offbeat troupe Takarabune who keep on spreading awa odori, also called "the madmen’s dance"! For 400 years, awa odori has been moving dancers to the rhythm of taiko. While keeping this traditional touch, Takarabune also brings a hint of modernity that keeps it alive. A terribly enjoyable show!
The more recent yosakoi dance was also part of Japan Expo. The group Yosakoi Paris HINODE MAI even invited you on stage during their performance to let you have a go at this dance created in the 50s to revitalize Japan after the war. With their naruko (sort of little wooden fans used to scare birds away), the dancers gave a most energetic show: a wave a happiness.
Sharper choreographies were also featured. Between martial arts, dance and gorgeous traditional costumes, the troupe -IDEAL- performed choreographied sword fights, impressive with beauty, intensity, and skill. Made of professional dancers, fight experts such as Yuki YONEYAMA, and lead by Kaori KAWABUCHI, an actress specialized in sword motion capture (FINAL FANTASY, Space Pirate Captain Harlock), -IDEAL- dazzled you to the blazing light of swords during 3 outstanding shows.
In the fashion of Kyoto’s swashbuckler films, the troupe from Uzumasa Limelight, who had come on the occasion of the preview screening of the film, showed you the fight techniques featured in action films, highlighting chanbara and samurai techniques.
More about -IDEAL- and Uzumasa Limelight
in our martial art report by clicking here
After studying rakugo with Japanese masters, Stéphane FERRANDEZ shared his knowledge and talent with you. Rakugo is has been one of the most popular form of tales in Japan for 4 centuries. It presents a teller on stage, kneeling in seiza, who walks on his cushion, drinks with a fan, reads a napkin and makes people converse with those few items. On top of the demonstration, Stéphane FERRANDEZ gave a panel alongside Sandrine GARBUGLIA, both members of the Compagnie Balabolka, to explain the secrets of rakugo. An exhibit allowed you to go further if you felt like it.
The Sakura stage also featured calligraphy artists who realized huge calligraphy art and artistic performances based on calligraphy. Rio HARUKI, which you may have already seen at Japan Expo in the previous years, was back. She showed her talent once more, joining the WABI SABI All Stars show alongside Takarabune and Mariwo FUKA on the Yuzu stage.
KIRIE’s performances mix calligraphy, dance and music. Based on Japanese stories and legends, their shows are made of a modern style of calligraphy, a unique program that you obviously enjoyed.
Houkou NAKASHIMA, sculptor and calligraphy artist, performed a show symbolizing the never-ending strength of the Japanese soul facing nature. Dressing a model in Japanese traditional paper, he expressed life and hope during a very moving show.
If you had always wanted to attend a Japanese traditional wedding ceremony, Japan Expo was the opportunity. Several demonstrations allowed you to admire the costumes of the bride and groom.
Traditional activity photo album
Arts and Crafts
WABI SABI is about aesthetic values, but it’s also a series of exhibit taking place at Japan Expo since 2011. The attendees could once more go on an artistic and cultural journey inside the area dedicated to Japanese arts and crafts. Over the 700sqm of the WABI SABI area, the exhibit unveiled varied artworks and techniques, continuing the previous years’ work.
Authentic and sympathetic, over 120 artists and craftsmen attended Japan Expo to present traditional arts such as embroidery, ceramics, calligraphy, or painting. Photographs were also part of the exhibit as well as craftspeople making dolls, flowers made of fabric or delicate wooden items. To mention only a few of them, Satoshi FUJITA, origami master, showed his subtle creations alongside the artist Kyoko HASHIMOTO who presented fine models of Japanese houses which looked amazingly real.
Associations specialized in traditional activities taught you the basics of calligraphy, traditional painting, or origami. You could meet Tengumi in the origami area for initiation classes everyday and all day long, and improve your skills with them.
Yuai Association, on top of origami, invited you to try calligraphy, ikebana and to try on a kimono to take a souvenir photo of your visit at Japan Expo! KIRIE also called on the booth for a private show, while the ikebana artist Kenji TSUTSUMI and the ceramist King Houndekpinkou presented ikebana style flower arrangements.
On Pigments et Arts du Monde’s booth, artistic activities ruled. Exhibits and workshops highlighted nihonga painting, etegami (the delicate art of painting a picture and a few words on a card), and Japanese engraving. Artists were invited on the booth to present demonstrations of their talent: Valérie EGUCHI with etegami; Koyo DAIRE with origami; Priscilla MOORE with nihonga painting; and Fred MIANE with Japanese engraving.
Japanese cuisine has become worldwide famous and had pride of honor on the Washoku area: onigiri, bentô and curry recipes explained step by step by Japanese chefs. A workshop area had been prepared to allow you to attend demonstrations by chefs. And if you got hungry, many restaurants proposed Japanese food inside the festival: donburi, takoyaki, bentô, sushi, onigiri, you had a lot to choose from.
Many booths also sold tea to allow you to discover Japanese green tea. Other booth proposed the necessary crockery items to prepare tea, as well as many other traditional objects. Then you can make your own tea ceremony at home!
Associations invited you to play traditional games such as go, shôgi, othello, or mah-jong, Chinese in origin but very popular in Japan. Initiation to the basic rules, improvement, tournaments: everything was ready for beginners and players to enjoy a moment with family, friends, and challengers.
Well-being is part of the Japanese lifestyle: the Institut de reiki offered a quiet break. Behind the booth curtains, practitioners proposed free sessions of this relaxation method to the attendees. Perfect to have a rest before going back to the festival frenzy!
More about discovering Japan
in our tourism report by clicking here
Back to the 16th Impact: click here
for more about the festival with pics!