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Onbeat magazine: Where all of Japan’s arts and the future meet

April 04, 2022

The cover of Onbeat’s 14h issue | Onbeat

Onbeat, a semiannual bilingual magazine for art and culture from Japan, covers a wide variety of genres, including art, architecture, crafts, fashion and music. The magazine has featured interviews and feature articles with top creators such as teamLab, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Kohei Nawa, Hiroshi Senju, Kengo Kuma, Tadao Ando and Issey Miyake, as well as popular serial projects by authors such as Yoichi Ochiai.

Since it does not focus only on a specific art form, it not only allows you to read about what you like in both Japanese and English, but also provides serendipitous encounters with inspiring works in art categories that are new to you. “The concept is to introduce talented Japanese creators of any genre,” said Hirotaka Fujita, editor-in-chief of Onbeat and CEO of the company of the same name.

Hirotaka Fujita, Onbeat editor-in-chief and CEO | Onbeat

He explained that the musical term “on-beat,” for accenting the first and third beats in a bar of four-four time, which he took as the magazine’s name, is the typical rhythm used in music played in Japanese traditional festivals and sacred kagura dance performances at shrines. “The magazine encourages new kinds of expression as a result of updating traditions in modern ways,” he said.

It was his encounter with African pop music that led him to this idea. He discovered that African musicians, instead of imitating Western music, were rather keeping the core of their own traditions and combining them with modern elements to create original music, “an ideal model of updating traditions to the present day.” He is a musician himself, and could not stop himself from traveling to Africa to experience life and music there, where he made special connections with famous African pop musicians such as Salif Keita and Youssou N’Dour.

Behind what Fujita tries to do through Onbeat is his own experience of rediscovering the depth of the culture of his own country when he lived in Paris for a few years after his trip to Africa. “While I was living in Paris, I was blessed with an opportunity to visit art galleries and museums almost daily, and I realized that Japanese culture had developed not in a human-centric way, but in harmony with nature,” he said.

It was his encounter with African pop music that led him to this idea. He discovered that African musicians, instead of imitating Western music, were rather keeping the core of their own traditions and combining them with modern elements to create original music, “an ideal model of updating traditions to the present day.” He is a musician himself, and could not stop himself from traveling to Africa to experience life and music there, where he made special connections with famous African pop musicians such as Salif Keita and Youssou N’Dour.

Behind what Fujita tries to do through Onbeat is his own experience of rediscovering the depth of the culture of his own country when he lived in Paris for a few years after his trip to Africa. “While I was living in Paris, I was blessed with an opportunity to visit art galleries and museums almost daily, and I realized that Japanese culture had developed not in a human-centric way, but in harmony with nature,” he said.

“But at the same time, I felt that the Japanese people of today are not able to appreciate their own art and culture based on their own tradition for themselves and communicate its value to the people of the world, which is a great shame.”

He said many Japanese artists have high skills but are not trained to explain their works in words, which is partly why it is difficult to make a living as an artist. “Art education in Western countries focuses on training how to illustrate the concept, originality, novelty and significance of one’s works in art history, because the goal is to live as an artist,” Fujita said.

That is why he made the magazine entirely bilingual from the first volume, which was published in 2014 and focused particularly on in-depth interviews. The next issue of Onbeat, coming up in June, will be the 16th issue. It will feature articles on designer Tamae Hirokawa, film director Naomi Kawase, architect Junya Ishigami and contemporary artist Yukinori Yanagi and Makoto Aida.

The cover of Onbeat’s 16th issue | Onbeat

Fujita said the company is starting new projects outside the magazine and art books, leading up to its 10th anniversary year in 2023. Onbeat has signed a partnership agreement with Jeane Inc., based in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward, which provides digital marketing support services and operates the Yugen Gallery, a contemporary art gallery. “We will utilize the online and offline Yugen Gallery as a platform to sell and promote contemporary art,” Fujita said.

Onbeat has also started a collaboration named Nanotech Meets Art Project with Japan Nano Coat Co. Ltd., a company in Tokyo’s Taito Ward that specializes in the research, development and manufacturing of nano coating agents. “Applying nanotechnology in arts and crafts will enable better preservation and use of new materials. As the first collaboration under this project, our nano coating technology was used in a new work by sculptor Kohei Nawa, which is to be exhibited for a few years in Marunouchi Street Gallery, as an open-air gallery in Marunouchi from late May,” Fujita said, with construction by Be Factory Co. Ltd.

Onbeat is also promoting Ronin | Globus | Onbeat Artist-in-Residence, a program that promotes cross-cultural dialogue by giving young and midcareer Japanese artists the opportunity to stay, create and exhibit in New York City.

“We aim to go beyond making magazines, becoming a hub that connects various kinds of arts and artists, regardless of genres, to make an impact on society,” Fujita said.

https://onbeat.co.jp/

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