Japan is a country that appreciates art, and the thousands of museums and galleries across the country are a testament to that. Art fairs, biennials and triennials have been met with great interest in the past few years, and exhibitions are usually packed with visitors of all ages. Here are five of the must-attend art fairs in Japan in 2022 and early 2023 co-sponsored by the Japan Cultural Expo

Learn more about the Japan Cultural Expo via the official website

Roots & Arts Shiraoi 2022, Ayoro Cost, Shiraoi Town, Hokkaido. Photo by Waka Eiraku.

1. Roots & Arts Shiraoi 2022 (Hokkaido)

Shiraoi, Hokkaido, is a town that aims for multicultural coexistence as a land where the indigenous culture of the Ainu people still remains. It’s home to Upopoy, the first national museum dedicated to the Ainu, which opened in 2020. The “roots,” however, refer to all of the people calling this land home. 

This is the festival’s second year, with various events and projects taking place across Shiraoi, centering on the rediscovery and reconstruction of Shiraoi’s land and culture. Roots & Arts utilizes the vacant stores and spaces as exhibition venues for art that is related to this region and community. This year’s plans include a project to bring light back to the defunct Ayoro Hana Lighthouse in the Ayoro district, a place rich in Ainu folklore, and an audio project in which OKI, a musician who plays the traditional Ainu stringed instrument tonkori, will deliver a talk about the Ainu and music from around the world.

When: Aug 27–Oct 10, 2022

Learn more via the official Roots & Arts Shiraoi website.

Kuwata Takuro, Untitled. Installation view: Go for Kogei 2021, Otaki-Okamoto Shrine. Photo by Masahiro Katano.

2. Go For Kogei 2022 (Hokuriku Region)

Go For Kogei (stylized as GO FOR KOGEI) is a festival dedicated to crafts set in not one, not two, but three Hokuriku prefectures: Toyama, Ishikawa and Fukui. The exhibitions take place at three temples and shrines designated as Important Cultural Properties. Go For Kogei not only works toward innovating crafts but also intertwining them with contemporary art, design and Art Brut. The exhibition is curated by Yuji Akimoto, famed for his pioneering work in transforming Naoshima Island into a global arts hub. The slogan of the exhibition this year is “Create: the interweaving of land, life and prayer.” 

The festival’s arts and crafts are mesmerizing, with scores of the best artists creating breathtaking, large-scale artworks. This year, the main program of Go For Kogei will consist of a special exhibition, held simultaneously in Takaoka, Komatsu and Echizen. It’s a great chance to travel between the prefectures and visit several spots in one fell swoop. There are also many workshops, talks and other smaller events.

You can peek at the Go For Kogei 2021 exhibitions via this online VR experience

When: Sep 17–Oct 23, 2022

For more details about the exhibition go to the official Go For Kogei website.

Photo courtesy of Art Fair Asia Fukuoka 2022.

3. Art Fair Asia Fukuoka 2022

The seventh iteration of the Art Fair Asia Fukuoka (stylized as AFAF) will be held simultaneously at two venues, the Fukuoka International Congress Center and Hotel Okura Fukuoka. Fukuoka takes pride in its legacy as an international port and being the most welcoming startup hub in Japan. The art fair similarly aims to be a place of international flavor and facilitate meaningful encounters. It’s the only art fair of its caliber in Kyushu, Chugoku, Shikoku and Okinawa.

In addition to the exhibitions, there will be smaller events and talks. The art fair coincides with Art Week in Fukuoka, making the city a must-visit for art lovers during this time. 

When: Sep 30–Oct 3, 2022 (ends on Oct 2 at Hotel Okura Fukuoka)

See the full lineup and list of events on the official Art Fair Asia website.

Photo courtesy of Biwako Biennale 2022.

4. Biwako Biennale 2022: Origin (Shiga)

The Biwako Biennale takes place in two iconic locations in Shiga Prefecture: Omihachiman and Hikone. The keyword this year is “origin”, such as that of the universe and the Big Bang; the birth and death of both stars and people. 

Many domestic and foreign artists will explore this theme through exhibitions at 24 venues around Lake Biwa. The works will also make sure to connect to the charm and culture of the area, interacting with their environment. Art will inhabit vacant houses and venues, a successful strategy of several art festivals in the Japanese countryside, making use of abandoned properties and trying to revitalize the area. Some of the venues planned for 2022 include a former post office, an old bathhouse, Okishima (a small island in Lake Biwa) and Hikone Castle. 

When: Oct 8–Nov 27, 2022

Be sure to book your spot at popular events in advance through the official Biwako Biennale event website.

Photo by Kohei Matsumura.

 5. Study: Osaka Kansai International Art Festival 2023

Art is about asking the big questions, but it’s also about investigating, studying and discovering, hence this festival’s theme. The artists participating in the 2023 event will study the relationships between society, people and art. Exhibitions will take place across several facilities including unique venues in Osaka and feature dozens of artists from Japan and abroad. In addition, an art fair and conferences will be held.

The goal is to launch a world-famous international art festival in Osaka, with the 2023 edition as a starting point. This event will be a part of the build-up to Osaka Kansai International Art Festival 2025, which will take place at the same time as Expo 2025 Osaka, Kansai, Japan. By then, the cultural event aims to welcome artists from 150 countries.

Art Festival: Jan 28–Feb 13, 2023
Art Fair: Feb 10–12, 2023

Learn more about this event via the Osaka Kansai International Art Festival website



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Top image courtesy of Art Fair Asia Fukuoka 2022