One who has watched Japanese manga or uses Japanese technology may think that he is familiar with Japanese culture, but you should not consider yourself sufficiently acquainted with Japan until visiting two exhibitions that go on public display today at the Pera Museum in İstanbul’s Beyoğlu district.
“Ikuo Hirayama: Türkiye, Batıyla Doğu Arasında bir Kültür Kavşağı” (Ikuo Hirayama: Turkey, a Crossroad of Culture between West and East) and “Japonya Medya Sanatları Festivali İstanbul’da” (Japan Media Arts Festival in İstanbul) are two exhibitions that bring together one of the most prominent figures of the Japanese art of Nihonga and representatives of the new artistic generation emerging in Japan perfectly integrating technology with the arts.
The first exhibition consists of beautiful depictions of stops along the historic Silk Road, beginning from Cappadocia, spanning the Asian continent and reaching out to the western boundaries of Iran.
Unfortunately, Hirayama himself could not see the inauguration of his own exhibition. Having worked on the exhibition for months and aspiring to come to İstanbul for the opening, the Japanese artist passed away last year on Dec. 2. His wife, Michiko Hirayama, attended the press conference for the exhibition and told the story of how her husband feverishly prepared for the exhibition, refusing to stop working even while resting at the hospital and ignoring his doctor’s warnings. Michiko Hirayama expressed her happiness about finally launching the exhibition that her husband wanted to create so much and thanked everyone who had contributed to the process. “At the time he passed away, he was still working in Ihlara Valley in Cappadocia,” says Hirayama, noting that he had almost finished his painting “Anadolu Platosu, Kapadokya, Türkiye: Doğu ve Batı Arasında Kültür Kavşaklarına Yolculuk” (Anatolian Plateau, Cappadocia, Turkey: A Journey to the Cultural Intersections Between the East and the West).
Hirayama visited many countries along the Silk Road, including China, Russia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Iran, Turkey, Syria and Iraq more than 40 times. “Hirayama is an expert on the Silk Road,” says Japanese Ambassador Nabuaki Tanaka, “He attracted the interest of the world to this road where different cultures come across through his painting and cultural heritage and thus represented world peace. He was a cultural ambassador.”
“Thanks to the Silk Road, the Turkish and Japanese cultures got to know each other,” says Professor Masaaki Miyasako, a Nihonga expert, “And the connections between these two cultures carry out a heritage which can bring peace to the world.”
Within this perspective, the paintings of Hirayama become even more interesting: scenes from different countries from a Japanese outlook reflect how some common cultural elements have been carried over across different geographical locations for centuries. Ruins in Ephesus, Turkish women in traditional clothing, Göreme and Cappadocia, the Blue Mosque in İstanbul and the historic bazaar in Konya are some of the scenes from Turkey that Hirayama depicted.
Where technology and artistic genius meet
The second exhibition offers an absolutely engaging time for the visitor. Two floors of the Pera Museum are dedicated to the exhibition composed of the creative works of Japanese media artists. Taking as its theme “Anlatıcı Akıl ve Yaratıcı Akıl” (Narrative Mind and Creative Mind), the exhibition consists of different parts, such as art, entertainment, animation and manga. The exhibition is the fifth international exhibition of the Japanese Media Arts Festival organized outside of Japan since 1997 and it is being held in İstanbul for the first time, making it a “must-see” event in this respect.
While the Monozukuri (Creative Mind) portion is composed of interactive art pieces and installations using media and technology in a search for functionality and new expressions, Monogatari (Narrative Mind) offers pieces of manga, animation and games. While seven young artists whose works have earned various awards are the contributors of the exhibition, the audience can get in direct communication with the artists and use the dazzling art works themselves.
Anime films lovers will also enjoy this exhibition. Japanese anime films and short videos will be displayed throughout the exhibition in conjunction with the Japan Media Arts Festival. Films such as “Summer Days with Coo,” “Summer Wars,” “The House of Small Cubes,” “Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone,” “Winter Days,” “The Book of the Dead,” “The Piano Forest” and many others can be seen at the Pera Museum during the exhibition.
Both exhibitions can -- and must -- be seen by Oct. 3.