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Notes from Japan

In February and March I went to Japan on a scholarship from the Berlin Senate Department of Europe and Culture. The purpose of the trip was to make connections for future collaborations, show my solo, visit Co. Yamada Un and research for my next project - a dance piece inspired by the film "Tokyo Story" of the famous Japanese director Ozu Yasujiro. Here I give a brief summary of my experiences in Japan.

Shibuya, Tokyo

The first few days in Tokyo was spent simply trying to grasp the massive stream of new impressions. I lived in Shibuya, one of the busiest areas in the city. It took a few days to adapt to the sounds this city make. Buses driving around for the sole purpose of playing the newest hit by some famous pop artist I had never heard of, the music streaming out of shops and billboards. When I first made my way to the Shibuya crossing, it was not as I expected: I had imagined myself floating into the masses and becoming part of a "flock", to be engulfed into a wave of people. The exact opposite happened, I was so concentrated in keeping my path that my individuality became the center of attention.

Shibuya crossing at night

Shortly after I went to Mori Art Museum, situated in Roppongi. One installation left a particular impression: a black ocean wave, still and monumental by the Japanese Art Collective Mé. Others, such as the giant UV green lighting ant by Ken+ Julia Yonetani also left memorable impressions.

The best art experience I had still was at the island Naoshima. At Chichu Art Museum there were no photographs allowed, no talking and shoes had to come off before entering an installation. The beautiful surroundings in combination with the art made it worth the trip!


One of the things I was most eager to see in Japan was the traditional architecture in meeting with the new. In Ozu´s films this is particularily present and makes his films very site-specific.. When visiting Kyoto I got a good impression of the traditional architecture as well as more contemporary buildings. In Tokyo the contrast between old and new was even more striking.

Top: Tokyo

Bottom: Kyoto

Other highlight in Kyoto included the Fushimi Inari Taisha . Although packed with tourists, once going a bit further up it got calmer and the light fell through beautifully through the gates.

Fushimi Inari Taisha

Back in Tokyo, I focused on seeing as much as I could of performances and art as well as writing down my impressions on the way. I also wrote a text about the ongoing debate in Oslo on the freedom of speech in performing arts. The art experience I had had in Naoshima was juxtaposed to more scattered impressions of art works through mediums such as Facebook. A glimpse is not enough to grasp a piece of art or an art form such as the performing arts. The text was eventually published in Norsk Shakespeartidsskrift. You can red it here. I was grateful to use Fuglen Coffeebar as a writing hub. They even had brown cheese!

In the third week, I went on a day trip from Tokyo to Yokahama to attend a Butoh class at the Kazuo Ohno Dance Studio, where Yoshito Ohno was teaching. The studio was situated in the hills at the end of some steep stairs where the atmosphere was friendly and welcoming. After class we got offered Hojicha tea and Japanese crackers while chatting and looking through Vogue magazine editorials where Yoshito and other Butoh dancers where featured.

Kazuo Ohno Dance Studio

Ukyo-e style paintings inside the studio

Chinatown in Yokohama

Back in Tokyo again, my performance was drawing closer. But before that, I would visit the Co. Yamada Un. They where starting the rehearsals of their new piece and I was lucky enough to dance with them and watch the work. Inspiring!

I did a workshop at studio Architanz with Kaeja dance, a Canadian Company led by Allen and Karen Kaeja. They have developed a series of lifting techniques that was unlike anything I had ever tried before. Allen has a background as a wrestler and he has utilized this physicality into the technique. I also witnessed their rehearsals at the Canadian Embassy.

Flying at Architanz

At the end of the stay, I finally showed "Petra von Kant" at a venue in Jimbocho called Schichoushitsu. It was an intimate space with a wooden floor and great sound. The event was organized by Nobutaka Shomura. Poster design by Aokid.

Poster for "Petra von Kant" event, an evening shared with Japanese performing artists.

The stay had come to an end and I left Tokyo with a mix of sadness and relief. Being out of my natural habitat for so long had been difficult, but also extremely rewarding. One thing is for sure: this is the first, but not my last time in Tokyo!

... Oh, and how can I forget: THE FOOD!


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