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Takasaki Ryo reports on his experience at The World of Traditional Performing Arts exhibition and the Japan Cultural Expo VIRTUAL PLATFORM

I visited the exhibition of The World of Traditional Performing Arts at the Tokyo National Museum, which is supported by the Japan Cultural Expo. I explored the five areas – Kabuki, Bunraku, Noh and Kyogen, Gagaku and Kumi-odori. After seeing the valuable cultural treasures up close, I then enjoyed the Japan Cultural Expo VIRTUAL PLATFORM online. It was very interesting to learn about a world that we rarely have the chance to see. Here are some of the highlights of the traditional arts exhibition, which can be enjoyed both in real-life and virtually!

Arriving at the Western-style building of the Tokyo National Museum

A 10-minute walk from Ueno Station brings us to the Tokyo National Museum. The white building with its Western-style architecture is stunning. It was a beautiful day, so there was a beautiful contrast between the blue sky and the white building! The Hyokeikan gallery, where the The World of Traditional Performing Arts exhibition is held, is a leading example of Western-style architecture from the late Meiji period, and is designated as an Important Cultural Property of Japan. It is exciting as it feels like being overseas!

Kabuki and its roots in the flamboyant costumes of ‘Kabukimono’

Kabuki is one of the best-known of Japan’s traditional performing arts. However, not many people from my generation have actually seen it performed, so it can seem somewhat obscure. Kabuki is said to have its roots in ‘Kabukimono’; samurai who dressed in outrageous clothing. The gorgeous costumes of Kabuki were impressive, and are also relatable when you consider that they would have been seen as ‘Instagrammable’ at the time.

The sacred stage of Noh theatre

At the Noh and Kyogen area, I saw a display showing a typical stage used in Noh performances. All programs in Noh are dedicated to the gods, and there is a pine tree drawn on the stage, where the gods are considered to descend. It was very moving to see such a sacred place up close.

Japan’s flair for detail

The actual props used in traditional performing arts are showcased at the exhibition area. One of these is called ‘kendai’, a bookstand for the narrator to place the script in Bunraku, one of the traditional Japanese performing arts. If you look closely, you can see the colourful decorations at the bottom, reflecting the flair for detail of Japanese craftsmen.

Glamorous Costumes of Kumi-odori

Okinawa’s Kumi-odori is a traditional dance that originated in the Ryukyu Kingdom. Behind me is a picture of Shuri Castle in Okinawa, which makes me feel like I’m actually there! One of the attractions of Kumi-odori is the incredible costumes. Their bright colours seem perfect for the subtropical Okinawan climate. Traditional performing arts are often thought of as complex, but perhaps we can gain knowledge gradually, starting with an interest in the history and costumes.

Experiencing the Japan Cultural Expo VIRTUAL PLATFORM

The Japan Cultural Expo VIRTUAL PLATFORM is divided into four main areas – Main Square, Water Museum, Forest Village and the Wood Art Theatre – and you can explore freely as an avatar. Some of the content is also showcased in the air, giving you a unique virtual experience! We hope you enjoy these exhibits as well.

Japan Cultural Expo VIRTUAL PLATFORM

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.