Aya Ueto and Hidetomo Kimura, Officially Leading Off the Opening Ceremony of Taisei Hokan 150th Anniversary "Art Aquarium Castle~Kyoto, the Dance of Kingyo~" at Nijo-Jo Castle with a Mini Talk Show

2017.11.27 | Kyoto

Taisei Hokan 150th Anniversary Art Aquarium Castle

Taisei Hokan 150th Anniversary Art Aquarium Castle


On 25th October this year (Wed), the grand opening for the one and only "Art Aquarium Castle ~Kyoto, the Dance of Kingyo~" art aquarium exhibition organized in occasion of the Taisei Hokan 150th Anniversary, was held at Nijo-Jo Castle, bringing the crowd a designed performance combining music, colorful lightings and moving pictures along with an estimated number of 8,000 goldfishes and carps. This is the third time the event is held in Kyoto since the previous was held 2 years ago. The Ninomaru Palace Garden located in Moto Rikyuu Nijo-Jo Castle (which is also one of the World Heritage sites) nomrally refuses entrance, but it is now open to public as the exhibition venue. Visit hours are set starting from an exceptional 5pm, at which in normal occasions entrance is not allowed. The exhibition celebrated its 10th anniversary last year and it has attracted a total of 7.9 million visitors over the last decade. This year’s exhibition will be its first exhibition to be held outdoor and the largest in scale. Besides providing space as an exhibition site, the venue is also inclusive of a performance stage, a Kimono dressing room, and surprisingly, a corner providing Kyoto’s local alcoholic drinks as well as traditional Japanese confectioneries. During the grand opening, the publicity ambassador for the event, Aya Ueto gave a comment of “Love both goldfish and Kyoto a lot!” in enthusiasm and mini talk show was carried out with the Art Aquarium’s artist in charge, Hidetomo Kimura. 



Aya Ueto ❌ Hidetomo Kimura - officially Leading Off the Opening Ceremony with a Mini Talk Show


The talk show started off on the stage called "Stage of Suigi". The stage is the largest sized complex art that makes use of a 7-meter tall vertical aquarium as its background and another 8-meter long horizontal aquarium as its flooring in which countless goldfishes and carps drift. Subsequently after that, Hideomi Kimura and Aya Ueto, who was wearing a kimono supervised by Kimura, proceeded to the stage. Her violet kimono which included a golden waistband named "Itogiku" crafted by Itarō Yamaguchi, a renowned artist from Nishi-Jin, was an exquisite piece weaved with tie-dyed cloth entirely mounted by “Kyo-Kanoko Shibori”, Kyoto’s most exemplary traditional colour dying craftsmanship. Ueto revealed that she was used to wearing kimono as part of her work, “normally the kimonos that I have been requested to put on for photograph sessions are of brighter and lighter colors. It is my first time wearing such an exclusive kimono. Whenever I see myself in the traditional clothing I feel a sense of pride as a Japanese." “Kyo-Kanoko Shibori” takes the exact shape of the scales of a type of goldfish called “Pearlscale Goldfish”. In addition, the western Japan debut of the original artwork “Kirikorium”, an artistic aquarium created using the “Edo Kiriko” glass carving techniques is also displayed for showcase at the exhibition venue.


Hidetomo Kimura (left); Aya Ueto (right)


When Ueto was asked by Kimura about her favorite art pieces, she promptly replied with “Oiran” (「花魁」which literally means highest ranked courtesans), which is also the exhibition’s most representative artwork. “And this year, not only that an advanced version of “Oiran”: “Chou Oiran” is displayed, the outdoors showcases are also incredibly overwhelming. The work “Chou Oiran” holds the shape of a transparent fish bowl which is 3.5 meters tall with a diameter of 5.6 meters. The water volume for “Chou Oiran” is approximately 3 times that of the previous “Oiran”! Around 3,000 goldfishes in elegant motion are made representing the yūjo (「遊女」which means courtesans). All combining to form a striking artwork making its first debut in the western Japan. Ueto also commented that the artwork “Kirikoruim” carved applying the “Edo Kiriko” technique is also one of the exhibition’s main attractions. “I heard that ‘Edo Kiriko’ appeals to foreigners as well, so I think with this piece as part of the exhibition, a lot of tourists from overseas are very likely to feel attracted and pay visit to the Nijo-Jo Castle.” Promtly after Ueto finished her comment, Kimura said that “I actually met a few tourists from Taiwan who came solely for the reason of visiting this exhibition and they asked for a handshake”, followed by Ueto saying “It would be great if the exhibition turns into a representative Asian event.” Lastly, Ueto concluded saying “Even though Nijo-Jo Castle’s kitchen and other indoor spaces are usually not open to the public, entrance is now allowed to visitors. That is not all, this year, wine, matcha green tea and varieties of traditional Japanese confectioneries are also served as an extra delight as visitors enjoy the artworks. Isn’t that a 10-over-10 satisfactory? Plus, an additional of a new Kimono dressing service is also launched as part of the exhibition corners. I hope that it can provide opportunities to foreign guests so that people are able to take a lot commemorative photos while wearing Kimonos.” The talkshow reaches a cheerful end as Ueto finished making an appeal for the exhibition. 



A Total of 15 Pieces of Outdoors Goldfish Artwork! Experience and enjoy them feeling like a billionaire!



