InterUrban: Weaving the Threads of Culture – Hamamatsu's Fortnight in Veszprém - EU・ジャパンフェスト日本委員会

InterUrban: Weaving the Threads of Culture – Hamamatsu’s Fortnight in Veszprém

Kata Jávor|Production and Project Lead, Hangvető Kft

In my capacity as the organizer of the Hamamatsu Week within the Interurbán project, I embarked on a journey filled with eager anticipation. Over the course of two weeks in September and October 2023, Hamamatsu had the privilege of taking center stage in Veszprém, Hungary. This marked a significant milestone in our overarching mission to facilitate cross-cultural exchange among cities worldwide, and the outcome exceeded our highest expectations. With the invaluable partnership of Japanese artists and the enthusiastic collaboration of several Hungarian volunteers, as well as the generous sponsorship provided by EU-Japan Fest Japan Committee, we had the distinct honor of acquainting the people of Veszprém with the richness of Hamamatsu’s cultural heritage.

At the core of InterUrban is a multifaceted cultural fair, where each participating city is provided a platform to showcase its distinct traditions and historical legacy. As the European Capital of Culture year unfolded in Veszprém, we extended a warm invitation to 30 cities from across the globe. Amidst this diverse array, Hamamatsu’s presentation shone brightly, offering the people of Veszprém an immersive experience of Japanese culture that engaged all five of our senses.

The inaugural event that unveiled the tapestry of Japanese artistry to the people of Veszprém was the opening ceremony featuring Yasuhiro Suzuki’s street installation – a metronome. This instrument, known for its ability to prompt introspection on the passage of time and its subjective perception, set the stage for a captivating journey. During the opening ceremony, the Vokál Veszprém City Mixed Choir graced the occasion with a harmonious blend of Hungarian and Japanese songs, echoing the theme of cross-cultural synergy.

Furoshiki workshop ©︎ Attila Domjan

One of the standout attractions was the furoshiki folding workshops. These elegantly designed pieces of cloth, deeply rooted in Japanese tradition, were presented by Hamamatsu in a manner that unveiled the art of gift-wrapping and its practicality. These workshops allowed participants to intimately interact with this aspect of Japanese heritage, resulting in a tactile connection that enveloped their senses in the warmth of Hamamatsu’s cultural identity.

The enticing aroma from the cooking workshop wafted through the air, beckoning both culinary enthusiasts and novices alike. The flavors of Japan came alive as participants delved into the intricacies of Japanese cuisine. This workshop transcended the boundaries of mere culinary instruction; it was a sensory exploration of Hamamatsu’s culinary soul.

Shingo Wakagi’s artistry was unveiled through both a photo exhibition and a film screening. The photographic exhibition, deeply personal and dedicated to the memory of the artist’s grandfather, encapsulated various facets of his life, intimate family moments, and the vivid portrayal of the town of Hamamatsu and its natural surroundings. This photographic collection maintained a profound connection with the film ” Waltz in Starlight,” which explored similar thematic elements through a different medium. Following the screening, the audience engaged in a discussion with the director, delving into themes of memories, family, the past, and human connections.

Amidst these cultural experiences, the people of Veszprém were invited to partake in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. The grace and precision exhibited during the ceremony left attendees in awe. The aroma of green and matcha teas infused the air, enveloping them in a world of tranquility and harmony. The tea ceremony provided a profound insight into the values and rituals of Japan, resonating deeply with those in attendance.

The culminating act of our cultural program featured a classical concert, representing a cross-border treat. Japanese artists such as Nagao Haruka, Mizuno Kaisei, Shimizu Yosuke, and conductor Kanai Toshifumi collaborated with the Mendelssohn Chamber Orchestra and professors from the Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music. It was as if the metronome of our hearts had synchronized with the rhythms of Japan, and in that moment, a bridge of music united our two cities.

Beyond the events themselves, the impact on the people of Veszprém reflects the success of this collaboration. With over 400 attendees across the various events, four reached full capacity, attesting to the genuine curiosity and appreciation of Veszprém’s residents for Hamamatsu’s cultural offerings.

These two weeks provided an opportunity to engage all our senses in the cultural exploration of Hamamatsu. The taste of Japanese cuisine, the sight of exquisite art, the sound of classical melodies, the touch of furoshikis, and the aroma of tea collectively formed a sensory symphony that will resonate in our memories for years to come.

Concert of Liszt Ferenc University professors and Haruka Nagao, Yosuke Shimizu and other Japanese students of the university ©︎ Marton Pesthy

As the organizer of Interurbán, I extend profound gratitude to EU-Japan Fest Japan Committee for their invaluable support, enabling this cultural exchange to take place. Sponsors like EU-Japan Fest Japan Committee play a pivotal role in bridging the gaps between cities and cultures, fostering meaningful moments of connection and understanding.

Looking forward, the future of this collaboration holds promise and potential. The success of Hamamatsu’s two weeks in Veszprém has paved the way for further exchanges and partnerships. We aspire to build upon this foundation, further strengthening the relationship between our two cities and their inhabitants. The metronome installation is now on display in the Museum of Ajka until the end of 2023, and the Japan Foundation, Budapest has expressed interest in Shingo Wakagi’s photo exhibition and film.

In conclusion, these two weeks served as a compelling demonstration of the power of cultural exchange and the potential for genuine connections among cities across the globe. It was a journey that enriched our souls, broadened our horizons, and left a lasting impression on the hearts of the people of Veszprém. Hamamatsu’s cultural showcase was an unqualified success, and it was a privilege to be part of this transformative experience, weaving the threads of our cultures into a tapestry of understanding and friendship.