Background: 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 second municipality to hold the Design Week in Japan this year is the town of Ureshino in Saga Prefecture – in the island of Kyushu. The town is generally noted among locals for its onsen or hot springs. In addition to this, the area surrounding Ureshino consists of green tea fields and the region is one of the top producers of green tea in Japan. Ureshino Design Week was held at the Hot Spring Park for three days, from November 10th to 12th, 2017. The event was also a collaboration with Inakadate Village, Owani Town and Hirosaki City in Aomori Prefecture.
In keeping with the overall concept of Design Week in showcasing local talents and specialties, the Ureshino Design Week ran a number of events ranging from tea appreciation, knowledge sharing on the best hot springs in Ureshino as well as musical performances. Guests were treated with the “Onwasai” music festival whereby eight artists groups displayed their musical talents. The event was concluded with a “Pihyara” in keeping with the Asuka Design Week held a month before.
The “Onwasai” music festival in Ureshino was headlined by Hanawa who himself hails from Saga Prefecture. He came into stardom after releasing his first single, also called “Saga Prefecture” back in 2003. He again achieved fame last year when he wrote and posted the song “Otosan” in Youtube. The song is about his father-in-law and his relationship with his daughter (Hanawa’s wife). The song was written during a time when the father-in-law was hospitalized for cancer. He made an emotional performance of the song during the Ureshino Design Week, just weeks after his father-in-law passed away.
Another talent who performed during the “Onwasai” music festival was the duo of Pinky Sky, an idol from Saga Prefecture and Ringo Musume who won the Aomori Local Idol. They were supported by AKB48 Team 8 in performing the song “Heavy Rotation” to cheering crowds. Outside of the Ureshino Design Week, fans are also able to catch Pink Sky performing live every 6:30 pm at multifunction open stage in Gofukumoto, Saga City. In 22 December 2016, about 100 people watched their weekday live performance.
The musical act was concluded by the collaboration of shamisen players, namely Motoki Morinaga and Kazuo Shibutani, along with flute players, Kazuya Sato and Bunta Sato. This particular performance was a collaboration of talents from both Saga Prefecture and Aomori Prefecture. Both Morinaga and Kazuya Sato hail from Saga Prefecture with the former having been born in Ureshino City itself. Both Shibutani and Bunta on the other hand, hail from Aomori Prefecture with the two having separately spread knowledge about the Tsugaru Shamisen and Tsugaru Flute by performing for an international audience in places such as New York, Mexico, Hawaii, Paris and Sydney among others.
For those not in the know, shamisen refers to the traditional three strings Japanese musical instrument typically used to accompany kabuki as well as folk songs. Tsugaru shamisen refers to a genre of shamisen music that originates from Tsugaru peninsula in the present-day Aomori prefecture.
The event was concluded with a Pihyara involving the artists and locals walking around Ureshino while humming to the tune of the sukiyaki song. After Ureshino, the next town that will be having the Design Week is Fujisawa which is around 1.5 hour south of Tokyo. In addition to the usual “Onwasai,” Fujisawa’s Design Week will also showcase Akihiro Nishino’s masterpiece, “Poupelle of Chimney Town.” Every page of that storybook will be illuminated with LED lights in order to allow the audience to visualize the whimsical worldview created by Nishino.
Here are the event details: