Design Week is an event concept that originates in Tokyo and which has extended to over 100 cities worldwide. Within Japan, around 1,800 municipalities hold their own events in conjunction with the Design Wek. The aim of the Design Week events is to showcase local creative talent – be in the musical, performing or visual arts. These events also serve to boost tourism in more off-the-beaten path cities in Japan.
The first municipality to hold the Design Week in Japan this year is the village of Asuka in Nara Prefecture – a town not far from Osaka. The area is generally recognized as an important place in early Japanese civilization. There are plenty of heritage buildings in the area including important shrines, temples and tombs. Asuka Design Week was held at the center of Ishibutai Area of Asuka Historical National Government Park (Nara Prefecture, Japan) for three days, from Oct 13th to 15th, 2017. This is the second Design Week organized by Asuka and it was held at the same time as the Ancient Asuka Culture Festival – a combination of both traditional and modern sensibilities for the mid-October shows.
While those who attended Asuka Design Week got to experience a multisensory spectacle that encompassed performances, contemporary art and even food; the highlight of Asuka Design Week was undoubtedly the music. Guests were treated with the “Onwasai” music festival whereby two popular musicians displayed their musical talents as well as a Taiko (Japanese drums) group performance that involved the audience walking around the village as the drums blared.
The “Onwasai” music festival was headlined by Rina Katahira who self-professes to have been inspired by the scenery in Asuka. The 25-year old artist traces her musical roots to her father and brother who both played the guitar. She made her debut in 2013 as a vocalist for an orchestral band and held her first solo performance at Nakano Sun Plaza Hall in Tokyo. The rest, they say, is history. During the Asuka Design Week, she performed her hit single, “Namae”.
Another talent who performed during the “Onwasai” music festival was Rei, who tried her best in cheering the crowds despite the rain. Her music is a mix of English and Japanese. A recognized indie artist, she has performed in well-known indie festivals such as the Fuji Rock Festival and Summer Sonic; as well as overseas events such as the “Les Eurockeennes” in France.
The “Mitodoro” Festival or the Pihyara on the other hand, showcased another facet of Japanese culture. The segment was helmed by Yamato, an Asuka-based Japanese drums group which has gained recognition for their taiko performances around the world. With the usage of the drums and with the help of local comedian, Homeless Kotani, the crowd was led to a short excursion through town like the pied piper leading his crew as the drums blared and the participants cheered on.
In terms of the visual arts, author Akihiro Nishino exhibited his picture book “Poupelle of Chimney Town” for all to see ahead of the launch of Asuka Design Week. The book is notable for being crowdfunded. It has sold over 320,000 copies so far and is enjoyed by both young and old.
Last but not the least, the event ended with stunning fireworks. This paves the way for the next Design Week event which is to be held in Ureshino City, Saga Prefecture. The performances in the next event will encompass indigenous instruments such as the shamisen and the traditional flute. Local artists will also be present. As with the previous year, the upcoming Ureshino Design Week will be a collaboration with Inakadate Village, Owani Town and Hirosaki City in Aomori Prefecture.
Here are the event details: