MONO Japan by Mune

Hello, this is the new intern Munetake. Today I would like to write about MONO JAPAN which is the biggest exhibition and sale event run by Japan Culture Exchange (JCE).

I started my internship at JCE  just before MONO JAPAN happened. My boss told me that the preparation phase and duration of the festival would be a very busy time for all staff members. Looking back at this period, it was a pretty tight schedule as predicted. It felt like the time the time just flew by me, especially when the event itself was happening. I believe that this was because I genuinely enjoyed meeting passionate craft makers and learning the history of Loyd Hotel from its great hotel staff members. They helped me to experience knowing about both Dutch and Japanese cultures.

This edition of MONO JAPAN had 16 exhibitors from Japan in total. A number of rooms between the basement to the 6th floor of Loyd Hotel were used as exhibitor booths. Each rooms had their own unique atmosphere designed with sophisticated furniture that appealed to the exhibitors products. While checking around all rooms, I could not help but enter the rooms and touch their products with my own hands.

The biggest point of this event was the opportunity for customers to talk to the Japanese craftsmen face to face. Having a real life conversation about the process of making their products with them could be difficult when you are living in Netherlands. Moreover, there is this language barrier between the Japanese and the Dutch. Fortunately there were several interpreters including JCE interns who could convey the craftsmen’s stories to customers. We managed to interpret about the crafts’ profound history and the incredible skills that were needed to make them to interested customers. It became a true cultural experience of crafts by not only reading descriptions written on paper, but touching the products and listening to the story of the creators. I personally asked random visitors about their opinion about MONO JAPAN. Many of them gave me positive feedback. I sincerely hope that people in European countries get more interested in Japan and it’s craft cultures through this event.

MONO JAPAN was not an one way cultural event from Japan to the Netherlands,  but it was an opportunity for mutual understanding. We had fresh and innovative lectures. One was conducted by Menno Fitski, curator of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, and a specialist on the subject of Arita porcelain. As well as Christien Meindertsma, a Dutch designer of one of the series of 2016/ Arita porcelain. In this lecture, the possibility of introducing Japanese crafts to the modern European life style was discussed. It introduced me to a new perspective. Another lecture was presented by Sweets Hirado. They provided the interesting history of ways of tea ceremony and Japanese sweets. Those lectures are told from Dutch and Japanese perspectives which gave different points of view to audiences of both countries. All the seats were filled with attentive listeners. This became the place for exchanging cultural technology.

Culture and technology have a close relation that stimulate each other, and it results in creating all new manner of life styles. These kind of events can prompt the development of craftsmanship. I am excited to see the changing process of introducing Japanese crafts in European life styles. In this way, MONO JAPAN was the chance to discover each cultures through people and products whilst functioning as a platform for cultural exchange based on business.

Knowing Japanese crafts and developing an interest in them, people would consider to take those crafts into their daily lives. This flow creates the demand of Japanese crafts in European markets and results in shops in the Netherlands starting to sell them from their shelves. I could experience seeing the business process, because I became one of the organizers. I am grateful to work for this event with fantastic people. JCE is planning to host MONO JAPAN in 2019. We are going to start preparation to make next year even better. Please look forward to it!

Written by: Munetake Yasuzumi