I visited the special exhibition by the Japan Cultural Expo, ‘The World of Traditional Performing Arts’, which showcases UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritages. It is a great place to visit on your own, in a group or as a couple for taking photos inside. There is also the Japan Cultural Expo VIRTUAL PLATFORM to be enjoyed online, where some of the actual exhibits can be experienced in a virtual space. I didn’t know much about Japanese traditional performing arts before, but I had a lot of fun at the exhibition, and I’d like to introduce some of the highlights to everyone!
It was a surprise arriving at the white Western-style building, as I was expecting a Japanese-style venue for this Japanese traditional performing arts exhibition. At the entrance you are greeted by a pair of lion statues. They are similar to the guardian dogs you see at a shrine; one with its mouth open to pronounce ‘a’ (the first letter of the Sanskrit alphabet) and the other with its mouth closed pronouncing ‘un’ (the last letter). The lion you see behind me is the ‘un’ lion. Please be sure to look at the lions when you visit.
Bunraku is a form of puppet theatre consisting of a vocal chanter known as ‘tayu’, a shamisen player and puppets. Don’t worry if you don’t know much about it, as you will find the explanations at the museum. I explored the exhibition reading the explanations, which made me feel slightly more knowledgeable by the end of the tour… The puppets exhibited at the Bunraku area are the ones used in an actual play. Through the expressions on the puppets’ faces and the elaborately made kimonos, I felt a sense of traditional craftmanship.
Photo taken with special permission
You will find the well-known Hannya (female demon) mask from Noh theatre at the exhibition. It is displayed on a transparent acrylic board, so by taking a photo from the front, it will look as if you are wearing the mask. There is also a woman’s mask (called ‘ko-omote’). This is a great spot to take some unique photos, and it’s also a rare opportunity to see the backside of Noh masks! This was an invaluable experience for me.
At the gallery space of each area, the actual costumes, musical instruments and props used on stage are showcased. This is a sanshin, which is a musical instrument used in the performance of Kumi-odori, an Okinawan song and dance performance. The body of the instrument is made of snake skin, which gives it an Okinawan feel. There are also the face parts of Bunraku puppets, kimonos, drums and so on. There were so many valuable exhibits that it’s almost impossible to see them all in detail in a short space of time.
I also saw a powerful display of Gagaku. Gagaku is said to be the oldest musical art form in the world. You will be drawn in by the colourful and unique world of this art. Most museums don’t usually allow photography, but The World of Traditional Performing Arts exhibition has a couple of areas where photography is allowed, so you can take a photo like this for posterity. I hope you can find your own good spot for taking photos.
Seeing the real displays at the museum has really sparked my interest in traditional Japanese arts! There were many exhibits there, and if you’d like to learn more about them, I recommend you to delve a little deeper into them at the Japan Cultural Expo VIRTUAL PLATFORM. In addition to traditional performing arts, you can also explore Japanese kimono and cultural treasures from the ancient Jomon period. In particular, you can zoom in on the kimono so close that you can actually see the individual threads. We hope you enjoy it!
Japan Cultural Expo VIRTUAL PLATFORM has been launched. This platform combines “real” experiences at physical venues and “virtual” experiences through online digital content, promoting these within Japan and beyond.
Japan Cultural Expo VIRTUAL PLATFORM allows everyone to experience its art exhibitions, performing arts, nature, and art festivals in the virtual world, utilizing video, VR, and images.