“A meeting place for culture and pop culture born from a desire to share a passion for manga and animation”. After two years of absence, the Japan Expo is back. Paradise for all manga and anime fans (not afraid of the heat or the crowds) opened its doors at the Parc des Expositions in Villepinte on July 14th.
After having braved the RER B and its heat, the holders of the entry ticket (between 20 and 25 euros) were able to stroll between the hundred stands and points of sale spread over the 140,000 square meters of the exhibition. The opportunity to fill your bags with new finds, lots of goodies, a few autographs or take photos with the cosplayers of your favorite characters or influencers. Among the busiest spaces, of course, the stand of the next film “One Piece: Red”, publishing houses like Ki-oon, Glénat or Pika. That’s what the fans come for. However, the Japan Expo presents itself as an exhibition on “Japanese culture” and not “manga culture”.
“Behind the manga, there is Japan. »
Japan is not only manga, animation or video games. For its three founders: Thomas Sirdey, Jean-François Dufour and Sandrine Dufour, Japan Expo should not limit itself to this fragmented vision of Japanese culture. The openings (opening credits of the cartoons) are, for the festival team, gateways to Japanese music, including certain stars such as Miwa (interpreter of the credits of child of the month by Kamiari and well-known composer in Japan) are present to promote their art. “Japanese culture has a prominent place at the heart of this festival, assures Thomas Sirdey. We use manga and anime to help people discover Japan. »
To discover this other Japan in the festival, you have to leave the marketing stands of the big publishing houses and studios and the compact crowd to go to the Wabisabi space, less frequented, but teeming with creations. In this space of 1500 square meters, 80 Japanese craftsmen came to exhibit their works. Handmade jewelry, traditional calligraphy or tableware, and all kinds of traditional craftsmanship.
Ancestral know-how to discover
“The people who come are not necessarily there for that, but when they see our work, they stop, are interested and respect our work” says Goro Koisumi, through an intermediary translator. The 50-year-old craftsman arrived on Wednesday from Kamakura (a city in Kanagawa prefecture southwest of Tokyo) to exhibit his plates, sake cups and chopsticks made of carved wood, engraved and then lacquered according to the Kamakura Bori technique. This very old lacquering technique (dating back to the 1100s) requires patience and meticulousness.
It all starts with a block of wood. In this cube, the expert hands of the Japanese carve a cylinder, then a cut the size of a cup of coffee, a little coarse at first. Wood chisels refine the shape of the container, remove excess material from it, decorate it with some engravings. The cut is there, rough, it must now be sanded, to make it as smooth as possible. Then comes the lacquering stage. A first layer is applied, then a second, a third. The step will be repeated twelve times. After a final polishing, a cup of sake is born. Goro took two months to make this sake cup and he is presenting it to visitors today. All his know-how, he explains it with a big smile to the interested parties. Some sometimes leave with a cup or a pair of chopsticks, but everyone comes out of this stand with a new knowledge of Japan.