The grand tour is here now - Trip to today’s Japan

Tokyo, Kanazawa, Naoshima, Osaka: a tour to discover a Country where Eastern and Western culture merge

In the 18th century fto take a trip to Italy was popular for the European aristocracy to discover the origins of their culture and take inspiration for their artistic production: it was the Grand Tour. In these first decades of the 21st century the cultural paradigm has changed and the art born from the revolution of the artistic avant-garde has swept away every frontier, creating a new perceptive grammar that has erased dusty hierarchies and projected distant civilizations as new cultural references. This is the case of Japan that, in recent decades, has been able to impose its soft power to the world, becoming today a destination of inspiration. And our Grand Tour starts from the Japanese capital. Tokyo is an immense city that recalls all the stages of the history of the country, the centuries-old opposition between the empire and the shogun, trade with China and Korea, the syncretism between Shinto and Buddhism, the charm of Europe and the United States, the rapid and exponential technological evolution, until the fusion that Japanese culture has been able to operate between its roots and Western culture.


A condition of creative balance that manifests itself in everything: in the skyscrapers that accompany the traditional wooden temples, in the jackets and ties alongside the kimono, in the manga that actualize the forms of ancient prints and the taste for calligraphy, in museums scattered throughout the city. The National Art Center, the museum of modern and contemporary art in the district of Minato, proposes the exhibition “Reijiro Wada: Forbidden Fruit” and “Henri Matisse - Forms in Freedom”. At the Museum of Contemporary Art of Tokyo a great exhibition on David Hockney gives way to the one on Yasuko Toyoshima. At the Sumida Museum, the museum designed by the SANAA architects, the great protagonist is Katsushika Hokusai, the Japanese painter and engraver who has become a world reference. Also by SANAA is the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa, a few hours of shinkansen, the Japanese high-speed trains.


An innovative art center without a path that leaves the viewer the freedom to move between the experimental works of artists of the 21st century. Back in shinkansen and then by ship to reach the island of Naoshima, located in the Seto Sea between the coasts of Kagawa and Okayama. The small island has been converted into an artistic and cultural center by the Benesse group, the Japanese giant of education, and hosts dozens of works of art scattered throughout the territory and modern art museums. Among them are the museums designed by the architect Tadao Ando: the Benesse House, the Lee Ufan Museum, the Valley Gallery and the Chichu Art Museum, a building built underground, whose works on display are lit exclusively by natural light. An architecture that emphasizes the coexistence between man and the beauty of nature. An essential balance for Japanese culture that can be found in gardens, green spaces, temples, mountains that make up the backbone of the archipelago. The journey ends in Osaka, visiting the Nakanoshima Museum of Art, the black monolith by the architect Katsuhiko Endo, among the red maples of Japan, in a still warm autumn that gradually leaves its place in the cold of a mild winter. Time is suspended. Water flows through the bamboo cane until it weighs it down and makes it fall with the sound of a drop. And the plane back to the West awaits our fate.

The Author

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After attending the faculty of letters and philosophy in Pavia, he graduated in architecture from the Milan Polytechnic with a thesis about the urban form and the identity of place. He has always been in love with art and literature and, undecided about which to choose, he tried to carry on both his passions. Since 2006 he’s been writing first for ARTEiN and then on AW Art Mag. He lives and work in Paris, a city he loves and to which is bound by the eternal spirit of the artistic avant-garde lurking around its alleyways.

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