Tokyo Tokyo FESTIVAL is an initiative that unfolds a variety of cultural programs to enliven Tokyo, which is hosting the Olympic and Paralympic games, from a cultural perspective and to convey the appeal of Tokyo as a city of art and culture to the wider world.
Based on the concept “The Future Is Art”, a number of programs are being held in and around Tokyo to give a sense of the possibilities for the future that arise from the intersection of tradition and modernity and of various cultures from around the world. We work together with the Japanese government, local governments, arts-related and cultural organizations, and others to promote the appeal of Tokyo’s culture, including its diversity and uniqueness. A lot of people have probably seen posters and banners at art galleries and other places in Tokyo.
Tokyo Tokyo FESTIVAL, which was supposed to go ahead in 2020, had to postpone or cancel many of its programs due to the global spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, even during that time, preparations continued with a strong desire to keep the light of culture from going out.
One of the most noteworthy programs is Tokyo Tokyo FESTIVAL Special 13. Thirteen projects with genres ranging from dance performances to architecture, art, and manga were chosen from a public selection process with more than 2,400 submissions.
Come and experience the appeal of Tokyo, a city of art and culture.
「Tokyo Tokyo FESTIVAL Special 13」Official Website
TOKYO REAL UNDERGROUND, which is being held from April to August 2021 mainly in the Ginza and Shimbashi areas and online, is a dance festival that interprets the word “underground” in two ways: as an actual underground space and as the “free spirit” that characterizes so-called angura (Japanese avant-garde theater).
We spoke with artistic director KAWAGUCHI Takao(a performer) and producer MIZOHATA Toshio (president of the NPO Dance Archive Network) about this popular festival that provides a panoramic view of the past, present, and future of Butoh.
Butoh arose in Japan in the 1960s and then spread around the world. Kawaguchi performs contemporary dance internationally, and in recent years, he has been reenacting the performances of OHNO Kazuo, one of the founders of Butoh.
“When you think about dance, you probably imagine beautiful forms of motion and choreography, but in Butoh, I think the main motivation for movement is more internal, what is going on inside the body. What I feel when I perform “About Kazuo Ohno” is that it has the potential to be a cutting-edge leader in the art world. As a form of contemporary art, Butoh plays a very avant-garde role.
The entire body is painted stark white and the performer twists their body with an extremely contorted face, showing forms that are not what a normal body looks like. I think it’s very interesting that Butoh, which created a huge wave in the so-called angura from the 1960s to the early 1980s, is now getting renewed attention worldwide, especially in the context of contemporary dance.”
This time, as a dance festival happening during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is an exhibition in an underground passage in Ginza, online performances that are filmed without spectators, and AR works that mix real and online. What are the highlights that Kawaguchi talked about?
“The Internet inundates us with all kinds of videos and images, so I think it is extremely important in today’s society to carefully examine very small details and the energy that is generated inside the body but can’t be seen from outside.
It used to be said that ‘the best part of a live performance is getting sprayed with the sweat of the performers while you watch.’ Nowadays, it is difficult to do that because of the COVID-19 pandemic, so we use technology like streaming video to compensate. The cameras can get really close, capturing the performers from just a few centimeters away. It also lets us see the performance from different angles, which I think provides a different kind of enjoyment from what you get in an ordinary theater.”
This project offers an unprecedented viewing experience thanks to the pandemic. It’s a program that lets you feel the passionate energy of the performers.
William Klein Photography Exhibition: GINZA 1961—Starring: The City
Dates: Thursday, April 1 to Tuesday, July 13, 2021
Location: Ginza Underpass (underground passage between Ginza and Higashi-Ginza stations)
An urban photography exhibition with 10 photographs by photographer William Klein, who first came to Japan in 1961, bring the metropolis to life 60 years later.
