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Yokohama’s French connection

by Magdalena Osumi

Staff Writer

Around 150 years ago, silk traders from Lyon in France went all the way to Yokohama to buy silkworm eggs that they heard could resist an epidemic disease that was ravaging the French silk industry. Since then, the two cities have built a strong business variegated relationship and friendship.

This year marks the 55th year since the official recognition of the cities’ friendship, and the 90th anniversary of cultural relations between Japan and France. It is also the 10th anniversary of the Month of France — an annual series of cultural events organized by the Yokohama branch of the Institut Francais du Japon.

This year’s Month of France began in June and continues through mid-July. It features a mix of theater spectacles, film showings, exhibitions, concerts and other attractions that offer glimpses of France’s culture and lifestyle.

This Friday sees the opening of “Y es-tu?” (Are you there?),” a multimedia exhibition co-organized by the Institut Francais du Japon and Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse. Curated by choreographer Christian Rizzo and prepared in collaboration with the French contemporary arts center Le Fresnoy, the exhibition features many art, video and cinema works that are being shown in Japan for the first time. Rizzo, who has worked with the Ballet de l’Opéra de Lyon and is known for his acclaimed all-male piece “D’apres une histoire vraie” (which translates as “Based on a True Story”), will also dance in Japan for the first time on July 11.

For those interested in food culture, a seminar on French cheese, one on champagne and another on wine — all of which include tastings — are scheduled for June 23, 26 and July 4, respectively. This week, Tressa Yokohama in the city’s Kohoku Ward also hosts a French market, offering delicacies and souvenirs, while some of the French restaurants in Yokohama have made special additions to their menus.

Children and families can take part in various workshops, including one that offers an experience of the French lifestyle and one that introduces kids to film production. Other highlights include a French Animation Film Festival from June 28 to July 4 and a cultural event on June 22 that should help you start speaking French en un rien de temps.

The Yokohama Month of France continues through July 16 in Yokohama. Participation in some of the events is free. For more information, visit www.institutfrancais.jp/yokohama/events-manager/mf2014