• Kengo Kuma, seeing Tokyo from a cat's eye view

    People & Culture_Story

    Kengo Kuma, seeing Tokyo from a cat's eye view


As part of their ongoing series of fascinating and culturally innovative events, Japan Cultural Expo's affiliated exhibition titled "Kuma Kengo: Five Purr-fect Points for a New Public Space" is currently running. Showcasing the works of Kengo Kuma, the man behind the Japan National Stadium and one of the leading figures in both the Japanese and global architecture world. If you've ever wanted to get a fresh perspective on the city, this is the opportunity.

From one Olympic history to today, the exhibit has far-reaching roots, going all the way back to 1961. In advance of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, architect Tange Kenzo (1913-2005) published a proposal titled "A Plan for Tokyo 1960." In this proposal, he outlined his now-legendary vision of a city floating over Tokyo Bay. Kuma's new exhibit is a play on an almost philosophical extension of this proposal, "A Plan for Tokyo, 2020: Five Purr-fect Points for Feline Architecture."

As the exhibit's name suggests, the exhibit sees Kuma take a more animalistic approach to city development and design. It's exploring the architecture-industry icon's ideologies about humankind's place in nature through a whole new angle. The display is the evolution of a research project that saw Kuma reinterpret the urban environment from the ground up, a cat's eye view as it were, as opposed to the typical bird's eye view, from which Tange once made iconic.

"A Plan for Tokyo, 2020: Five Purr-fect Points for Feline Architecture" features a selection of 68 designs from Kuma's global projects, focusing heavily on public pieces. Think public spaces or spaces – like the Japan National Stadium – that redefine how the population sees or interacts with the city.

The exhibition, which runs until September 26 at The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, as one of the Japan Cultural Expo Presented and Co-presented Projects, also features another 74 exhibits, including video works and a mobile home displayed in front of the museum, showcasing Kuma's vision, with all the introductions for the pieces written by Kuma. It's an exciting and unique opportunity to see Tokyo from a whole new perspective while going deeper into the philosophies of one of the nation's greatest architectural minds.

From the Japan National Stadium to the National Theatre, as an almost accompaniment of sorts, the Japan Cultural Expo also recently hosted Discover Kabuki, a kabuki performance expertly designed as an entry point into this richly fascinating form which offers multilingual assistance. The event, which is one of an ongoing series of the "Discover"-themed performances of Japanese theatre and musical arts, saw Japanese personalities Nakamura Tanenosuke and Kisa Ayako take audiences through 'how to enjoy kabuki' in English, so audiences of all backgrounds can come together to enjoy this iconic piece of Japanese culture.

The day's kabuki performance told the story of Yoshitsune Senbon Sakura (Yoshitsune and the Thousand Cherry Trees), an iconic folk tale that debuted all the way back in 1748. This event will be followed by Discover Noh, which is scheduled for October 21st and more performances that are perfect for those wanting to 'discover' Japanese culture.

The first event is Nihon no Taiko (Taiko Drums of Japan), which will feature commentary and a demonstration by Hayashi Eitetsu, the leading Japanese drum performer and his drum ensemble Eitetsu FU-UN no KAI. Happening on August 7, it'll also feature a performance from the Tohoku area, presented to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake and honour the reconstruction that has followed. The second event, on October 9, is The History of Japanese Music Ⅳ - Fue & Shakuhachi, a showcase of Japanese traditional folk music. For more information or to book a ticket, visit the Japan Arts Council website.

Photo credit: Kim Marcelo

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