Japan the star of huge eight-month festival in France

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The largest celebration of Japanese culture ever to take place outside the country starts this weekend in France.

The eight-month-long festival "Japonismes 2018" features everything from prehistoric art to what the organisers bill as the first virtual reality concert staged in Europe.

"It's the largest extravaganza of its kind ever held outside Japan," its director Korehito Masuda told AFP.

Paris' most famous sites will become windows to Japanese culture during the festival. The Eiffel Tower will be lit up in the colours of the Japanese flag for the first time in September, while artist Kohei Nawa has installed a monumental hanging gold throne in the pyramid of the Louvre museum until November.

Other events across France aim to show the immense global influence of the Land of the Rising Sun.

French President Emmanuel Macron said Japanese culture has influenced generations of French artists from Monet and the Impressionists to the present.

France is the biggest overseas market for Japanese manga comics.

"The French, more than all of the other nations, know Japanese culture best," said Masuda.

- Samurai wonderland -

Another highlight of the season, whose 30 million-euro ($35-million) budget is being entirely met by Tokyo, is the "first virtual reality concert" in Europe.

Hatsune Miku, which translates literally as "the first sound of the future", is a 3D singer created thanks to virtual reality technology.

Miku has already won hearts and filled stadiums in Asia and North America with her manga-influenced style, and will take to the stage in Paris in December.

"We wanted to show the continuity of Japanese tradition up to the present day through the integration of traditional art and technology," Masuda said.

An interactive child-friendly exhibition in Paris immerses visitors in a wonderland of samurai and the bucolic Japanese countryside created by Hayao Miyazaki for his animated classics like "Spirited Away", "My Neighbour Totoro" and "Howl's Moving Castle", juxtaposed with a 11-metre-high virtual waterfall which moves in step with visitors' feet.

Japanese cinema also comes under the spotlight, with a retrospective for the country's best known female director, Naomi Kawase, famed for her documentary "Embracing", about her search for her father who abandoned her as a child.

The high-profile events are a part of Japan's cultural offensive against the rising star of neighbouring China, which is making major strides to modernise its own artistic output.

France competed against Russia and Spain to host the season, winning out, the organisers said, because of its obsession with all things Japanese.

The festival, subtitled "Souls in Synergy", seeks to strengthen the cultural ties between France and Japan as the two nations celebrate 160 years of diplomatic relations.


© 2018 AFP

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