Exploring the roots of contemporary Japanese innovation

May 20, 2011

Posted on: 20/05/2011

Exploring the roots of contemporary Japanese innovation

Gatineau, Quebec, May 20, 2011¾The fashion trends, cinematic and literary styles, and technological wizardry that have put Japan on the cutting edge of contemporary global culture are vibrantly revealed in JAPAN: Tradition. Innovation. at the Canadian Museum of Civilization between May 20 and October 10, 2011. The exhibition is supported by Subaru Canada, Inc., as the Presenting Sponsor.

Revolutionary robotics, fuel-efficient cars and cultural expressions like anime productions and contemporary comic books (manga) are synonymous with modern Japan. JAPAN: Tradition. Innovation. is a major exhibition that juxtaposes these iconic objects from the contemporary era with historical artifacts from the Edo Period (1603—1867) that provided inspiration for the current wave of Japanese innovation.  

“There are striking similarities between contemporary Japan and Edo Period Japan,” said Dr. Victor Rabinovitch, President and CEO of the Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation. “Both are prolonged periods of peace that unleashed an enormous amount of creativity. In both cases, this spirit led to changes and innovations that had profound impacts on the way that people live.” 

JAPAN: Tradition. Innovation. uses five themes— travel, robotics, status, consumer culture and entertainment—to explore how the parallels and distinctions between the two periods play out in the lives of individuals.

Even sophisticated modern devices draw inspiration from the past. The complex robots of today, for example, can be seen as descendants of the mechanical dolls (known as karakuri ningyo) used to serve tea in the Edo era.

JAPAN: Tradition. Innovation. offers a total experience. The physical layout of the exhibition—created by the leading Japanese design firm Nendo—incorporates typical Japanese architectural features to re-create the feel of a village in Japan. The pathways leading between sections of the exhibition are evocative of Tokyo’s subway. The exhibition also incorporates social media stations to allow patrons to provide instantaneous feedback and connect with communities of specific interest. 

JAPAN: Tradition. Innovation. runs from May 20 to October 10, 2011 at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, Quebec.

After the devastating earthquake and tsunami of March 11, JAPAN: Tradition. Innovation.has acquired a new layer of meaning. By illustrating the resilience and creativity of the Japanese people, it provides cause for hope as the country recovers and rebuilds.

Many Canadians continue to express a wish to make a gesture of support for people affected by the natural disaster. They may do so by contacting the Embassy of Japan or the Canadian Red Cross.

The exhibition was developed by the Canadian Museum of Civilization with the assistance of the National Museum of Japanese History in Sakura, Japan and the Embassy of Japan in Canada.