Taisei Hokan 150th Anniversary Art Aquarium Castle


Nijo-jo Castle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that has a history of over 400 years; it had served as an imperial villa since the Edo Period. Higashiote-mon, the main gate of the castle, made a striking impression on visitors. As the sun began to set, excitement for the exhibition at night built up as the chalky, white castle walls looked even more majestic when they were lit up. The roof of the Higashiotemon was constructed in Irimoya style (a kind of tiled, hip-and-gable roof). A watari yagura (roofed passage) that is well over 3 meters wide was built in between the stone walls through which one can pass through the yagura-mon (gate of the watchtower). When you get through the yagura-mon, you would feel as if you were traveling back in time to the era of the last Shogun, Yoshinobu Tokugawa. As we made our way in the dark stepping on crunchy pebbles and relying on paper-framed lamps, we arrived at the entrance of the venue.


Taisei Hokan 150th Anniversary Art Aquarium Castle


Now we came to the Ninomaru Palace Garden, which is usually not open to the public. At the time we set foot on the national treasure, we immediately felt overwhelmed by the 6 connected palaces that floated in the moon-lit night. Incense were burning subtly on the premises, while instrumental music was played in the background. As a number of iridescent aquariums called "Bombolium" were displayed in front of the Palace Garden, the fantastical scene stirred up excalmations of admiration from all corners of the garden. When we came close to an aquarium in the shape of a small lantern named "Snow Cave (Bonburi)", we could see various goldfish, each in their own way, tumble about in water. As our eyes drifted upwards, countless artworks that were scattered over here and there came to view. It was as if a starry sky was shining in colours of the rainbow.


Taisei Hokan 150th Anniversary Art Aquarium Castle


This exhibition includes 15 types of "Goldfish art", among which the one that received the most attention was the new exhibit "Taisei Hokan Byobu-ezu" (painted folding screens of the Restoration of Imperial Rule). It is an byobu-shaped aquarium illuminated with projection mapping technology, making it an enjoyable collaboration between moving Japanese paintings and goldfish. 3 folding screens with different themes are dotted about the exhibition, on which Japanese paintings from the late Edo period, the early Meiji period, and the modern era are projected; a storyline runs through the three pieces so that audiences can appreciate the beauty brought back by the Restoration of Imperial Rule with clarity. In addition to that, three installations, namely "Kutani Goldfish Exhibition", "Kirikorium", and "Super Oiran", will make their first appearance in western Japan for the first time in this exhibition. They were made with traditional craftwork techniques such as the Kutani porcelain technique and Edo-kiriko glass-cutting technology. Following the suggested route, you will find the signature piece of the exhibition, “Oiran”, in front of “Super Oiran”. “Oiran” features 1,000 goldfish in a giant goldfish bowl, but “Super Orian”, the newest addition of the Orian series, contains 3 times more goldfish than that. It almost felt as if we were about to be drawn into the water as we stood by the side of the aquarium. This is a feeling that definitely has to be experienced directly on the spot. 


Taisei Hokan 150th Anniversary Art Aquarium Castle


Here are several tips for you if you wish to prepare yourself for the viewing of the large collection of remarkable artworks. Make sure you have sufficient protection against the cold weather at night - to warm yourself up, you may visit the “Night Festival Bar” set up in the garden in front of the Old Chef’s Quarters. The bar provides local sake from five famous Kyoto breweries (Japanese sake mixed with Kyoto-style soup, ¥1000 tax included), so you may warm yourself from head to toe with a delicious drink. Please also be sure to try the fresh, seasonal Kyoto-style pickled vegetables from “DAIYASU” (¥500/3 pieces), along with Kyoto-style Oden (¥1000/ 3 assorted pieces). For those who cannot handle their drink, you may wish to visit the Tea Ceremony Space instead. The menu is a collaboration of three established brands in Tokyo, offering Japanese unbaked sweets from Oimatsu, dry Japanese sweets from Kamesuehiro, as well as Uji matcha with gold flakes and Asatsuyu Houjicha from Fukujuen.


Taisei Hokan 150th Anniversary Art Aquarium Castle


When you look at the exhibits from afar or observe closely the large variety of goldfish shapes, you will realize what an art piece it is. Take one step down the road further and you will see the last of the exhibition, the Stage of Suigi, which also served as the venue of the aforementioned talk show. On the Stage of Suigi, art installations together with dance performances unfold in a vibrant and glamourous fashion night after night. In November, Rantaro Kojyo, star of the Gekidan Kojyo theater troupe, offers you a special performance that is the Dance of Kingyo. There will also be performances based on kimono design by Hidetomo Kimura and “Oiran”, the signature artwork of this exhibition.


Taisei Hokan 150th Anniversary Art Aquarium Castle


A limited number of special tickets to the exhibition are available for purchase. This ticket offers you priority entry so there is no need for you to wait in line due to admission limits. With this ticket, you are entitled to enjoy the kimono dress-up service at the Old Chef’s Quarters, one of Japan’s Important Cultural Properties. You will also be allowed to take photos at designated spots of the Old Chef’s Quarters. The kimonos provided are made with real silk that is woven in accordance with Kyoto’s traditional craftsmanship. You can choose from three dress-up plans, the "chrysanthemum course" being the deluxe plan among all three. With so much to watch, to eat, and to enjoy, the old castle of Kyoto is definitely a special place for you to spend the night!


Content: Noriko Ishibashi (石橋法子); Photography: Yoshi Kawakami (河上良)



Taisei Hokan 150th Anniversary "Art Aquarium Castle~Kyoto, the Dance of Kingyo~"


■ Period: October 25, 2017 (Wed) – December 11 (Mon) <Open throughout the period>
■ Opening hours: 17:00-22:00 (Last admission at 21:30)
■ Venue: Nijo-jo Castle (Ninomaru Palace Garden, garden in front of the Old Chef’s Quarters, Old Chef’s Quarters)

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