Walking AR Experience: Dance Happening—Today
Dates: Thursday, April 1 to Sunday, August 15, 2021
Location: The streets of Ginza and Shimbashi and online
HIJIKATA Tatsumi, OHNO Kazuo, and OHNO Yoshito are considered to be the founders of Butoh. Holding up your smartphone at locations indicated on the map will let you view slideshows of some 350 photos taken back in 1961, including the three performers. This is a new kind of street-walking AR piece.
Online Timeline: Butoh Incidents
Dates: Thursday, April 1 to Sunday, August 15, 2021
A look back at the history of Butoh through illustrations.
“Takao Kawaguchi: About Kazuo Ohno” and other programs
Dates: Saturday, April 24 to Sunday, August 15, 2021
New and topical works by popular artists who travel around the world have been performed and filmed without spectators to be streamed online.
Talks related to the performances and exhibits are also being streamed.
What can be achieved through art? The world has changed so much, and there are a variety of things I want to explore going forward. When an extremely trivial reality is presented to us in a bold, unprecedented way, it produces unexpected feelings, thoughts, and surprises. This is very important and something that we need. I think that’s what art is.
We are entering a new era for Butoh. The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken the foundations of society, causing changes so drastic that the word “new” cannot describe them, so this event will be held online. The pandemic made me realize once again that the most important thing is connecting with people. My desire is to convey that fact to people through art.
TOKYO REAL UNDERGROUND opened on April 1. One fine day, I get off the subway at Ginza Station and head to the underground passage next to the Mitsukoshi entrance.
When I hear the word “Butoh”, it brings to mind an image of dancers with shaved heads and white body paint. By the way, this is a world about which I have absolutely no knowledge. I walk along and come across some enormous posters! The bright red contrasts with the monochrome photographs.
At once, I’m overwhelmed by their appearance. I can feel this indescribable energy coming from the performers — perhaps because the photographs are black-and-white. The scenes in the background are also interesting. The signs from that era and the expressions of city folk from 60 years ago watching a performance suddenly unfold on the streets of Ginza are so interesting that I can’t help looking at them.
Next, I go to the TOKYO REAL UNDERGROUND website, which I have already saved to my favorites, and tap “Start AR Experience”. When I do, a map of the Ginza vicinity appears. But what I didn’t realize is that I didn’t have to do this, because the QR code is shown right in the exhibit!
If you walk to a numbered location and hold up your smartphone, a slideshow of photographs taken in 1961 will begin. It was photographer William Klein who photographed the performers HIJIKATA Tatsumi, OHNO Kazuo, and OHNO Yoshito, who are considered to be the founders of Butoh, on the streets of Ginza and Shimbashi after the rain.
I’ve only experienced AR a few times in my life. I excitedly try operating it in various ways. Walking down the street with my smartphone held up, I’m like, “Wow! This was Mitsukoshi?” I say Mitsukoshi because I’m impressed by the Mitsukoshi building from that era that is shown in the slideshow; but to the people around me, it looks like I’m impressed by the streets of modern-day Ginza around me. I must look like a country bumpkin in awe of the big city, but I don't care (laughs).
There are several other locations where you can also view slideshows, including an underground passage in Ginza and the vicinity of Shimbashi.
*It’s easy to get carried away, but take care not to be so distracted by your smartphone that you bump into another pedestrian. You can see the slideshows online without actually visiting those locations.
Even if you have never peered into the world of Butoh before, you can still get a sense of its history and enjoy an AR experience through TOKYO REAL UNDERGROUND. In addition to the above, we have an online timeline and a variety of programs that include online performances by popular artists! I think they should advertise more, but perhaps this restraint approach is what makes it underground.
「TOKYO REAL UNDERGROUND」Official Website
*This information is current as of May 11, 2021. Please see each program’s official website for the latest information.
I love movies and technology. I travel around Tokyo by bicycle. I enjoy the scenes of daily life that I experience while riding, like the smell of dinner.
I love movies and entertainment in general, traditional crafts, and manufacturing sites. I believe that intuition is important today. I like cats and try to get close whenever I see one.
I love contemporary art, movies, and music. I’ve also become interested in traditional performing arts recently. I also have a weakness for good food and watching sports.