Such a cosmopolitan metropolis is London, that there’s been an exchange in trade, ideas and especially culture between the UK capital and Japan for many centuries – and it’s something that shows no sign of abating. So, should you be looking to visit London and, whether you hail from the land of the rising sun or you’re merely an enthusiast of all things Japanese, you may be interested to learn of the following events coming up over the coming months…
Animated Soundscapes of the Japanese Sublime
(26th February, from 7.30pm/ Cafe Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street E8 3DL)
Demonstrating just how vibrant the Japanese arts and culture scene has become in London, this brand new experimental music and animation project is actually the brainchild of a British music producer and sound artist named Verity Lane. That said, it’s very much Japanese-influenced; don’t doubt it.
Indeed, blending classical and avant-garde artistry, it’s a collaboration that involves a trio of animators and a traditional dancer. The result then is four sonic installations that combine live musical performance via traditional Japanese and Western instruments, visual artwork and the spoken word,; the musical instruments including the likes of the koto (harp), sho (mouth-organ) and shakuhachi (bamboo flute), as well as the piano and organ.
The inspiration behind the performance is the Japanese ‘yugen’, an aesthetic strongly associated with traditional Japanese Noh theatre that’s often described as ‘the dark and mysterious’, although Lane prefers the phrase ‘Japanese Sublime’. Using as its basis then yugen’s poems and stories and incorporating its themes of the mysterious, melancholic and transcendental, this new work looks to update its yugen inspiration via radical creative elements to produce a compelling and enthralling evening’s entertainment – which, as its venue’s located in Dalston, would be ideal should you be staying at one of the hotels near Moorgate or at accommodation near Brewery Road London City (the Montcalm at The Brewery London City).
Yamato: The Drummers of Japan
(14th-25th March, from 7.30pm/ Peacock Theatre WC2A 2HT)
Fancy an exhilarating encounter with Japanese culture? Well, pop along to the Peacock Theatre in March and experience the ferocious, heart-stopping undulations of a set of traditional Taiko drums, traditionally used in Shinto rituals. Weighing half a tonne each, these instruments enable their drummers to showcase their talent as they push themselves to the limit, putting on a terrific display of not just skill but physical strength; using their whole bodies to create the thunderous sounds. Awesome!
Hokusai: Beyond the Great Wave
(25th May–13th August/ British Museum, Great Russell Street WC1B 3DG)
It may be difficult to find many people in the UK – and throughout the world – who struggle to recognise Katsushika Hokusai’s idiosyncratic wave-featuring portrait paintings, so ubiquitous have they. And this exhibition at the illustrious British Museum is set not just to display the greatness of the artist’s hugely popular prints and paintings (on loan from venues across the planet), but also take you on a journey through the final three decades of his career and life, during which it’s considered he generated much of his finest work.
The Colourful Festivals of Kyoto
(30th May, from 6.30pm/ Lodge Room 11, 60 Great Queen Street WC2B 5AZ)
For many, the traditional and sacred customs of Japan are not just full of colour and beauty but also shrouded in mystery. That enigmatic quality, however, should be lifted somewhat via this lecture delivered by Pauline Chakmakjian, a Visit Kyoto ambassador and writer about Japanese and British Masonic history. She’ll be speaking on the near 500 festivals (including the celebrated matsuri events) that are held annually in and around the spiritual sites of the Imperial city of Kyoto. Be warned, though; tickets aren’t actually on sale for this lecture – to attend you’ll have to reserve a seat by either calling the Japan Society on 020 3075 1996 or emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org.