Japan Design Week at Fujisawa – Dec 2017

Title: Fujisawa Design Week – Art & Music – Japan Dec 2017

‘Art & Music’ speak no boundaries.

Prior to my visit for ‘Fujisawa Design Week’, I was a little worried about how the language barrier may become an issue for me but despite not knowing much Japanese (well, I only did a 10-week Elementary Class), it was an event that brought me closer to the hearts of the local Japanese.

This event was organized by Japan Design Week, a project that aims to increase awareness to the new activities and various (tourism) products, unique to the regional location and local artists.

Fujisawa Design Week is held for the second time this year, following the success of last year’s event which included a super robot exhibition and a talk session with an architect. You can watch the highlights of last year’s event in this video.

Fujisawa Design Week

Date: 2nd – 10th December 2017 (D days)
Venue: 1 Terrace Mall Shonan, 1-3-1 Tsujidokandai, Fujisawa City, Kanagawa Prefecture
Organized by: JAPAN DESIGN WEEK
Co-organizer: Fujisawa City
Sponsored by: ABLE & PARTNERS INC.

This year, the theme was on ‘Art & Music’, something that is quite close to my heart.

We started off the day with a ‘Local Creation Talk Show’ with 3 girls from AKB48 Team 8.

In case you are unfamiliar with AKB48, they are a group of 125 girls (split up into 5 teams, Team A, Team K, Team B, Team 4 and Team 8). The most interesting think of Team 8 is that it comprises of 47 girls, 1 from each prefecture of Japan.

It was a closed-door event for media and 100 lucky ‘fans’ who had to ballot for tickets. The method of ‘balloting’ is something pretty unique in the music entertainment in Japan. Unlike other countries which usually sell tickets on a first-come-first-serve basis, Japan likes to use the ‘balloting’ method for a fair system to prevent black market sales.

As I have attended various press conferences related events for music artists before, this talk show concept was pretty familiar to me. I was really impressed with the order and calmness of the fans. They had assigned seat numbers and everyone remained very quiet while waiting for the girls to appear. Even after they appeared, there was no shouting or cheering but just cameras clicking away. Even when they stand up to take a photo, they try to do it swiftly and then sit down quickly, in order not to block the view of the others.

The Talk Show was 45 mins long and the 3 girls (Rin Okabe (21) from Ibaragi Prefecture, Erina Oda (20) from Kanagawa Prefecture and Ayane Takahasi (20) from Saitama Prefecture) shared their thoughts about painting and design. They spoke about their aspirations in wanting to design something of their own in future, be it clothing, interior design or even design. At the end of the session, they also showcased an artwork which they did before the Talk Show!

At the end of the talk show, we even had a private interview session with the girls! They shared about the highlights of their prefectures – Okabe shared about Ushiku Daibutsu, a 120m bronze statue in Ibaraki Prefecture; Oda from Kanagawa Prefecture talked about Kamakura and Yokohama’s Red Brick Warehouse and lastly, Takahashi from Saitama Prefecture shared about the many high-school animations which are part of Japanese subculture.

The second event for ‘Fujisawa Design Week’ was an Onwasai ‘live music’ festival by four Sony Music artists. It was an un-ticketed free concert, held outside the Terrace Mall Sonan (walking distance from Tsujido Station).

The concert started at 3PM sharp, with an opening act by Anna Takeuchi.

Despite being only 19 years old, her live performance on stage (with her acoustic guitar) was pretty amazing and she is fluent in both Japanese and English (Note: she was born in the US). She is a singer-songwriter preparing to make her major debut in 2018, after winning an audition contest back in June 2017. Do check out her YouTube channel. She has a certain ‘X’ factor and I’m quite confident of her success in the next few years.

The second act was the vocalist of Kuroneko Chelsea – Daichi Watanabe. Their most famed song is probably Aono Lullaby which as used as an ending song for Naruto 37. He sang this song ‘live’ on set too! He has a soulful and powerful voice which resonates the emotions of the song out very well, even though I don’t understand a single word of the lyrics.

