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Takamatsu, a city of art facing a jewel of the world: the Seto


Setouchi Circus

2015.05.30 by Cathy Hirano
Another intriguing addition to the Busshozan area of Takamatsu is the Bibliotheque des Arts du Cirque, a library dedicated to the circus arts.
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It was started by Michiko Tanaka (in photo below) and houses her personal collection of circus materials. One purpose is to bring attention to the Setouchi Circus Factory, an initiative for promoting and developing contemporary circus in Japan.
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Cirque nouveau developed in the late seventies in France in response to the disappearance of the traditional circus. Whereas traditional circus consisted of independent acts, such as acrobats and lion tamers, and was a tight-knit family affair with carefully guarded skills, in cirque nouveau, performances present a single story, and performers are trained at special schools open to all. (My friend who helped me find the library is obviously an aspiring performer!)
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But why Takamatsu? Tanaka came to Takamatsu in 2010 to work for the Setouchi Triennale. She discovered that this area already has a rich foundation in local performing arts, such as rural kabuki, jorurui and shishi-mai (the lion dances ubiquitous to harvest festivals). "The way local people appreciate performing arts," she says, "is quite different here. They get excited and really involved." She also learned from Naotsugu Kurahashi of Cafe Asile that the Busshozan area, as a temple town, was a center of entertainment from the 17th century. The popular equestrian act depicted in the historical illustration below is one example.
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Kurahashi suggested Tanaka establish a base in Busshozan, and the library is located behind Cafe Asile (photo below).
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Tanaka's vision is to establish a live-in training center where people can come to learn and create together and to turn this whole town into a stage, developing original content to match each venue, whether it is a garden, a temple, or someone's home. Sounds like fun, doesn't it! 
The Setouchi Circus Factory's first project was "Circus: 100 Years" staged in 2012 in a railroad garage in Busshozan.
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This has been followed by several more projects, such as an outdoor circus in front of Zentsuji Temple in 2015 (below).
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Coming soon is a performance by a workshop team on June 27 from 18:30 in the Kabuki Theater at Shikokumura Museum. This will be followed by another event in October 11 and 12 in Busshozan and Kagawacho for which the performers will be receiving lessons in essential circus skills from instructors of a well-known circus school in France. You can find out more about Setouchi Circus Factory and also become a supporter through their website:

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Library Hours: 8:30-18:00  Closed on Sundays. Admission free
Many thanks to Michiko Tanaka for photos and information. Here are some clips of the performances mentioned above:

This blog's writer

Cathy Hirano

I've lived in Japan since 1978. After graduating from a Japanese university with a BA in cultural anthropology in 1983, I worked as a translator in a Japanese consulting engineering firm in Tokyo for several years. My Japanese husband and I moved to Takamatsu in 1987 to raise our two children in a slower-paced environment away from the big city pressures. We've never regretted it. I work as a freelance translator and interpreter and am involved in a lot of community work, including volunteering for Second Hand, a local NGO that supports educational and vocational training initiatives in Cambodia, and for the Takamatsu International Association. I love living in Takamatsu.

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