Japan attracts millions of visitors each year for its rich and iconic cultural elements. But have you ever thought of visiting Japan for a foray of modern art? Japanese artists have put their names out there on the international stage, and now every month dozens of art festivals take place all around the country. We’ve picked out the best 5 here for you to plan an amazing art journey to Japan.
Started in 2010 to help revitalize the Seto Inland area suffering from growing depopulation over the years, it has quickly rose to fame for its creative and daring use of housing and installing artworks with abandoned houses or even islands. The festival lasts for three seasons; one in spring, one in the midst of summer, and one more in the fall, each with many different agendas and exhibits.
Highlights include Teshima Museum, housed in a single concrete shell and showing only one single art piece; The Inujima project, involving an abandoned refinery; Megijima, where natural caves are made into use for art installations; and Chichuma Art Museum, a concrete slab palace showcasing subangular beauty of the building itself aside from art. Visitors can easily spend a week or so exploring all the participating sparsely populated islands, combining nature with modern art. Regardless of seasons, on any good day you can just find a spot to relax near the coastlines and see the artworks facing the blue, stunningly beautiful open sea.
Next edition: 2019
No. of Artists: 117
Dates: 3/20-4/17 (Spring) 7/18-9/4 (Summer) 10/8-11/6 (Autumn)
Echigo Tsumari Triennale
Held in the eponymous art field deep in the mountains of inland Niigata, the art festival attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors, Japanese and foreign to this rural region of the prefecture every three years. Held since 2000, it has grown into one of the largest of its kind in the world. Utilizing the beautifully designed Satoyama Museum as a base and HQ, it stages a myriad of exhibitions. Thanks to the remote nature of Echigo-Tsumari, the event space is spread out and there’s an omnipresent element of “connecting with nature”.
It’s emphasis of a community building up the festival has been widely acclaimed and dubbed the “Tsumari Approach” by medias; the Triennale has organized homestays, arranged school lectures and even invited local farmers for workshops. And above all, the scenery in the famous Japanese Alps is breathtaking.
Next Edition: 2021
No. of Artists: ~200
Held around the largest lake in Japan since 2001, the Biwako Biennale utilizes the ancient castle town of Omihachiman and its streetscape as a platform for international artists to showcase their works. The historic district had faced a period of neglect and decline; organizers team up with volunteers to tidy up many abandoned old houses and turn them into art spaces in an effort to preserve the rich architectural heritage of the town.
Strolling through Edo period streets while enjoying avant-grade installations in the wooden residences. For those who love to explore more, join a weekend night tour of the festival grounds or hope on a boat and cruise around the old canals of this beautiful Shiga town.
Next Edition: 2020
No. of Artists: 78
Dates: Happening now! Biwako Biennale 2018 runs till Nov. 11. Contact us for tickets if interested.
Yamagata Prefecture , tucked up north in Japan’s Tohoku region, promotes itself as a laid back alternative to the bustling metropolises in Kanto or Keihanshin—the “other side” of Japan. Held on the ground of the Tohoku University of Art and Design, the Yamagata Biennale showcases the very best of domestic Japan creativity in all fields of arts. Cutting edge conceptual art are shown alongside indigenously-inspired projects throughout the length of the festival, under a different, well-thought theme. Expect a lot of Japanese being shown and spoken, and enjoy a unique adventure into the mountains of the great Japanese North.
Next Edition: 2020
No. of Artists: ~120
Roppongi Arts Night
True to it name, the much anticipated event in the center of Tokyo will run from dusk till dawn for three days in the tip end of May. An annual nocturnal celebration of all things art, it shows a Tokyo district like one’s never seen before in the dark. Line-up of outdoor installations, art events, live performances, cultural exhibitions and more are to be expected. Have a real life Night at the Museum experience hopping between museums in the middle of the night, and then wait for the beautiful sunrise above the Tokyo skyline to see how this city comes back from sleep to another day. Their slogan is “The city dreams of art”—and they surely mean it literally. It’s probably going to be the most unforgettable sleepless night of your life.
Next Edition: 2019
No. of Artists: 63
Prefecture: Tokyo Metropolis