The third act was by Rina Sumioka, a Hokkaido-born artist who plays the acoustic guitar as well! During her performance, she also played the xylophone for a Christmas rendition of ‘Silent Night’. She sang this song – kotobanishitainda live that evening. Pretty impressive! She is not only a talented musician; she also starred in a popular television series ‘Terrace House’.

The final act for the night was ‘Sky’s The Limit’, probably the most popular act among the 4 artists that night. A four-artist vocal group originating from Okinawa, they are well known for their a cappella performances from the ‘X FACTOR’ audition program. In fact, they only recently started their promotions in Tokyo! With my poor understanding of Japanese, I vaguely remember them talking about how Fujisawa was near the sea and that it was similar to Okinawa! I really loved their performances that night (which includes a bit of dance) and there were also fans in the crowd with their ‘fan towel’. They were the liveliest of the lot and even came back with an encore performance, requested by the crowd. Weirdly, I can’t share any YouTube videos from their official channel as it has not been made open to my country (oh wells), but do check their music out if you have the chance! Their rendition of ‘Only Human’ is really nice!

After the music concert, we had the opportunity to meet the artists up close and personal for a short interview session. This was the first time I actually got into a real preparation room behind the scenes so it was a really cool experience!

It was a very casual session and the artists were all very friendly and warm! Despite the cold weather and outdoor stage, Sumioka enjoyed performing as she felt that the audience was very welcoming and that made her really happy! Similar for Takeuchi, she was delighted when the crowd started clapping along to her music without any signal.

Also, Sky’s The Limit mentioned that there were 2 Singaporean fans that went for their concert in Okinawa few days ago! I guess this is a sign that music knows no boundaries! Despite not knowing the language or understanding the language, music is something that can act like a communication tool which can bring people together. This was something that both Sumioka and Takeuchi acknowledged through their overseas visit in Europe and Malaysia respectively.

After the interview session, it was time for the launch of the illumination painting exhibition by Akihiro Nishino. The Poupelle of Chimney Town is a best-selling picture book which was released last October. To date, it has exceeded sales of more than 330,000 (I ended up buying a copy too because the artwork was simply too beautiful. For your information, the book comes in both Japanese and English text)! For this exhibition, there were 41 glowing paintings (from his book) on display at the Welcome Terrace of the Terrace Mall Shonan. Just a side note, Akihiro Nishino was actually a famous comedian before becoming an artist. He has since ‘retired’ from entertainment, now focusing on illustrations and writing. Also, he intends to produce this book into a movie (which will take about 2 years). I’m really looking forward to see this meaningful story on the big screen.

We also had a chance to have a quick chat with the artist himself! He mentioned that he will be going to New York for an exhibition next year. Also, he mentioned one interesting thing that he noticed different between Japan and the rest of Asia. In Japan, the TV has more power than the internet world. I guess this could be a strategy that Japanese artists can work on, should they want to expand to Asia and the rest of the world. Indeed, the internet world is the trend in most markets, be it for news, entertainment, travel and in fact everything!

Parting Thoughts

Although the event was really short, it did pique my interest in researching more about the artists and the author himself. During my stay in Japan, I went over to a Kinokuniya outlet and bought ‘The Poupelle of Chimney Town’ book. I really enjoyed the story and deeper meaning the story entails.  Music wise, I ended up listening to the performances of ‘Sky’s The Limit’ on YouTube. I do have some songs on repeat and they’re definitely a band that I would hope to see them perform ‘live’ again!

Want to take part in the next event for Japan Design Week? Please find the details below:

MATSUYAMA DESIGN WEEK Pre-Event Musical Festival ~ Pihyara ~

Date: Saturday, February 10, 2018
Time: 1:00PM– 5:30PM
Venue: Matsuyama Castle, Shiroyama Park, Horinouchi Area

*“Poupelle Exhibition” will be held from February 10 – 12 (10:00 AM – 8:00PM)

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