このサイトの推奨ブラウザはGoogle Chromeです


Regional Feature 5 / Niigata, Joetsu-city

A culture of welfare, rooted in the spirit of compassion for others encountered in the castle town, Takada, where time-honored traditions are passed down from generation to generation.

"Art Brut CREATION Nippon in NIIGATA" opened in Joetsu City, Niigata Prefecture, on Saturday, November 28, 2020. The exhibition Art Brut: “Humanity and Nature in Japan" held at Musee Yukikomachi featured the works of 20 artists from the Tokai and Hokuriku blocks and those from the national tour. On December 12 (Sat.) and 13 (Sun.), performing arts presented by disabled people, and barrier-free theater and movies were on display. The Takadasekaikan, which is said to be one of the oldest movie theaters still in operation in Japan, was the venue for the event, and up to 40 people visited the site in appreciation of the arts. The event was also globally broadcasted live on-demand. Looking back on the event, we would like to report on the charm of the town of Joetsu, which is friendly to disabled people.

Transmitting to the world, disabled people's performing arts performances, from a 100-Year-Old Movie Theater

The Takadasekaikan, the event venue, still retains its original appearance as a theater house. On-demand live performances were also displayed on the screen. The manager, Ueno, is from Takada.

In the opening section of the performing arts exhibition, Michinari Ueno, the manager of Takadasekaikan, gave a speech introducing the history and features of the hall and thoughts on the film festival. The following is from Ueno's speech.

"Takada is a castle town built 400 years ago and still retains the amiability of its original streets. During the Meiji period, the 13th Division of the former army was established at this site, and the town developed further. The downtown area was one of the most glamorous in the prefecture, lined with ryokan (Japanese inns), beef stew shops, and other restaurants, as well as several playhouses like this one. However, as the city center began to decline in the modern era, the town's identity began to waver. Movie theaters are also suffering from the impact of rental and video streaming, and old-fashioned theaters are in a nationwide crisis.

Despite such circumstances, the Takadasekaikan has been able to continue operating to this day thanks to the local community's support and its nationwide popularity. In 2020, the Takadasekaikan will be 109 years old. Referred to as the "Oldest movie theaters in Japan," it has been designated a registered tangible cultural property. The movie theater still in operation continues to use analog technology and shows movies every day. In addition to screening barrier-free films, this year's festival is a hybrid of online and remote screenings. We feel that it is fantastic that people who have difficulty leaving their homes or are ill and staying in facilities can participate in the festival beyond the region through online connections.

While viewing films in theaters is an experience, along with this kind of distribution technology, it is also important to pass on films into the future. Regardless of the means, when a film can leave a lasting impression on the viewer, this is the beauty of films. We will continue to do our best to carry forward our culture."

The appeal of performances conveyable only through a historic venue

Of the performances held, the performing arts performances and barrier-free plays were delivered live on-demand. An audio guide system, sign language interpretation, and text information were available and used for the Takadasekaikan screenings. With the Zuiho Taiko's performance, a Japanese taiko drum group for intellectually disabled people, we were treated to a powerful performance that filled the screen and the movie theater's excellent acoustics, making the taiko performance sometimes intense and sometimes mild. The performers' movements, which changed from time to time, and the various sizes and shapes of the taiko drums, were presented with text and audio guides, providing fine details for people with various disabilities.

The barrier-free movie was screened in the retro atmosphere of a 100-year-old movie theater, with an audio guide system and sign language interpretation. Set in Kure, the animated film "Kono Sekai no Katasumini (In This Corner of the World)" depicts a couple's daily life after the war and the fate brought about by the war. The audience seemed to immerse themselves in the world of that period in a venue that was very much in line with the historical background.

In addition to the venue's history and atmosphere, various considerations were made for disabled people. The significance of holding this festival at the Takadasekaikan could be perceived in viewing the performances from the aged seats.

Art Brut;“Humanity and Nature in Japan” in Niigata

The venue, Musee Yukikomachi, is a short walk from Takada Station. On the right is one of the exhibition's features, a corner focusing on the works, activities, and the support endorsed.

