Seven Japanese art festivals to add to your 2022 calendar

The year 2022 is Japan’s art festival year, and the country has an action-packed calendar of festivals, from the frosty wilds of Hokkaido to the rugged coastline of the Seto Inland Sea. Here are seven of the best.

During Tokyo's Roppongi Art Night, museums, galleries, shopping malls and public gardens all get in on the act, so you won't have to look far to find eye-popping art.

Photograph by Getty Images
Published 9 Mar 2022, 16:21 GMT

1. Roppongi Art Night, Tokyo
Launched in 2009, Tokyo's Roppongi Art Night has grown into one of the capital's top art events, with nearly 800,000 people joining the most recent spectaculars. It will take place in autumn this year, with art installations, public talks, interactive pieces, video screens and extravagant performances lighting up Tokyo's liveliest district. The largest exhibitions are held across Roppongi Hills, Tokyo Midtown and the National Art Center, but museums, galleries, shopping malls and public gardens all get in on the act, so you won't have to look far to find eye-popping art.

Interactive artworks like the intriguing Naoshima Pavilion, created by the Sou Fujimoto Architects, can be found at Setouchi Triennale, one of the largest art festivals in Japan.

Photograph by Jin Fukuda

2. Setouchi Triennale
The Setouchi Triennale is one of the largest and most influential art festivals in Japan. Celebrating Japanese contemporary art, it takes over 12 rural islands in the Seto Inland Sea, including Naoshima, where you'll find Yayoi Kusama's 'Pumpkin' jutting into the sea (currently not exhibited due to maintenance), and Benesse House Museum, filled with works by some of the greatest names in modern art, including Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg and David Hockney. The next edition falls in 2022, running in spring (from 14 April to 18May), summer (from 5 August to 4 September) and autumn (from 29 September to 6 November).

In summer, the landscape in Sapporo explodes with colour. This is the season for beer, food and of course art festivals. 

Photograph by Getty Images

3. Pacific Music Festival, Sapporo
This international educational music festival was founded in Sapporo in 1990 by world-renowned US conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein, along with the London Symphony Orchestra. As much a mentoring programme as a music festival, PMF invites promising young musicians from around the globe to learn from some of the biggest names in the business. On the programme is a wide range of classical musical masterpieces. This year, the festival will be held for 18 summery days from July 16 to August 2, primarily at Sapporo’s Concert Hall, Kitara, with a variety of concerts featuring Lahav Shani as Principal Conductor, and Ken-David Masur as Guest Conductor.

 

Stages at the World Theatre Festival host every kind of performance art imaginable.

Photograph by Y Inokuma

4. World Theatre Festival Shizuoka  
This festival takes place each spring on the skirts of Mount Fuji. Based on the concept that 'theatre is a window to view the world', the ten-day event covers every kind of performance art imaginable, such as the acclaimed open-air theatre of MIYAGI Satoshi, contemporary European dramas, and artworks centred around the beautiful nature of Shizuoka. The Shizuoka Performing Arts Centre is the organiser and main focus, but fringe events spill out into the surrounding parks and public spaces. Audience participation is usually encouraged so don't be afraid to get involved.

Tobias-Rehberger is a German artist working within the realms of architecture and design.

Photograph by Oku-Noto Triennale

5. Oku-Noto Triennale
Merging art and nature, the Oku-Noto Triennale place in the city of Suzu, an isolated outpost on the narrow Noto Peninsula, in Ishikawa prefecture on the Sea of Japan’s west coast. The festival positions contemporary artworks against a bucolic backdrop of endless blue ocean, rugged coastline, dramatic rock formations, rippling rice terraces and peaked-roof villages. The next edition is scheduled for 2023 but there are a number of galleries, museums and permanent exhibitions that visitors can enjoy year-round. 

Kyoto, once the capital of Japan, is famous for its Buddhist temples and traditional wooden houses.

Photograph by Getty Images

6. KYOTOGRAPHIE International Photography Festival
Held annually in Kyoto city over four weeks (9 April to 8 May 2022), this international photography festival will bring together more than 20 renowned artists, many of whom will work in groups. Celebrating its tenth anniversary, the theme this year is: 'Every speck is relevant and meaningful in this whole; connected and existing as "One"', a saying rooted in Japan’s Buddhist teachings. Included in the varied and stellar line-up of exhibitions this year are an Irving Penn retrospective, renowned for his fashion photography and portraits, and a female-focussed exhibition called, 10/10 Celebrating Japanese Women Photographers, including the nature-based works of Tamaki Yoshida and Mayumi Hosokura's abstract monochromes. Look out for additional exhibitions called KG+, held in conjunction with KYOTOGRAPHIE and hosted at various locations around the city.

Ma Yansong/MAD Architects restored the Kiyotsu Gorge Tunnel in Japan’s Niigata prefecture, turning it into several permanent artistic spaces. This piece is called Tunnel of Light.

Photograph by Nakamura Osamu

7. Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale 2022, Niigata
This contemporary international art extravaganza is held across the lush fields, forests and mountains of Niigata prefecture in eastern Honshu. Sprawling over nearly 18,000 acres, over 350 works by the likes of James Turrell, Katsuhiko Hibino, Christian Boltanski, Yayoi Kusama, Jean-Michel Alberola, Marina Abramović, Cai Guo-Qiang and Antony Gormley are presented in forests, on stepped rice paddies, on the banks of the Shinano River and inside former school houses and barns, creating a symbiotic connection between art, people and nature. This year’s edition — Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale 2022 — will be held from 13 April to 13 November, with many of the artworks remaining in situ throughout the year. 

For more information on Japan’s myriad cultural offerings, go to japan.travel/en

Find National Geographic Traveller (UK) on social media

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Read More

You might also like

Travel
Why Shikoku should be your next Japanese getaway
Travel
Four of the best flower festivals for 2022, from the Netherlands to Girona
Travel
Six music festivals making a positive impact in 2022
Travel
How to explore the landscapes of Japan's Mount Akagi on a cycling adventure
Travel
Discovering pagan parades and pyrotechnics as part of Portugal’s ancient mountain carnival

Explore Nat Geo

  • Animals
  • Environment
  • History & Culture
  • Science
  • Travel
  • Photography
  • Space
  • Adventure
  • Video

About us

Subscribe

  • Magazines
  • Newsletter
  • Disney+

Follow us

Copyright © 1996-2015 National Geographic Society. Copyright © 2015-2021 National Geographic Partners, LLC. All rights reserved