From centuries-old art forms to animation and new media, Japan boasts a long continuum of culture. There are efforts to preserve, showcase and honor that, with curators often putting together breathtaking displays enhanced by never-before-seen works, new technologies and fresh narratives. 

This summer, there are four cultural events worth the hype: A collection of ukiyo-e coming back to Japan for the first time, an exciting exhibition of the career of Neon Genesis Evangelion creator Hideaki Anno, a chance to learn and watch Kumiodori, and a long-awaited retrospective exhibition of artist Lee Ufan. All of these events are supported by the Japan Cultural Expo

Utagawa Kuniyoshi, “The Earth Spider Slain by Minamoto no Yorimitsu’s Retainers”, Edo Period, about 1839–40 (Tenpo 10–11), William Sturgis Bigelow Collection. Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

1. The Heroes-Chronicles of the Warriors: Japanese Swords x Ukiyo-e from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Shizuoka City Museum of Art)

“The Heroes-Chronicles of the Warriors: Japanese Swords x Ukiyo-e from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston” is a long-awaited exhibition featuring 118 heroes paintings by Hishikawa Moronobu, Utagawa Kunisada, Utagawa Kuniyoshi, Tsukioka Yoshitoshi and others. This is the first time these major works are showcased in Japan. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston boasts half a million works, of which 100,000 are from Japan. In fact, this is the largest and highest quality collection of Japanese art outside of Japan. 

This exhibition in particular focuses on musha-e, which are ukiyo-e prints of heroes in military tales. Complimenting the prints are also 20 authentic legendary swords and 27 tsuba sword mountings on display.

When: Until Aug 28

The Shizuoka exhibition is one of four in Japan, preceded by the already finished Tokyo and Niigata exhibitions, followed by one in Hyogo in early September. 

Learn more via the exhibition’s official website.

Installation view of the Tokyo venue. Provided by Hideaki Anno Exhibition Committee.

2. Hideaki Anno Exhibition (Yamaguchi Prefectural Art Museum)

Hideaki Anno, the creative mind behind Neon Genesis Evangelion and more recently Shin Godzilla and Shin Ultraman, has always had a certain edge and a postmodernist philosophical approach to everything he does. This has earned him a well-deserved great reputation as a cult filmmaker, producer and animator. The eponymous exhibition held at the Yamaguchi Prefectural Art Museum is a long-overdue homage to Anno.

Expect a showcase of a wide selection of Anno’s work, such as original drawings, illustrations, notes, scripts, storyboards, layouts and key animation scenes. The exhibition is broadly segmented into three parts: The Past, The Present and The Future. The Past shows Anno’s favorite anime and manga, which act as his main influences; The Present shows a range of pieces that cover his animation and cinematic career; The Future shows Anno’s upcoming projects and future ambitions such as the Anime Tokusatsu Archive Center (ATAC).

When: Until Sep 4

This is yet another traveling exhibition, heading to Niigata at the end of September until January next year.

Learn more via the exhibition’s official website.

Photo courtesy of The National Theatre Okinawa.

3. Kumiodori for Parents and Children (The National Theatre Okinawa)

Kumiodori is a traditional Okinawan musical theater that combines words, music and dance. In 1972, it was designated a National Important Intangible Cultural Property of Japan, and in 2010, it was added to the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. 

Learn more about the roots of this Okinawan performance art and see it in action at a family-friendly event. This event includes an introduction to Kumiodori so spectators can learn about Kumiodori’s distinctive theatrical elements and how to enjoy the show. Free English audio guide is available upon request.

The National Theatre Okinawa regularly offers a wide range of opportunities to view Okinawan traditional performing arts. When in the region, do check their schedule for upcoming performances.

When: Aug 6–7

Learn more via the official National Theatre Okinawa website.

“From Line” (1977). Japanese pigment and glue on canvas, 182 × 227 cm. The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo.

4. Lee Ufan: 15th Anniversary of the National Art Center, Tokyo

During the 15th anniversary of The National Art Center, Tokyo, one of the major exhibitions will be a retrospective one focusing on the life and work of famous contemporary artist Lee Ufan. 

Lee led the way in what would become the Mono movement, which combines and presents natural and manmade materials in a temperate manner. This worldview is reflected both in his art and in his writing. The exhibition will display both his earliest work and his most recent, groundbreaking pieces, making it the first large-scale solo exhibition featuring the artist since 2005. 

When: Aug 10–Nov 7

Catch it in Tokyo until early fall, after which the exhibition will travel to Hyogo. 

Learn more via the exhibition’s official website.


Top photo courtesy of The National Theatre Okinawa.


Sponsored Post