Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Art and Creativity, Yokohama "French Joie de Vivre!"

Art to empower the Marine City

Yokohama Creative City Center

For a city like Yokohama, second biggest of Japan, culture and art are something not only to enrich citizens’ lives but also to empower the city itself and enable it to be internationally competitive. Based on this objective, Yokohama has advocated a new vision called “Creative City Yokohama” and promotes the citizen-led designing of a city of art and culture.

Artist atelier

Yokohama offers a base for artists to produce an ideal environment for creators and let them live and work by securing studios and ateliers, it becomes their production bases in the central area of Yokohama, second city of Japan in population, and half an hour from Tokyo Megalopolis. They rush to gain experience, contacts and result is a sudden desire of intense creation.

Chess Art Mat

Yokohama also renovated old buildings constructed between the Meiji and early Showa period (1868 to around 1930s) and utilizes them in the fields of audiovisual art and culture, such as theaters and galleries.

Dolls flying in your mind

Legendary Yokohama's red light district, from Ukiyo-e to Toulouse Lautrec

"Western Traders at Yokohama and encounter with Ukiyo-e an street scenes. For Japanese artists, the port city of Yokohama became a primary incubator for a new category of images that straddled convention and novelty. Although Yokohama prints have been widely maligned for not being up to the standards of Ukiyo-e, this image by Hashimoto Sadahide (1807-ca. 1878) has both technical and artistic strength. Bustle and change are implied by every rippling wave and the repeated lines of oars, stripes, planks, rigging, and pleats--punctuated by the wave crashing at the base of the ship. Reportedly, while Sadahide was sketching the scene, he dropped his brush in the water and borrowed a pencil from a foreigner to continue drawing."

The city also actively collects creative businesses, by establishing clusters, in order to vitalize the local economy and nurture and support young talents. Old parts of Yokohama are revitalized such as the legendary Yokohama's red light district Hinodecho, Koganecho and Hatsuko. Prostitutes and slums time already passed years ago.

In the past, it was famous for tiny brothels with show-windows on front, and prostitutes in it. Cleared by the City and police who chased the local mafia, inhabitants were deported back to mainly Thailand, China, Philippines. The houses are still here, travelers and backpackers can even rent a room here for less than Yen 3,000. Names of the girls are still printed over the door and bars...

"At it peak, the Koganecho area used to be home to some 250 small brothels. Many people are afraid of coming to this area alone at nights," said Shingo Yamano, director of NPO Koganecho Area Management Center.

All the changes started after a thorough clamp down by the government in 2005, followed by continued tenacious efforts to clean up and revitalize the area by police, social workers, and most notably, artists." Xinhua reports in the China Daily.

Yokohama BankART Studio New Yokohama's directors Mr Osamu Ikeda and Mr Toshio Mizohata of "BankArt 1929" expose the concept and how Yokohama work for creative arts and offer a collection of disciplines from Asian artists

Click the arrow to watch

Click the arrow to watch

Yokohama history

Yokohama was a small fishing village up to the end of the feudal Edo period, according to the encyclopedia online wikipedia, when Japan held a policy of national seclusion, having little contact with foreigners. A major turning point in Japanese history happened in 1853–1854, when Commodore Matthew Perry arrived just south of Yokohama with a fleet of American warships, demanding that Japan open several ports for commerce, and the Tokugawa shogunate agreed by signing the Treaty of Peace and Amity."

It was initially agreed that one of the ports to be opened to foreign ships would be the bustling town of Kanagawa-juku (in what is now Kanagawa Ward) on the Tōkaidō, a strategic highway that linked Edo to Kyoto and Osaka. However, the Tokugawa shogunate decided that Kanagawa-juku was too close to the Tōkaidō for comfort, and port facilities were instead built across the inlet in the sleepy fishing village of Yokohama. The Port of Yokohama was opened on 2 June 1859.

