Japan has a big appetite for culture. There are several standout events around the country to deepen your understanding and appreciation for art and history. From dinner parties with craftspeople who are designated Living National Treasures to new art, here are our top picks for cultural events in Japan this coming winter.
All of these events are possible thanks to the support of the Japan Cultural Expo. Learn more about the initiative and its other events on the expo’s official website.
1. Kogei Dining in Hiroshima
Kogei Dining (stylized as Kōgei Dining) is a new experience program with a firm grasp on old traditions and crafts. These encompass anything from ceramic and lacquer crafts artisanship to cuisine and performing arts. Kogei Dining experiences invite ceramic and lacquerware artists to join a dinner party where they can talk about their work in the company of fans and fellow art lovers.
It is a hands-on opportunity to experience traditional Japanese culture through living crafts. Feel the tableware with your fingers, taste the flavors of a cuisine designated as UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage, and enjoy traditional art forms. You can also purchase the tableware if it really speaks to your heart.
The fourth iteration of Kogei Dining presents three events, the third one taking place in early 2023 in Hiroshima. Held at Ueda Soko School, the dinner will showcase local Chugoku and Shikoku tea and ware in the context of a tea ceremony followed by a kaiseki ryori dinner and an exhibition of crafts.
When: Mar 4, 2023
Tickets are limited and advance booking is required. Visit thel Kogei Dining official website for more information, event times and tickets.
2. Lee Ufan Exhibition at the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art
One major cultural event this year is a retrospective focusing on the life and work of famous contemporary artist Lee Ufan. After Tokyo, this large-scale exhibition travels to Hyogo, where major pieces will be showcased at the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art. Lee mainly exhibited his work overseas since the early 2000s, so this event is one of the most anticipated in Japan in 2022.
Lee led the way in what would become Mono, a major movement in postwar Japan, which combines and presents natural and manmade materials in a temperate manner. This exhibition features pieces from as early as the 1960s to the artist’s most recent works. Lee’s minimalist paintings are especially popular, as are his stone sculptures.
When: Dec 13, 2022–Feb 12, 2023
Visit the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art official website for more information.
3. The Digital Gallery of Horyuji Treasures at the Tokyo National Museum
Located in Nara Prefecture, Horyuji Temple was once one of the seven major Buddhist sites in the country, built during the Asuka Period (592–710). In 1993, it was Japan’s very first national treasure of any kind to be designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site largely due to its historic wooden structure, often considered one of the world’s oldest.
Many restorations and 1,300 years later, much of the temple doesn’t quite look like how it might’ve looked a millennium ago. The Digital Gallery project hopes to offer a glimpse at Horyuji as it was designed to be enjoyed through digital content and reproduction of priceless works, including the National Treasure “Illustrated Biography of Prince Shotoku”. Hosted at the Tokyo National Museum, this is a rare chance to learn more about this historic temple without leaving the capital.
When: From Jan 31, 2023
Visit the National Center for Promotion of Cultural Properties official website for more information and details.
4. Yambaru Art Festival 2022-2023 in Okinawa
The Yambaru Art Festival is back for its sixth iteration. Yambaru is a vast swathe of protected endemic biodiverse nature in the north of Okinawa’s main island. A large part of the area is a national park and a recognized UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site. The eponymous art festival displays art that honors this primordial nature and invites Japanese and international artists to create site-specific artworks, fostering interactions between artists, the environment and art lovers.
One defining characteristic of the Yambaru Art Festival is its repurposing of old venues such as closed schools and government offices and collaboration with various resort hotels in the area to serve as exhibition venues. The former Ogimi Village Shioya Elementary School is one of the main venues. Ogimi Village is a prominent co-sponsor, but there are venues in Kunigami Village and Nago City too, to name a few locations.
When: Jan 14 to Apr 9, 2023
Visit the Yambaru Art Festival official website for information about the upcoming 2022-2023 event.
5. “Daigoji Esoteric Buddhism Culture: Concert of Nature and Culture” in Kyoto
World Heritage Theater in Japan is a long-running cultural initiative that aims to connect contemporary artists and audiences to the country’s historical roots. The 43rd World Heritage Theater in Japan event takes place in Kyoto at Daigoji Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, coinciding with the 1,250th anniversary of Kobo Daishi. Daishi is one of the country’s most venerated Buddhist monks and founder of the Shingon School of Esoteric Buddhism.
The event will take place over two days, during which Shinichi Fukuoka and other top scholars will give talks and lectures about Daishi. There will also be Buddhist music performances and a rendition of the noh theater play Jinenkoji, written in the Muromachi Period (1336–1573) by noh actor and author, Kan’ami Kiyotsugu. Voice actors Daisuke Namikawa (Lupin the Third), Toshiki Masuda (IDOLiSH7) and Hitomi Ueda (Uma Musume: Pretty Derby) will also make an appearance.
Note: Those interested in this event must apply for a ticket lottery between October 13 and November 25. The results will be announced on December 2.
When: Dec 17-18
Visit the World Heritage Theater in Japan website for more information.
6. “Depicting Japanese Landscapes: From Utagawa Hiroshige to Tabuchi Toshio” at the Yamatane Museum of Art in Tokyo
Japan’s first museum specializing in Japanese paintings, or nihonga, the Yamatane Museum of Art has been one of Tokyo’s top cultural facilities for over half a century. Its collection numbers about 1,800 works, mainly from the Meiji Period (1868–1912) onward, including six Important Cultural Properties.
The Yamatane Museum of Art displays works from its collection in new ways periodically. Its upcoming special exhibition focuses on Japanese landscape painting, including works by ukiyo-e painter Utagawa Hiroshige and Toshio Tabuchi, an established contemporary nihonga artist. Scheduled to be displayed are Hiroshige’s “Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido” and “Eight Views of Omi” series. Contemporary nihonga artist Takeshi Ishida’s “Oirase in the Four Seasons” series will be exhibited together for the first time. Visitors can enjoy the artist’s fascination with Japanese landscapes, making this event a must-visit.
When: Dec 10, 2022–Feb 26, 2023
Visit the Yamatane Museum of Art’s official website for more information.
What do you think about the Japan Cultural Expo’s variety of cultural events and programs? You can share your opinion with the organization by answering this short survey.