Ja­pan is the star of 8-month fes­ti­val in France

Gulf Times - - EUROPE -

The largest cel­e­bra­tion of Ja­panese cul­ture ever to take place out­side the coun­try starts this week­end in France.

The eight-month-long fes­ti­val “Japon­ismes 2018” fea­tures ev­ery­thing from pre­his­toric art to what the or­gan­is­ers bill as the first vir­tual re­al­ity con­cert staged in Europe.

“It’s the largest ex­trav­a­ganza of its kind ever held out­side Ja­pan,” its di­rec­tor Kore­hito Ma­suda told AFP.

Paris’s most fa­mous sites will be­come win­dows to Ja­panese cul­ture dur­ing the fes­ti­val.

The iconic Eif­fel Tower will be lit up in the colours of the Ja­panese flag for the first time in Septem­ber, while artist Ko­hei Nawa has in­stalled a mon­u­men­tal hang­ing gold throne in the pyra­mid of the Lou­vre mu­seum un­til Novem­ber.

Other events across France aim to show the im­mense global in­flu­ence of the Land of the Ris­ing Sun.

French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron said Ja­panese cul­ture has in­flu­enced gen­er­a­tions of French artists from Monet and the Im­pres­sion­ists to the present.

France is the big­gest overseas mar­ket for Ja­panese manga comics.

“The French, more than all of the other na­tions, know Ja­panese cul­ture best,” said Ma­suda.

An­other high­light of the sea­son, whose €30mn ($35mn) bud­get is be­ing en­tirely met by Tokyo, is the “first vir­tual re­al­ity con­cert” in Europe.

Hat­sune Miku, which trans­lates lit­er­ally as “the first sound of the fu­ture”, is a 3D singer cre­ated thanks to vir­tual re­al­ity tech­nol­ogy.

Miku has al­ready won hearts and filled sta­di­ums in Asia and North Amer­ica with her man­gain­flu­enced style, and will take to the stage in Paris in De­cem­ber.

“We wanted to show the con­ti­nu­ity of Ja­panese tra­di­tion up to the present day through the in­te­gra­tion of tra­di­tional art and tech­nol­ogy,” Ma­suda said.

An in­ter­ac­tive child-friendly ex­hi­bi­tion in Paris im­merses vis­i­tors in a won­der­land of sa­mu­rai and the bu­colic Ja­panese coun­try­side cre­ated by Hayao Miyazaki for his an­i­mated clas­sics like Spir­ited Away, My Neigh­bour To­toro and Howl’s Mov­ing Cas­tle, jux­ta­posed with a 11m-high vir­tual wa­ter­fall which moves in step with vis­i­tors’ feet.

Ja­panese cinema also comes un­der the spot­light, with a ret­ro­spec­tive for the coun­try’s best known fe­male di­rec­tor, Naomi Kawase, famed for her doc­u­men­tary Em­brac­ing, about her search for her fa­ther who aban­doned her as a child.

The high-pro­file events are a part of Ja­pan’s cul­tural of­fen­sive against the ris­ing star of neigh­bour­ing China, which is mak­ing ma­jor strides to mod­ernise its own artis­tic out­put.

France com­peted against Rus­sia and Spain to host the sea­son, win­ning out, the or­gan­is­ers said, be­cause of its ob­ses­sion with all things Ja­panese.

The fes­ti­val, sub­ti­tled “Souls in Syn­ergy”, seeks to strengthen the cul­tural ties be­tween France and Ja­pan as the two na­tions cel­e­brate 160 years of diplo­matic re­la­tions.

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