Yokohama quickly became the base of foreign trade in Japan. Japan's first English language newspaper, the Japan Herald, was first published there in 1861. Foreigners occupied a district of the city called "Kannai" (関内, "inside the barrier"), which was surrounded by a moat, and were protected by their extraterritorial status both within and outside the moat. Many individuals crossed the moat, causing a number of problems. The Namamugi Incident, one of the events that preceded the downfall of the shogunate, took place in what is now Tsurumi Ward in 1862; Ernest Satow described it in A Diplomat in Japan.

After the Meiji Restoration of 1868, the port was developed for trading silk, the main trading partner being Great Britain. Many Western influences first reached Japan in Yokohama, including Japan's first daily newspaper (1870) and first gas-powered street lamps (1872). Japan's first railway was constructed in the same year to connect Yokohama to Shinagawa and Shinbashi in Tokyo.

In the same year, French renown science-fiction writer Jules Verne set Yokohama, which he had never visited, in an episode of his widely-read Around the World in Eighty Days, capturing the atmosphere of a fast-developing, Western-oriented Japanese city.

In 1887, a British merchant, Samuel Cocking, built the city's first power plant. At first for his own use, this coal-burning plant became the basis for the Yokohama Cooperative Electric Light Company. The city was officially incorporated on 1 April 1889. By the time the extraterritoriality of foreigner areas was abolished in 1899, Yokohama was the most international city in Japan, with foreigner areas stretching from Kannai to the Bluff area and the large Yokohama Chinatown.

The early 20th century was marked by rapid growth of industry. Entrepreneurs built factories along reclaimed land to the north of the city toward Kawasaki, which eventually grew to be the Keihin Industrial Area. The growth of Japanese industry brought affluence, and many wealthy trading families constructed sprawling residences there, while the rapid influx of population from Japan and Korea also led to the formation of Kojiki-Yato, then the largest slum in Japan.

Much of Yokohama was destroyed on 1 September 1923 by the Great Kantō earthquake. The Yokohama police reported casualties at 30,771 dead and 47,908 injured, out of a pre-earthquake population of 434,170. Fuelled by rumours of rebellion and sabotage, vigilante mobs thereupon murdered many Koreans in the Kojiki-yato slum. Many people believed that Koreans used black magic to cause the earthquake. Martial law was in place until 19 November. Rubble from the quake was used to reclaim land for parks, the most famous being the Yamashita Park on the waterfront which opened in 1930.

Yokohama was rebuilt, only to be destroyed again by thirty-odd U.S. air raids during World War II. An estimated seven or eight thousand people were killed in a single morning on 29 May 1945 in what is now known as the Great Yokohama Air Raid, when B-29s firebombed the city and in just one hour and nine minutes reduced 42% of it to rubble.

During the Korean War, the United States Navy used Yokohama's port as a transshipment base. Ships departed Yokohama in 1951, carrying war dead home to the U.S. During the American occupation, Yokohama was a major transshipment base for American supplies and personnel, especially during the Korean War. After the occupation, most local U.S. naval activity moved from Yokohama to an American base in nearby Yokosuka.

The city was designated by government ordinance on September 1, 1956.

The city's tram and trolleybus system was abolished in 1972, the same year as the opening of the first line of Yokohama Municipal Subway.

Construction of Minato Mirai 21 ("Port Future 21"), a major urban development project on reclaimed land, started in 1983. Minato Mirai 21 hosted the Yokohama Exotic Showcase in 1989, which saw the first public operation of maglev trains in Japan and the opening of Cosmo Clock 21, then the tallest Ferris wheel in the world. The 860m-long Yokohama Bay Bridge opened in the same year.

In 1993, Minato Mirai saw the opening of the Yokohama Landmark Tower, the tallest building in Japan.

The 2002 FIFA World Cup final was held in June at the International Stadium Yokohama.

In 2009, the city marked the 150th anniversary of the opening of the port and the 120th anniversary of the commencement of the City Administration.

It will welcome APEC* this coming autumn. Information

*Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, or APEC, is a forum that brings together the leaders and ministers of 21 member economies to pursue the goal of sustainable regional growth.

