When you reach the ultimate peak of your creativity and come up with an idea so absurd and original that you’re certain it’s unprecedented, hold on before you run out to obtain a patent; it’s inevitable that someone in Tokyo already signed up for it. This is nearly always the case, whether the idea entails a hospital theme bar, up-side-down umbrellas or hotels offering only beds tucked away in cupboard drawers. Japan rules. And, much to the Grapevine’s liking, the Nordic House launched an elaborate festival earlier this week, aimed at giving us a chance to catch a glimpse of the innovative and spectacular world hidden on an island far, far away in the East.
Finnish-Japanese architecture and cuisine workshops
Eloquently titled 101 Tokyo, the festival kicks off the first Japanese foray of its kind into Icelandic cultural life, and the assortments are both whopping and educational. To roughly depict the infrastructure of the festival you could say it’s divided into three major sections: exhibitions, workshops and movie-screenings. There are also a few minor ones. There are exhibitions that vary from prestigious installments from art companies such as Theatre Products to youngster collaborations. Theatre Products has over the years become established for its cultural infused works in Japan, combining tradition with modern values. The textile group NUNO – whom many renowned artists and architects claim introduce a groundbreaking element into the textile worlds – will also exhibit their products.
One of the cornerstones of the festivals is the Alvar Aalto showroom, where the Japanese impact on the Finnish architect is emphasised. This known fact to architectural enthusiasts is made blatantly evident to us amateurs once Aalto’s work is examined in that context.
But hey, don’t sweat it bro; if this sounds too intimidating and you’re not into 20th century architecture (and its connection to other nations’ cultural backgrounds, uhumm), or trendy art companies, you’ll still find something that rocks your boat. A popular choice would be the several workshops up for grabs. Who hasn’t wanted to throw a sushi party where you change your kitchen into a real Japanese delicatessen, or show off by garnishing gift cards with calligraphy? Well, here’s your chance. Famed professionals are offering all of us common folk to study the ancient arts, so it’s definitely worth skipping one afternoon at the bar.
High-class Anime and highbrow musicians
The good people at the Nordic House sure have some contacts, ‘cause the infamous Icelandic anime boutique Nexus sent out a in-house invitation where they explained how they’ve plugged two lectures by Japanese pros for the Nordic House – not just your run of the mill pros though: the crème de la crème of the sector. Those in question are the prominent Nobuhiro Suwa, a FIPRESCI award winner at Cannes and a current professor at Zokei University in Tokyo, who will demonstrate the works of young Japanese filmmakers as well as covering the Japanese film scene as a whole. Masaaki Mori will be accompanying him; he is an eminent anime-buff, so if you want to learn something, check it out. You might even have an artistic epiphany.
Workshops and lectures might be too aggressive for some, but to underline the festival’s extreme variety, it has a treat for those who merely want to chill out. The basic thing to do is to frequent their Sunday evening film screenings where you can witness some genuine Japanese masterpieces such as Always: Sunset on Third Street, The Burmese Harp or Kikujiro, grab a bucket of popcorn and pour down a cold cola to finalise the weekend’s burlesque. On the other hand, the famed Shugo Tokumaru will be playing his music along with our very own Amiina (a precious sibling of superstars Sigur Rós) on Wednesday July 1. You’ve no excuse for not showing up.