Japanese culture is traditional and modern, cool and serious.
That’s the basic message that the Agency for Cultural Affairs would like the 4,000 visitors to the World Forum on Sports and Culture from more than 50 countries to take home.
“We would like to show the world not only traditional culture, but also modern culture by using technology. We want them to know Japan has very wide-ranging culture,” said Tadakazu Miki, director, Office for Press and Information at the Agency for Cultural Affairs.
The forum runs through Thursday in Kyoto and from Thursday to Saturday in Tokyo. Discussions on culture’s contribution to society and artistic performances will be held throughout the forum, with Kyoto being the center of cultural activities.
“Kyoto can show a wide range of Japanese culture. It has new and old elements of Japanese culture that are not separate. Together, the old and new can be very interesting and Kyoto can send such a message to the world,” Miki said.
The first event of the forum is the Kyoto Opening at 10 a.m., Wednesday, and will feature speeches by Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Minister Hirokazu Matsuno, Kyoto Gov. Keiji Yamada, Kyoto Mayor Daisaku Kadokawa and Kyoto Chamber of Commerce and Industry Chairman Yoshio Tateisi, who is also the honorary chairman of Omron Corp.
That is followed by the Cultural General Meeting, in which a variety of prominent figures from Japan and abroad with expertise in culture and art, including Genshitsu Sen, Grand Master XV, Urasenke Tradition of Tea and UNESCO goodwill ambassador, and Shinya Yamanaka, director, Center for iPS Cell Research and Application, Kyoto University, will make speeches.
The “Declaration” will also be announced from Kyoto, creating opportunities for the promotion of culture toward 2020 and issuing a message to the world that Japan is establishing a nation based on culture and the arts.
The Olympics and Paralympics are not only sporting events, but they are also supposed to be cultural events. The Olympic Charter stipulates as follows: “Olympism is a philosophy of life, exalting and combining in a balanced whole the qualities of body, will and mind. Blending sport with culture and education, Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy of effort, the educational value of good example, social responsibility and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles.”
The charter also stipulates, “It is recommended that National Olympic Committees include in their activities the promotion of culture and arts in the fields of sport and Olympism.”
After the general meeting, a cultural session, titled “Building the Future through Cultural and Artistic Resources — Shine On, Japan,” will be held as a kickoff event to generate national momentum in the run-up to the cultural programs. Meeting participants will debate and share ideas on the specific planning and implementation of these cultural programs, as well as on their expected cultural legacy.
The cultural session participants include Agency for Cultural Affairs Commissioner Ryohei Miyata, kyogen (comic theater) actor Ippei Shigeyama and Francis Gabet, director of the Olympic Foundation for Culture and Heritage.
Besides the discussion, the cultural session also includes some performances such as a choreographed wheelchair performance and songs by the idol group Momoiro Clover Z.
Also on the same day, three world-renowned Crystal Awardees — film producer Anant Singh, singer Angelique Kidjo and painter/poet/philosopher/author Tan Swie Hian — will deliver speeches in the main hall of Taizo-in at the Myoshinji Temple complex, the largest Zen temple in Japan. There will also be discussions on the topics of cultural exchanges between Japan and the world.
The World Economic Forum presents Crystal Awards to artists and cultural figures in the international community for their contributions to cultural exchanges and world peace.
Other cultural sessions in Kyoto include discussions on how to develop an effective system of archiving to collect, preserve, and make cultural resources available for public viewing, how to spark cultural innovation and how it can impact economic activities.
The venues of cultural sessions are at culturally valuable structures such as the Museum of Kyoto Annex Hall, which is registered as an Important Cultural Property, and the Kyu-Butokuden, also an Important Cultural Property, of the Kyoto City Budo Center.
After the serious discussions, forum participants will enjoy evening artistic performances at Nijo Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The main event at the castle will be a concert with a mixture of Japanese and Western instruments — koto, taiko drums, shakuhachi, violin, viola, cello and contrabass, making for a wonderful East meets West fusion. Other performances include rikka flower arrangement by Senko Ikenobou, a kemari (ancient Japanese football) demonstration and Japanese court music.
In Tokyo, a cultural session (symposium), titled “Inspiration for the Future: Arts and Disability,” will discuss art by people with disabilities, while such artwork will also be showcased at the National Art Center, Tokyo.
There will also be performances by cutting-edge creators that contain great contrasts of the modern and traditional.
“The Land of the Rising Sun” is one such artistic performance illustrating how Japan’s strength, resilience and kindness for others transcend from ancient times to the future. It is directed by Amon Miyamoto.
Also, kyogen actor Mansai Nomura and contemporary artist Hiroshi Sugimoto will present “Divine Dance Sambaso Kami Hisomi Iki.”
“The forum should be an opportunity for Kyoto, Tokyo, the state and other prefectures to unify, create the momentum to increase cultural and sports activities and send a message to the world that culture and sports unify the world,” Miki added.
To that end, the agency is conducting various cultural programs, especially in light of the fact that the International Olympic Committee recommended Japan hold cultural events in line with the Olympic Charter.
Besides the World Forum on Sport and Culture, the agency is the main organizer of the Japan Media Arts Festival 20th Anniversary Exhibition in October and November and other events. The agency also supports cultural events organized by local governments and the private sector, such as the Yokohama Otomatsuri (sound festival), which runs through November, Setouchi Triennale 2016, which was held in spring and summer and is being held through November on islands in the Seto Inland Sea, and other events.
“I am sure the World Forum on Sport and Culture will trigger a nationwide movement to activate Japanese culture and arts,” Miki said.