Charles and Diana Open Japanese Festival
LONDON (AP) _ Prince Charles and Princess Diana opened Britain’s largest-ever festival of Japanese culture Wednesday night. The royal couple announced earlier in the day that they would visit Japan in May.
During their hour-long visit to the festival at the Barbican Center entertainment complex, Charles and Diana watched a display by puppeteers. They also observed a tea ceremony performed in a replica of a Japanese tea house by Europe’s only ″tea master,″ Michael Birch, a Briton who runs a Japanese tea ceremony school in London.
Birch, who learned the ancient ritual of the tea ceremony when he lived in Japan, trained at a tea ceremony school there and was offered a chance to teach the art in Europe.
Prince Charles, 37, the heir to the throne, said he and the princess could not have hoped for a better insight into the world of Japanese culture than ″this breathtaking exhibition.″
Buckingham Palace announced earlier Wednesday that Charles and Diana would visit Japan next spring at the invitation of the Japanese government. It did not give specific dates.
″We are both looking forward enormously to seeing even more of it when we visit Japan next May,″ Charles said.
The prince said he was last in Japan 15 years ago and was looking forward to introducing the princess to the country.
Charles and Diana were presented with a mechanical doll that serves tea, a replica of one on exhibit, and two albums of Japanese art.
The festival, called ″Toki: Tradition in Japan Today,″ is an exhibition of contemporary painting, puppetry, calligraphy, carved ivory, pottery, sculpture, gardens, photographs of Tokyo life and two seasons of Japanese films. The festival runs through Jan. 26.
John Hoole, curator of the Barbican Art Gallery that helped organize the festival, said in an interview: ″The festival turns the spotlight on a culture of immense age and richness. Visitors will be able to see in these arts a little known aspect of a complex 20th century society which is itself comparatively unfamiliar to a western public and in which traditional values continue to exercise an important influence.″
Hoole said the festival celebrates the continuity of traditional styles and ideas in contemporary Japanese art, despite the rapid changes Japan has undergone since World War II.
The festival centers on a show of works by 48 living artists in traditional styles known as Nihonga. It also has a display of extraordinary puppet figures, the Karakuri Ningyo, which combine elements of toys, folk art, religious icons and technological wizardry.
The 22 dolls appear to move by themselves. Some do, driven by springs, water or mercury. One doll, the tea-server like that given Charles and Diana, moves when a teacup is placed on it. It was constructed from 17th century drawings.
The films include a retrospective of Akira Kurosawa, whose ″Seven Samurai″ is regarded by some Western critics as among the 10 best films ever made.