Kansai region in midst of arts renaissance

This article was originally published in the Japan Times newspaper on Jan 1 2015.

In its 2013 policy report, the Agency for Cultural Affairs vowed to build “a nation based on culture and the arts” through the promotion of regional festivals, artist-in-residence programs and other events.

So what can we expect the Kansai region’s contribution to the performing arts to be in 2015?

For its part, Kinosaki International Arts Center, which opened in April 2014, will continue to connect its resident artists with surrounding communities in order to foster the cultural appeal of that hot-springs-blessed corner of Hyogo Prefecture on the Sea of Japan coast.

Festivals, too, will play a role through the annual Osaka-based TACT/FEST aimed at a younger theater audience — though 2015’s sixth annual Kyoto Experiment has sadly been postponed for a year until after the January 2016 reopening of its new hub, the Kyoto Rohm Theatre, which is being transformed into a multispace center for opera, dance and theater.

Then down by the Seto Inland Sea in Nishinomiya, the ever-exciting Hyogo Performing Arts Center will, under the leadership of music conductor Yutaka Sado, celebrate its 10th anniversary this year, having been built in response to the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake that claimed some 6,500 lives in the area.

Meanwhile, smaller venues worth checking for their avant-garde work include Atelier Gekken in Kyoto and, in Hyogo Prefecture, DanceBox in Kobe and Ai Hall in Itami.

So altogether, though Kansai still runs second to the cultural power of Tokyo, 2015 looks set to continue turning more heads away from the capital — just as it has over the past several years. 

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