Since Ueno Park (officially “Ueno Imperial Park”) opened in May 1876 as Japan’s first ever park, the surrounding area has attracted a medley of cultural facilities and institutions, including museums, art museums, an art university, a zoo, a music hall, and so on, making it a cultural zone unparalleled around the world.
Through collaboration with the groups and institutions in this area, we have created a cooperative society called “Ueno Cultural Park,” working to develop all kinds of projects to bring cultural and art activities to people around Japan and overseas. As one arm of this project, we held the Tokyo Suki Festival in Ueno last year, over the course of three days in October.
The Suki Festival has its origins in Kakuzo Okakura, a figure who played a crucial role in shaping the development of modern Japan, and his philosophy, which he laid down in The Book of Tea. Against the backdrop of Okakura’s legacy, and taking as its stage the cultural facilities spread throughout the park, we present various art works, workshops, and concerts based around the idea of suki—meaning both the tea ceremony itself and those that love it, as well as warm feeling in general—that Okakura laid down in his book. During this time 320,000 visitors enjoyed this program encouraging them to feel suki, to have a love for Japan and Tokyo.
* Part of the 2017 Cultural Activity Platform Project, Agency for Cultural Affairs
* Taito Ward Ueno Cultural Park Initiative, 2017
The Ueno area of Tokyo, with its dense proliferation of museums and universities, sits atop a thick-layered bed of historical strata. Now something is shaking the region’s temporal axis—and that something is a number of artists on the loose. These artists, whose work consists in giving shape to the things that they have perceived, surely have what it takes to live through an age of AI omnipotence, and to see things that others don’t. They have designed artworks and projects to stir up and rejuvenate Ueno’s wide offering of public spaces—or else, in the case of the Yanaka area, Japanese and French art students have come together to interact with the local area in a unique way. The result is an experiment that links together the cultural potential of Ueno with new creative forces.
At a time when the waves of globalization were crashing at the shores of pre-modern Japan with great force, a scholar called Kakuzo Okakura wrote The Book of Tea, describing the unique culture of the tea ceremony. In his book, he strongly emphasized the global quality of the way of tea, writing that ‘true beauty can be discovered only by those people who can take “the incomplete” and complete it within their minds. The powerful aspect of human life and art resides in the potential for that kind of development, and it is in quietly observing that imperfection that the West and East should be able to come together and provide solace to one another.’ The traditional word suki from which the festival has taken its name refers both to the tea ceremony, and to those who love it and practice it—as well as also meaning like, or love. We feel it’s time to delve again into the word suki, while thinking about what kind of contribution Japan plans to make to global culture post-Olympics.
Director of Arts Maebashi. Associate professor at Tokyo University of Arts. He was co-curator Aichi Triennale 2013 Beautiful New World: Contemporary Visual Culture from Japan (“798” Dashanzi Art District and Guangdong Museum of Art, 2007) and Media_City Seoul 2010. Also he was artistic director of Festival for Arts and Social Technology Yokohama [CREAM] 2009 and curator for Beppu Art Project 2012 and co-editor of “From Postwar to Postmodern, Art in Japan 1945-1989: Primary Documents”(Museum of Modern Art New York/ Duke UniversityPress, 2012).
During the Muromachi Period (1338-1573), sukisha (数寄者) referred to people who were fond of waka and renga poetry. When the wabi-cha tea ceremony gained popularity during the Azuchi-Momoyama Era, sukisha was used to refer to a tea master. Later on, a teahouse came to be called a sukiya (written as 数寄屋, 好家 and 空家). In “The Book of Tea,” Tenshin Okakura explains that a teahouse is a sukiya (好き家) that houses the preferred poetry of each person; that it is a place to fill with one’s aesthetic sentiments; and that it is also a sukiya (空き家) devoid of ornamentation; as well as a sukiya (数奇屋) that is respectfully and deliberately built as an incomplete structure, but which is only made complete by the thoughts of those who look upon it.
A teahouse is not a place of excessive beauty intended for ostentatious displays of wealth, but rather a temporary structure that is simple and humble, serenely quiet and clean, where both a feudal lord and a commoner can come together and concentrate on revering beauty. It is a place where one can freely engage in aesthetic contemplation to discover beauty amid ordinary surroundings and asymmetry. The likings of humans vary so greatly that there are just as many of them as there are individual people. We would like to show the world suki, the traditional aesthetic sense that is particular to Japan and allows the individual such great freedom.
Our organization was formed in order to promote awareness of the outstanding cultural resources in the area surrounding Ueno Park, and to reinvent Ueno as a key location for the promotion of culture, to rival equivalent areas in major world cities such as Paris and London.
We encourage area-specific initiatives such as the Ueno Welcome Passport and the Tokyo Suki Festival, as well as developing the local infrastructure by creating an information database about Ueno and its surrounding area, and enhancing its communication network and emergency provisions and facilities.
Ueno, a Global Capital of Culture
Ueno, a Global Capital of Culture
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