This exhibition conveys in Japan and overseas the theme of " Humanity and Nature in Japan " through the artwork of disabled people. In addition to some of the works exhibited at the grand opening, artists from each prefecture of the Tokai and Hokuriku blocks were selected for their works, reminding us of the Japanese view of nature, the theme of this exhibition. The venue was Musee Yukikomachi in the Takada-Honmachi shopping district. We asked Kenichiro Sakano from the secretariat of the Tokai-Hokuriku Block Executive Committee, Minna de Ikiru Social Welfare Corporation, about the objectives and features of the exhibition.

"The structure of the festival followed that of the previous block festival, and there were two unique ways of expression. The first is a corner that focuses on the works, the activities, and the support endorsed. Hideo Saito and Masato Goi's works are lined up in this section, and both of them are characterized by the fact that the artist does not create them for the purpose of expression but rather as art through the actions of others." Sakano said.

"Another feature of the exhibition is showing videos of the works' production," says Sakano. The exhibition of the production process is also considered as art, and the environment in which the works of the four artists are created and the way the people around them, such as their families and support workers, interact were visualized. By viewing these videos, we can gain a deeper understanding of such actions.

Also, local volunteer staff participated in the installation and preparation of the venue for this exhibition. The aforementioned exhibition structure was also put together after discussions among the staff, which led to the uniqueness of the Tokai-Hokuriku block. One of the volunteers, Mitsuki Yokota, is striving to enter an art college from a local high school. He had never been exposed to disabled people's art performances but volunteered to participate in the event. "I can genuinely feel that they are sending out their message not as a concept but from their unrestrained desire to create. I want to continue my creative activities without forgetting the feeling of creating what I like because I like it."

The works of the artists from the Tokai and Hokuriku blocks can be viewed on the following archive site.

The video exhibition of the production process introduces each method and background in more depth and helps you to understand the works.

Introduction of Local Attractions

Takada - a town that preserves and passes on the time-honored town atmosphere and traditional culture

Takada, where the "Art Brut CREATION Nippon in NIIGATA" was held, is the central city of Joetsu City in Niigata Prefecture and is a castle town built-in 1614, a post town on the Hokkoku Highway, and a military town where the 13th Division of the former army was established during the Meiji period. Its regionality is based on the attitude of preserving and passing on time-honored elements and the mutual help and consideration that only a snow-capped country can offer. The following is a report on the appeal of the region.

Takada Castle is a flat castle consisting of earthen mounds and moats, without a castle tower or stone walls. Mt. Myoko can be seen over the Nishihori Bridge spanning the moat.

The Takada Castle Ruins Park spreads across the center of the city. The three-story turret, which used to be the actual castle tower, has been reconstructed in a 15-meter high palace-style structure, conveying a dignified and stately atmosphere. The former 13th Army Division was located in the Honmaru area, and at the end of what is commonly referred to as "Shireibu-dori (Command Street)" leading from the Otemon site, the former Division Director's House, a Western-style building, has been relocated. This building will be used as a restaurant by a French restaurant in the city in the future. Machiya houses have been preserved and made into a base for strolling and long-established stores that have opened their "treasures" to the public, all of which show a commitment to preserving and passing on the history and traditions of the time-honored town.

The many remaining Gangi (covered alley) along Higashi-Honmachi-dori. The townscape continues to evoke a sense of daily life.

The area of Higashi-Honmachi-dori, which intersects with Honmachi-dori running through the city, retains an inn town's atmosphere. This used to be the Oshu Highway leading to Kashiwazaki, Niigata, and it also intersects with Zenkoji Highway and Kaga Highway. Along the street, there are many Gangi and Machiya houses. The Gangi is a roof over the sidewalk to keep out the snow, and it is an indispensable part of the street in winter when there is heavy snowfall. Placed at the eaves of the property—private property-they are maintained by the house owners. The landscape of Gangi, characteristic of the town of Takada, is also a symbol of the local people's thoughtfulness.

