Issue: Winter 2023


Exploring Japanese Art and Culture

JAPAN HOUSE Los Angeles, located at The Ovation (formerly Hollywood & Highland) in Hollywood, is only one of three centers of this innovative, worldwide project—the other two being in London and Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Conceived by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, it seeks to nurture a deeper understanding of Japan in the international community. Occupying two floors at Ovation Hollywood, JAPAN HOUSE Los Angeles provides a place of new discovery that transcends physical and conceptual boundaries creating experiences that reflect the best of Japan through its spaces and diverse programs.

Fostering awareness and appreciation for Japan around the world by showcasing the very best of Japanese art, design, gastronomy, innovation, technology, and more, it brings various aspects of Japan to American and international audiences.

The second floor space spans more than 6,000 sq. ft. and features an exhibition gallery and a sub-gallery for intimate gallery talks and smaller exhibitions. The fifth-floor space spans 8,000 sq. ft, and features a relaxing library, a multi-purpose event venue, restaurant and simply spectacular views of Los Angeles.

From manga (comic book art) to modern architecture, prototyping to paper culture, and ramen bowls, the Gallery has exhibited the best of Japanese culture. Minimal, refined, and intricate, exhibiting artists embrace Japanese aesthetics through a myriad of mediums including art, fashion, gastronomy, technology, textiles, and literature. Exhibitions rotate every two to three months and are a gift of art and culture to our city by the government of Japan.

Each JAPAN HOUSE exhibit has been an exploration into the heart of the Japanese art and innovation, past and present. An initial exhibit featured prototype technology. A large scale video exhibition was an interactive delight, as visitors’ movements were incorporated into the images on the massive screens. An extensive exhibit of ramen bowl was whimsical and beautiful. The most recent exhibit of the art of bamboo featured fourth generation bamboo artist, Tanake Chikuunsai IV, in a site specific work of wonder and beauty. 

The current exhibit, a thought-provoking Designing for Disaster—Stories from Seven Regenerative Cities inspired by the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, presents visionary new design practices that are building safer futures for a changing world. Introducing the concept of “Regenerative Urbanism”, this timely exhibition explores new ways to respond to nature instigated disasters and build more resilient environments around the world. 

The person charged with bringing JAPAN HOUSE to Los Angeles is Yuko Kaifu, its president. Uniquely suited to the task, Yuko Kaifu’s career began at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan with assignments that included the Embassy of Japan in Canada and various departments at the Ministry’s headquarters in Tokyo and Foreign Policy Bureau and Cultural Affairs Bureau as Deputy Director. In 2001, she was assigned to the Consulate General of Japan in Los Angeles as a Consul in charge of political affairs and community relations.

After leaving government service, Yuko served as Vice president of the Japanese American National Museum and was Managing Director of Corporate Communications from at MUFG Union Bank until she established Japan House Los Angeles in 2016. 

Discover Hollywood: One of only three Japan Houses in the world, why was Hollywood chosen as its Los Angeles location?

Yuko Kaifu: We located Japan House in Los Angeles not only because of its Japanese American population; it’s also a gateway both to and from Japan. Things are happening here all the time. It’s a cultural hub and one of the most diverse regions in the US. Opening in Hollywood may have been an unusual choice but being here we have the opportunity to connect with people from all over the world. They come to see the familiar sights and are also able to discover Japan.

DH: Each of the exhibitions have offered a unique look into the heart of Japanese Culture. What is the criteria for choosing what is presented?

YK: Touring exhibitions which travel to all three locations of JAPAN HOUSE are chosen by a committee consisting of art and cultural experts in Japan. Our other exhibitions are original to Los Angeles and have no specific criteria or rules. We are not an art museum and we are able to showcase not just art but also the best of Japan’s culture and lifestyle to the rest of the world. For instance, our recent bamboo exhibit showed how we take care of—and live in harmony with—nature. The current exhibit is about making cities resilient to natural disasters so they can recover quickly. What new ideas can we share? 

DH: Your role goes beyond JAPAN HOUSE. You serve on the Board of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and the Advisory Board of UCLA Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies as well as many Japanese cultural and business associations, what is your official capacity as a representative of Japan?

YK: When I was with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Japanese Consulate, I knew I could be reassigned anywhere in the world. I wanted to stay in Los Angeles and so I left government service. In my own small way with relationships and diplomacy, I see myself as being a connector and through JAPAN HOUSE, I’m able to bring people together and share Japanese culture and way of life. Hollywood has made us feel very welcome; we’ve found a respectful and engaged community here and we are very grateful. DH