STORY Art Festivals A selection of art festivals in Japan
目 [mé], Elemental Detection, 2016 Saitama Triennale 2016 Photo: Natsumi Kinugasa
Art festivals are a great opportunity to see traditional and contemporary art from Japan and other countries
Japan hosts a wide range of enticing art festivals, featuring both local artists and well-known international contributors. Each festival is often centered around a specific theme, which can change from year to year, showcasing the participants' broad spectrum of styles and skills. Many exhibitions are set up in cities or areas that you might tend to skip on your average trip to Japan, drawing people to places that otherwise don't see a lot of visitors. During the festivals you will have the chance to experience not only the artwork, but also the fascinating history, local food, and culture of each particular area.
Setouchi Triennale (Kagawa and Okayama)
The Setouchi Triennale is held once every three years in three different seasons (spring, summer and autumn). The festival is spread over a wide area in Kagawa and Okayama. This includes multiple islands in the Seto Inland Sea such as Naoshima Island, Teshima Island, Shodoshima Island, Megi Island, Ogijima, and around Takamatsu Port. With their rural charm and sweeping coastal views, these islands provide the perfect backdrop for the many interesting pieces of art. The festival's recurring theme is “Restoration of the Sea,” and it aims to revitalize the local communities and inspire sustainable initiatives. The Setouchi Triennale was held in 2022, 2019, 2016, 2013, and 2010 (as of 2022).
Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale (Niigata)
Since 2000, the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale has been held every three years in the mountains of Niigata, which is famous for its heavy snowfall and delicious sake. Japan has an aging population with many people who are engaged in agriculture in the rural countryside. This festival invites visitors to explore the local lifestyle in the mountain villages and the region's stunning natural scenery through art. Featuring the theme “Human beings are part of nature,” the exhibitions aim to highlight the relationship between people and the land, and there are many permanent outdoor art installations as well. This big art event is held in the Echigo-Tsumari area . The Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale was held in 2022, 2018, 2015, 2012, 2009, 2006, 2003, and 2000 (as of 2022).
Reborn-Art Festival (Miyagi)
In 2011, the Great East Japan Earthquake and following tsunami caused severe damage to the country, especially to that of the northern Tohoku region. Since 2017, the Reborn-Art Festival has been held a number of times, with most of the events taking place in the coastal city of Ishinomaki in Miyagi.The festival aims to spark renewed interest and rediscovery of the region which has undergone extensive restoration work and efforts to revive the local communities. Apart from artwork and exhibitions, some of which have become permanent, the festival also features music. Furthermore, special food featuring the bounties of Ishinomaki's mountains, sea, and fields can be enjoyed during the festival. Reborn-Art Festival was held in 2022, 2021, 2019, 2018, and 2017(as of 2022).
Aichi Triennale (Aichi)
The Aichi Triennale is held every three years and has its main venue across a wide region, including the Aichi Arts Center and other city venues in Aichi. Along with contemporary art pieces from both local and international artists, the art festival also features a wide range of performing arts such as theater, music, and dance. In addition, as a part of the learning programs, the festival hosts lectures, artist talks, etc. on these art forms to help people better understand and enjoy their meanings and messages.
Aiming to make art accessible to as many people as possible, volunteer programs and guided tours are also available at the Aichi Triennale. This event was held in 2022, 2019, 2016, 2013, and 2010(as of 2022).
Yokohama Triennale (Kanagawa)
Since 2001, the Yokohama Triennale has been held every three years at various venues scattered around Yokohama City in Kanagawa. The festival features a mix of renowned international artists and up-and-coming artists, showcasing the latest trends in contemporary art. The Yokohama Triennale highlights the connection and relationship between Japan and the world. Various workshops and gallery talks about topics, such as the social role of art, take place during the festival. The Yokohama Triennale was held in 2020, 2017, 2014, 2011, 2008, 2005, and 2001 (as of 2022).
Saitama Triennale 2023 (Saitama)
The Saitama Triennale is held every three years. The festival displays artwork from both Japanese and international artists, which are unique and not bound by existing genres. You will also be able to see performance arts such as music and dance. Apart from both established and emerging artists, this festival also encourages local citizens to contribute, and various projects and events are held to facilitate communication and interaction between residents, artists, and visitors. The Saitama Triennale was held in 2020 and 2016 (as of 2022).
Japan Media Arts Festival (Tokyo)
The Japan Media Arts Festival is an annual event held in Tokyo. The festival is supported by the Japanese government's Agency for Cultural Affairs and aims to develop and promote the artform of a new generation, which is media arts. The festival revolves around four main themes: art, entertainment, animation, and manga. Awards are presented to works in each of these four categories, and award-winning pieces are exhibited not only in Japan but abroad as well. The festival also hosts workshops and other creative activities to inspire and educate the generations to come about media arts. Japan Media Arts Festival was last held in 2022 (as of 2022).