France and Yokohama linked by Art and common Joie de Vivre

1867. Japan sends a delegation to the 1867 World Fair in Paris.
1867. The French mining engineer Francois Coignet is sent to Japan and is put in charge of the gold mines of Ikuno in 1868.
1868. Kobe incident (January 11). A fight erupts in Akashi between 450 samurai of the Okayama fief and French sailors, leading to the occupation of central Kobe by foreign troops.
1868. Eleven French sailors from the Dupleix are killed in the Sakai incident, in Sakai, near Osaka, by southern rebel forces.
1869. Former French advisors under Jules Brunet fight alongside the last Shogun loyalists of Enomoto Takeaki, against Imperial troops in the Battle of Hakodate.
1870. Henri Pelegrin directs the construction of Japan's first gas-lightning system in the streets of Nihonbashi, Ginza and Yokohama.

The history of Franco-Japanese relations (日仏関係 Nichi-Futsu kankei) goes back to the early 17th century, when a Japanese samurai and ambassador on his way to Rome landed for a few days in Southern France, creating a sensation. France and Japan have enjoyed a very robust and progressive relationship spanning centuries through various contacts in each others' countries by senior representatives, strategic efforts, and cultural exchanges.

After nearly two centuries of seclusion by "Sakoku" in Japan, the two countries became very important partners from the second half of the 19th century in the military, economic, legal and artistic fields. The Bakufu modernized its army through the assistance of French military missions (Jules Brunet), and Japan later relied on France for several aspects of its modernization, particularly the development of a shipbuilding industry during the early years of the Imperial Japanese Navy (Emile Bertin), and the development of a Legal code.

The first French Military Mission to Japan arrives in Yokohama January 13, 1867. Among them is Captain Jules Brunet, in front, second from right. The first French military mission to Japan

France derived part of its modern artistic inspiration from Japanese art, essentially through Japonism and its influence on Impressionism, and almost completely relied on Japan for its prosperous silk industry.

Recently France has been very involved in trade and cultural exchange initiatives with Japan. Some people see this as being a result of former French president Jacques Chirac being a Japanophile. Chirac has visited Japan over 40 times, probably more than any other world leader outside of Japan, and is an expert on the country. France has started the export promotion campaign Le Japon, c'est possible. France and Japan have also worked together to improve dire health situations and underdevelopment in Africa, Djibouti, Madagascar, Uganda, and in several countries in Asia including Cambodia and the Mekong river banks.

Japan and France are also known to share ideas with each other in the realms of art and cooking. Japan has been heavily influenced by French cuisine within the past few decades, as seen on the television show Iron Chef. Anime and Manga are popular in France: manga represents 1,400 of the 4,300 annual book publications and 40% of the comics sales (95 Million € in 2008). The movie Interstella 5555 was a collaborative motion picture with Japanese anime writer, Leiji Matsumoto, and the French house band, Daft Punk. French historical figures and settings from medieval, Renaissance, Napoleonic, and World War eras have served as models for certain popular stories in Japanese entertainment. The purity of Japanese painting and illustration, and likewise the modernity and elegance of French visual arts has resulted in hybrid styles in those creative fields.

The two countries have been collaborating closely in the area of nuclear energy generation.

The first automobile in Japan, a French Panhard-Levassor, in 1898.

The parent company of French Renault Alliance, Nissan President Carlos Ghosn has its headquarters moved to Yokohama.

One of the best specialists of Japan France relations and to whom we owe some of these pictures is a French entrepreneur and historian Christian Polak who wrote extensively on the French military missions to Japan.

International Education in Yokohama

Saint Maur International School, Yokohama, Japan established in 1872 to provide an education for children of all nationalities and denominations, is the oldest international school in Japan, located in Yamate-cho. It also offers a French school

Sources: Foreign Press Center, City of Yokohama, Art Bank center, Wikipedia, Christian Polak notes' courtesy, Reporter's notes.

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