Passing on the Virtue of Film-based Movies to the Future
The Takadasekaikan, one of the oldest movie theaters in Japan

The town's compassion for others can also be observed in its approach to entertainment culture. One such example is the Takadasekaikan, the venue for the " Art Brut CREATION Nippon in NIIGATA". In 2020, it will be 109 years old and is one of the oldest movie theaters in Japan. The area around Honmachi 6-chome, where the theater is located, was one of the busiest areas in Takada at the time, and it is said to have been a modern theater called the "Hakua-no-daigekijyo (Great White Theater)" among the many theaters, restaurants, and inns.

When one opens the door and enters the theater, the cozy and old-fashioned reception desk and the lobby's aged furniture are reminders of the past. With a capacity of 200 people, the screening room has a warm atmosphere with its old-fashioned columns on the walls and well-worn moquettes on the seats, and the second-floor seats have an open feel, and one can see the decorative carvings on the wooden ceiling up close. The stage in front of the screen and the low railings, which were once tatami mats, are remnants of a former playhouse.

The white walls, Western-style arched windows, and colorful paint scheme are impressive. The interior uses much wood, and the curvilinear structure gives a sense of elegance.

As Manager Ueno said in his opening speech, the building has been strewn about by the passage of time and the town's rise and fall, but it has retained its time-honored appearance to this day. A symbol of this is the projection room behind the second-floor seats, where two film projectors still exist. While digital screenings are replacing movies, they are still regularly showing film movies to pass down the virtues of analog projection. On days when films are not shown, visitors can take a tour of the museum, and the projection room is also open for tours. On the Takadasekaikan screen, one can see the film culture itself that is being handed down and preserved.

What can be understood from the "Goze."
Understanding disabled people and their arts

An essential part of Takada's performing arts culture and the arts of disabled people is the Goze. Visiting the "Goze Museum Takada" located along the Oshu Kaido road, we talked to Zenji Ogawa, secretary-general of NPO Goze Culture Preservation Society.

Goze Museum Takada is a townhouse building, Takano Asaya, of the Showa period. There are photos and materials of the last master, Kikui Sugimoto, who is said to have excelled in the performing art and skills as a troupe leader, also possessing incredible human qualities.

In short, the Goze is a blind traveling female entertainer. They traveled around the Kubiki region and Shinshu with their master and a guide and performed songs and shamisen in farming villages to earn money. During the Edo period, the visually impaired had limited options for independence, and masseurs and Goze girls were the few jobs available. A girl who wanted to become a Goze was apprenticed to a master around age six and began to practice the shamisen and Goze songs. “She would go on a tour for 300 days a year, so her training and daily life were almost always on the road. Not only in the performing arts but also the manners and discipline were very strict," says Ogawa. It is not hard to imagine how difficult it was for someone of such age who would still miss one's parents.

With their devotion, the Goze girls were highly respected in the villages they visited. The Takada clan was almost all farmland, where work was hard, and entertainment was scarce. To see the Goze perform several times a year was a pleasure for the farmers to overcome their daily hardships. In addition to the splendor of the art, there is the grace of the gestures and behavior. “There were people who worshipped the Goze girls who walked together and people who reflected on and disciplined themselves by the sight of the Goze girls”. What Ogawa says shows that the Goze were not disabled people to be pitied, but that they were revered as people who excelled in both the art and human qualities.

What is notable about the Goze girls in Takada is that they had a strong sense of coexistence. Those not matured in their performance would be assigned to a different performance or task to make the most of their individual qualities. The income did not vary depending on each person's ability and was equally distributed among the blind women in the same troupe. Also, the troupes cooperated and taught each other art forms. Ogawa says, "To live, we all help each other and support each other, and that is what the Goze girls of Takada do”. The spirit of helping and caring for each other nurtured by this region's deep snow seems to be expressed in their lives.

The touring of the Goze girls was a way for the disabled to transmit their message to the community and give back to society. In Takada, there has been an enduring understanding of disabled people's arts, which is likely due mainly to the footprints left behind by the Goze artists. Also, there is an understanding of welfare based on mutual support and compassion and an attitude of handing down the time-honored traditions. In touring the town and encountering these characteristics of Takada, we understood the significance of holding this festival here more deeply.

Coverage Author: Jitsugyo No Nihonsha, Blue Guide Editorial Department
Coverage cooperation: Social Welfare Corporation Minna de Ikiru、NPO Goze Culture Preservation Society