Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum has loaned the ‘Yōkai Hikimaku’ kabuki curtain by KAWANABE Kyōsai to the Citi Exhibition Manga at the British Museum, the largest manga exhibition in the world to take place outside of Japan.
To celebrate the occasion, a high-definition digital image and animation of the ‘Yōkai Hikimaku’ kabuki curtain were created in collaboration with Toppan Printing, and the international symposium “Classical Arts x Digital Technologies” was held on June 29 at Japan House London. The animation premiered at this symposium.
This symposium was organized by the Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum at Waseda University and Japan House London, in cooperation with the University of Birmingham and the Global Japanese Studies Model Unit of Waseda’s Top Global University Project.
Hironori Kasahara, Senior Executive Vice President for Research and IT Promotion of Waseda University, delivered the opening remarks, and Simon Wright, Director – Programming of Japan House London, moderated the symposium. Robin Mason, the University of Birmingham Pro-Vice Chancellor (International), closed the event.
Minako Okamuro (Director, Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum), Matt Hayler (Senior Lecturer, University of Birmingham), and Dominque Chen (Professor, Waseda University) spoke on various examples of artwork turned digital in Japan and the UK, including the yōkai theatre curtain, demonstrating how classical works can be revitalized with the assistance of digital technology.
Sessions on the ‘Yōkai Hikimaku’ kabuki curtain itself were led by Tim Clark (Head of the Japanese Section, Department of Asia, the British Museum), Nicole Coolidge Rousmaniere (Curator, the Japanese Collections, the British Museum) and Ryuichi Kodama (Vice Director, Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum) in the latter half of the symposium.
‘Yōkai Hikimaku’ was a gift from KANAGAKI Robun, a renowned writer in the Edo and Meiji periods, to the Shintomi-za Theatre in Tokyo, a popular theatre in the early Meiji period. It is said that the artist KAWANABE Kyōsai, a friend of Robun’s, finished the painting in just four hours, drinking the entire way through. In the painting, popular kabuki actors such as ICHIKAWA Danjuro IX and ONOE Kikugoro V are depicted as yōkai, or demons, jumping out of a bamboo box and heading for the audience in the theatre. This is an extremely fascinating piece not only because of the unique artist who created it, but because kabuki theatre curtains are so rarely preserved.
The Citi Exhibition Manga will be running until August 26, 2019.
On the partnership with the University of Birmingham
This symposium was a further milestone in a strategic joint research partnership between Waseda and the University of Birmingham that is producing collaboration across areas such as robotics, corpus linguistics, atmospheric environmental science, urban studies, language education, creative writing and Shakespeare. The two universities worked together for some time before signing their formal agreement in 2016 and there is an active student exchange between Waseda and Birmingham.
Professor Kasahara commented: “It is a great honor to hold this event ‘Classical Arts x Digital Technologies’ at Japan House London in collaboration with the University of Birmingham. This event is very important in introducing Waseda’s international efforts in curating classical arts with latest computer technologies – especially in demonstrating part of the accomplishments of the close collaboration between Waseda and Birmingham.”
Professor Robin Mason commented: “The UK is one of Japan’s top research partners. It is vitally important for both the University of Birmingham and our country to develop closer engagement with our counterparts in Japan, especially in areas of shared research strength. Our collaboration with Waseda University continues to bear fruit, as there is much common ground between us. This joint symposium on using digital technology to revitalize classical works is tremendously exciting and I look forward to our future collaboration in this area. The Theatre Museum at Waseda houses many artifacts including important cultural properties. I hope further research collaborations will be made in the dramatic arts with University of Birmingham.”
In the past, delegates from Waseda visited Birmingham in 2016 to launch a partnership with the School of English Drama and American & Canadian Studies – marking the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. It united the Shakespeare Institute, in Stratford-upon-Avon, with Waseda’s Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum and the Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences.
Additionally, Waseda’s ‘University of Birmingham Day‘ was held in November 2018 to explore the importance of global higher education research, particularly focusing on research links between Japan and the UK. During this event, a symposium which explored how to bring Shakespeare to life for today’s theatre audience, joined by the Royal Shakespeare Company directors and Japanese Kyogen actor Mansai Nomura, was also held. The event also celebrated the strategic joint research partnership that is producing collaboration across areas such as robotics, corpus linguistics, atmospheric environmental science, urban studies, language education, creative writing and Shakespeare.