During the installation of this year’s Kyotographie international photography festival, which is currently running at various locations around Kyoto, an electric fan fell over at Nijo Castle, possibly leaving a slight mark on the wall of the World Heritage Site. For a few days it looked like one of the photography festival’s most impressive venues would be canceled.
One of the exhibitors, Richard Collasse, who is also chairman of the board at Chanel Japan, had things to say about the incident at his pre-exhibition talk. A tongue-lashing of Kyoto and Japan by a senior figure of a global fashion brand is not something you hear every day. While praising Kyotographie for being an important way for Kyoto to develop as a cultural center, he also castigated the city for being “the most closed society in a country whose spirit is still closed to the world.” That a small incident should blow up into such a huge issue was, in Collasse’s view, “a very Japanese problem.” The mainly Japanese audience that was present nodded and lightly tittered.
One reason Kyotoites might have been amused rather than offended by Collasse's chastisement is that if you love where you live, an outsider’s frustration at your exclusivity isn't a problem, it’s an affirmation. On the "love Kyoto" side, there is the artist couple and Kyotographie contributors RongRong and inri, who moved to the city six years ago. When I ask RongRong, who is originally from Fujian, China, what it was like to live in Kyoto, he says he would gladly stay forever.