Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Japonismes 2018: les âmes en résonance
ANDO Hiroyasu / President, The Japan Foundation

May 30, 2019
Japonismes 2018 (https://japonismes.org/en/), an extensive exhibition showcasing the art and culture of Japan, was held in Paris for eight months from July 2018. It attracted about 3.5 million viewers, and won high acclaim among the French people.

There is no doubt that Japanese art and culture excel in quality and attract a high degree of interest from overseas. Regrettably, however, Japan is still lagging behind in projecting these assets to people abroad. We therefore put in a lot of preparation time and a large budget, amounting to nearly \ 4 billion, to stage this exhibition, on the largest scale ever of Japanese cultural festivals held abroad.

We focused not so much on the quantity or number of the programs as on the quality, and took care to have first class works of art in the caliber of national treasurers as well as artists who represented the highest levels of Japanese art. In terms of content, we covered a full range from traditional to contemporary art and culture, and widened the scope so that not just the experts but also the young and those visiting with their families could have a good time. As a result, Mr. Jack Lang, former minister of culture known for his rich experience and erudition in the filed of art, praised the exhibition as “Superb! Admirable! Magnificent!” Mr. Louis Schweitzer, former chairman of Renault, who acted as the special representative of the Foreign Minister, commented that the exhibition had a positive impact on the whole range of Japanese-French relations, not just cultural, but also diplomatic, economic and other aspects.

There was practically no negative reaction from the French media, which tends normally to be somewhat caustic. Instead, such favorable responses were seen as “You see Japan every where” or “Japan showed a strong presence, and the programs were of impressively high quality.”

To explain the background, the Japanese Prime Minister and the French President agreed to hold this series of events in commemoration of the 160th anniversary of Japan-France friendship. The joint committee comprising high officials of the two governments met more than ten times to prepare for the project. In the course of the exhibition, Crown Prince Naruhito, Prime Minister Abe, Foreign Minister Kono and other Japanese dignitaries visited France and saw a number of the programs. The private sectors of both Japan and France extended generous cooperation including funding.

Above all, the success of the project was largely attributable to the choice of France as the venue country. Among the countries of the world, France has the highest level of art and culture and, in particular, has deep interest in and understanding of Japanese culture.

But even in France, understanding of Japanese culture was not quite enough in certain aspects. In a number of instances, difficulties arose as programs proposed with confidence by the Japanese side were deemed by the French side to be lacking in familiarity to the French people. Such was the case with the Jakuchū exhibition, which attracted a phenomenal crowd of 75,000 viewers in a month. Initially, the reaction was unenthusiastic in many quarters where it was said that Jakuchū had never been heard of. As it turned out, it was a resounding success with long queues of people at Petit Palais Museum.

Because of the differences in perspective between the Japanese and French sides, intense debates often took place on the selection of the works to be exhibited as well as the manner of exhibition. For example, it took nearly two years to select the 119 films to be shown on the program “100 years of Japanese cinema”, with the Japanese side preferring to showcase the broad and diverse range of Japanese films and the French side wishing to limit the scope to films that the French people had not seen before. In fact, what appeared to be a process of friction contributed to the deepening of mutual understanding between the artists and experts of the two countries, and a great gain was made in the strengthening of the ties and networks between them.

Coproduction in theater provided an important impetus for two-way exchange. For example, playwright Hideto Iwai, stayed for many months in an area heavily populated by immigrants in suburban Paris, and produced “WAREWARE NO MOROMORO” (OUR STORIES…) in collaboration with the local residents. This ambitious Japanese-French coproduction left a favorable impression on the French people who found it highly unique.

One thing we could have done better was the expansion of the project to areas outside Paris. There were limitations regarding the length of periods for sending the artists and works of art and also the difficulty of establishing the administrative bases in various localities. Notwithstanding these challenges, we are grateful that about one million people visited the exhibition from areas outside Paris.

The important thing is not to let this exhibition pass as a one-time big firework. We do hope to build on this experience as a model, and carry its resonance to other parts of the world.

Hiroyasu Ando is the President of the Japan Foundation and served as the Secretary General of Japonismes 2018.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

安藤 裕康 / 国際交流基金理事長

2019年 5月 30日











一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟

English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Japonismes 2018: les âmes en résonance