Looking back at MONO JAPAN

The people I have met and the things I have experienced are only because I worked at a Japanese modern art and craft fair in the Netherlands.

Looking back at MONO JAPAN 2018, working with people who have various backgrounds was the biggest plus for me. While we were preparing for MONO JAPAN and during the event, I met a number of people from either Japan or the Netherlands. Each of whom had his/her unique credentials. I learned to distinguish the different working styles from the Netherlands and Japan. Especially when we just started working on MONO JAPAN, I, as a person who majors in anthropology, was excited to hear opinions stemming from diverse backgrounds and experience being exchanged over a desk. As for the different ways of working, for example, in the Netherlands, people distribute flyers directly to stores and restaurants, have promotions through Facebook, and tend to buy tickets just before the events, etc. Just like these, there are always interesting different rules and customs in a different countries. By imagining me working in the international field in the future, I made sure to keep in mind the importance of background knowledge and the gatekeepers who can inform me of such knowledge.

Another good experience was talking with the exhibitors of MONO JAPAN. It was impressive to know that even in Japan, each region has its own strong industry, and manufacture goods which stem from the cultural differences based on the geography. Furthermore, these geographical differences affect the business style in each prefecture. Surely, it is the era that much is found on the Internet and generalized towards the “central culture”, but I thought some of the regional culture and customs that have been passed down through the generations still remain, and are preserved in the communities. When talking about urban planning, I supposed it was necessary to know the differences in regional culture, and the cities’ function. Such as Fukuoka as the gateway of Japan from the Asian continents, Tokyo as the hub of information in Japan, and Hokuriku as the place which has a lot of traditional, as well as modern industrial manufacturers. I came to the Netherlands as a student of International Studies last year, and I have been impressed by Dutch cities and their urban planning, whilst trying to figure out what I can do for Japanese cities. However, ironically speaking, as for the achievements I made through MONO JAPAN, I came to realize the importance of knowing more about the details of Japan in many ways.

As an intern, I am glad that MONO JAPAN 2018 was a big success, because there were many visitors coming, and nothing troublesome occurred. I also heard a lot of praises from visitors whilst working at the cloak rooms. Whilst working there, I could see almost all the people that came to MONO JAPAN and I noticed what kind of people (age, sex, race, social status, and orientation, etc) were interested in MONO JAPAN. In the cloak room, I had many opportunities to see the belongings of the guests, and I found them to be dressed up elegantly, and having qualitative bags and bicycles more often than people I encounter whilst I randomly walk down the streets. Going around the floors, I saw the people distributing themselves equally over all the exhibitions, and smoothly moving between them. I was worried about the communication between the guest (who are usually Dutch), and the exhibitors (who are mostly Japanese). However, it turned out that there was persistently at least one English speaker at each exhibition, and people were used to communicating in English. I even saw the visitors who were curiously asking in depth questions, and the shop people were kindly answering those questions. I could only participant in MONO JAPAN in the weekend, but we were supposed to have the most business people on Monday, so most of the shop people are seemingly putting in effort especially for that day. In particular, one of the exhibitors in Fukumono shop said “Monday is important”. Also, the man told me that the quota of the weekend had been successfully achieved, and I was relieved to hear that, because not only the staffs in JCE, and the guests, but also the exhibitors were satisfied with MONO JAPAN.

It has been six months since we started preparing for MONO Japan 2018, starting from last September. It is rare in the Netherlands, or even anywhere in the world, to see Japanese modern craft & design. Instead of grabbing attention of the people due to the rareness of the event, there are difficulties that had to be confronted in terms of being the pioneer of this market. I think it is socially valuable that such an event like MONO JAPAN gives the public a new perspective of Japan, modern crafts & design, not framing Japan as just a country with traditional culture and subculture such as anime. This will enable Dutch people to see another aspect of Japan. That is why I will keep supporting MONO JAPAN. Thank you.

JCE intern

Jo Wakebe