Reopening of the Edo-Tokyo Museum

Celebrating its reopening after a six-month closure, the Edo-Tokyo Museum held a spectacular series of events from April 1 to 7, drawing a crowd of over 22,000 people to the uniquely-shaped building which has been an icon of the sumo neighborhood of Ryogoku ever since it opened its doors in 1993.

Edo is the old name for Tokyo, and the name of the period when the city became the center of political power in the country. Therefore, the reopening event "Edo→Tokyo Vision" focused on the history and culture of Tokyo from the Edo period to the present day. Through talk sessions, live performances, concerts and a variety of other events, the museum ushered in a new phase in its nearly 25 year history.

4/1 Live performance | Source: © EDO-TOKYO MUSEUM

4/1 Talk session | Source: © EDO-TOKYO MUSEUM

4/7 Crosstalk session | Source: © EDO-TOKYO MUSEUM

4/7 Special concert | Source: © EDO-TOKYO MUSEUM

Report on "Edo→Tokyo Vision"

April 1: "Inheriting the Aesthetic Sense of the Edo Period"

On April 1st (Sun.), the events were organized around the theme: "Inheriting the Aesthetic Sense of the Edo Period."

From 14:00 to 15:30, a live performance by manga artist Kotobuki Shiriagari and Joryu Gidayu shamisen player Kanya Tsuruzawa was followed by a talk session in which the aforementioned artists were joined by contemporary artist Hisashi Tenmyouya and Edo-Tokyo Museum curator Akiko Okatsuka. The talk session was coordinated by writer-editor Mari Hashimoto.

Live performance by Kotobuki Shiriagari and Kanya Tsuruzawa | Source: © EDO-TOKYO MUSEUM

Perfectly in tune with Kanya Tsuruzawa's lively shamisen playing, Kotobuki Shiriagari set himself in motion, a giant brush in hand. Likening a nearly 100 foot-long ream of Japanese washi paper to Tokyo's Sumida River, he painted motifs such as Gidayu female shamisen players, Commodore Perry who played a leading role in opening Japan to the West, and Yaji and Kita's travels in the picaresque novel Tokaido Hizakurige, conveying the transition from Edo to Tokyo and the 150 years since the city was renamed. As the music of Kanya Tsuruzawa's shamisen reverberated through the hall, the collective gaze of all attendees focused intently on Kotobuki Shiriagari's smoothly flowing brush strokes. When it was done, he painted Tokyo Skytree against a backdrop of exploding fireworks, symbols of Sumida Ward, and hung the completed work vertically from the museum's own indoor Nihonbashi Bridge.

Talk session on the theme: "Inheriting the Aesthetic Sense of the Edo Period" | Source: © EDO-TOKYO MUSEUM

After the live performance, the attention of the crowd shifted to the stage for a talk session on the theme: "Inheriting the Aesthetic Sense of the Edo Period." Each participant introduced themselves and their work, discussed such themes as the origin of "self-expression" within contemporary art and the characteristics of culture which are inherited to future generations. It was a fruitful talk session which each participant explaining their positions, outlining their perspectives and exchanging their opinions on the respective issues.

April 7th: "Sustainable Living"

On April 7th (Sat.), the events were organized around the theme: "Sustainable Living."

From 14:00 to 15:45, there was a rakugo performance by Kikuchiyo Kokontei (Shinuchi, Rakugo Association), after which she joined cultural anthropologist and environmental activist Shinichi Tsuji, designer and author Azby Brown, Ethical Association Representative Director Rika Sueyoshi, "co-existence revolutionist" and Tokyo Urban Permaculture founder Kai Sawyer and finally, architect and Edo-Tokyo Museum Director Terunobu Fujimori for a crosstalk session. Then, in the evening, from 18:00 to 19:00, there was a special concert by Rekishi. Both events were held on the 5th floor of Edo-Tokyo Museum on a special stage in front of the Nakamuraza Theater.

Rakugo by Kikuchiyo Kokontei | Source: © EDO-TOKYO MUSEUM

Kikuchiyo Kokontei, the first female rakugo storyteller to advance to the rank of Shinuchi, treated the audience to the story called Tarachine, often performed as an opening story in Edo Rakugo. Hachigoro, a bachelor living in a tenant house, marries a beautiful woman whose only shortcoming is the exceedingly polite language she speaks due to her upbringing in a samurai household. Through the humorous miscommunications between his wife and the traveling merchants who visit their house, the story conveys the human relationships and lifestyles of people in the Edo period.

4/7 Crosstalk session | Source: © EDO-TOKYO MUSEUM

After the rakugo performance, the mood shifted as Kikuchiyo Kokontei joined Shinichi Tsuji, Azby Brown, Rika Sueyoshi, Kai Sawyer and Terunobu Fujimori for a fascinating crosstalk session on the theme of sustainable living. Inspired by the example of Edo Period society where producers and consumers could always see each other's faces, the participants used their own experiences to discuss the importance in contemporary society of being aware of the "background" behind the objects and products in our lives, the beauty which lies in sustainable living and the importance of living in a way that is mutually beneficial to all. The lively discussion provided the audience with an opportunity to think about their lifestyles and ideal ways of living in contemporary society.

Special concert by Rekishi | Source: © EDO-TOKYO MUSEUM

In the evening, 300 lucky participants selected by lottery gathered for a special concert by Rekishi. With the blast of a conch shell horn and the roll of taiko drums, Rekishi appeared on stage dressed in a traditional montsuki kimono, greeting those in attendance with "Hey, everyone at Edo-Tokyo Museum!" Before anyone had time to reply, the musicians immediately launched into their first song, drawing cheers from the audience. Combining songs inspired by topics from Tokyo's rich history and Rekishi's lively MC performance, the concert was a resounding success.

Now it's your turn: Let's visit The Edo-Tokyo Museum!

After the smashing success of their opening events, everyone at the Edo-Tokyo Museum is excited to greet visitors. If you'd like to see it for yourself, here are the details you need to know:

Edo-Tokyo Museum Information

  • Reopening date: April 1st, 2018
  • Hours of operation: Weekdays 9:30 - 17:30, Saturday 9:30 - 19:30 (closes 30 minutes before)
  • Closings: Mondays (Tuesdays when Monday is a national holiday) and Year End / New Year holidays.
  • Address: 1-4-1 Yokoami, Sumida-ku, Tokyo.
  • Access: 3 mins. from JR Sobu Line Ryogoku Sta., 1 min. from Tokyo Metro Ryogoku Sta. (A3, A4 exits)
  • Website: Edo-Tokyo Museum

By - Ben K.

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