KOBE Biennale 2009

Intent & Objectives

Thanks to its geographical and topographical features, Kobe has flourished since days of old as a strategically important gateway between land and sea. Standing at the forefront of cross-cultural exchange, the city has experienced the influx of a wide variety of artistic traditions, giving rise to a diverse and multi-layered mix of cultures that have coexisted in harmony until the present day. In addition, the citizens of Kobe will never forget how the emotional power of the arts helped to heal the wounds of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake of 1995, and played a vital role in giving people the courage and strength to rebuild their city.

With such history and experiences in mind, the city of Kobe took the 10th anniversary of the earthquake as the occasion to set forth an essential philosophy of urban progress and revitalization based on the power of culture, making the “Kobe Culture Creation City Declaration” in December 2004. To promote the arts in Kobe, by making opportunities to focus the city’s creative energy and convey it to those at home and abroad, as well as to energize and vitalize both the art and culture of Kobe and the city itself, we hold the Kobe Biennale festival of the arts once every two years.

  1. Presenting Kobe’s Image to the World
  2. Discovery and Cultivation of Up-and-Coming Artists
  3. Cross-Pollination and Fusion of a Broad Spectrum of Arts and Culture
  4. Drawing upon the Arts and Culture for Urban Development
  5. Linking Artistic and Cultural Activities

わ wa

Concept: Along with the benefits we have reaped from advances in modern science, we are now faced with the threat of continued environmental destruction. The time has come for each society on Earth to reexamine its aesthetic values as they pertain to the environment. It is also essential that we reconsider the relationship between people and nature, and the power of "culture" within the context of the environment.
In terms of "cultural power," what is it that Japan can contribute to the world in the 21st century?

It is our belief that a new approach to wa, one of the foundations of Japanese culture since ancient times, will be a key concept in the global environment and creation of culture both in Japan and abroad in the 21st century. Further, we believe that in examining Japan's position geographically, historically, and culturally, wa will serve as an appropriate theme for the Kobe Biennale 2009: Encounters with Art in the Port.

Among the meanings of the Japanese word wa are "peace," "harmony," "comfort," "surrounding," and "link." It is a word that is filled with an ambiguity that suggests a multitude of meanings and contextual implications, and encourages a variety of historical and contemporary interpretations. Moreover, it was instrumental in producing our unique culture and history, and served as a fundamental concept in shaping the Japanese people and civilization. Needless to say, ambiguity, the basis for our aesthetic sensibility, is an indivisible part of our culture.

It is our hope to find out exactly how this concept of wa, with its wealth of ambiguity, resonates within contemporary surroundings and historical circumstances, and further, what effect it might exert on the global environment. We would then like to entrust the possibilities inherent in our new cultural creations to the world.



KOBE Biennale 2009
October 3, 2009 (Sat.) to November 23, 2009 (Mon./Holiday): 52 days
■Organized by
The Organization Committee for Kobe Biennale and the City of Kobe
■With assistance from
Hyogo Prefectural Government
■Supported by
gency for Cultural Affairs, Hyogo Prefectural Board of Education, Kobe City Board of Education, The Asahi Shimbun Company, Asahi Broadcasting Corporation, NHK Kobe Broadcasting Station, Kansai Telecasting Corporation, Kiss-FM Kobe, The Kobe Shimbun, Sankei Shimbun Co., Ltd., Sun Television Co., Nikkei Inc., The Mainichi Newspapers, Mainichi Broadcasting System, The Yomiuri Shimbun Osaka, Yomiuri Telecasting Corporation, Radio Kansai, Ltd. (in order of Japanese syllabary)
■General Artistic Director
Hiromi Yoshida
Ishihara Kenichiro 
Oomori Masao
Ochi Yujiro
Taniuchi Shinnosuke
Taniguchi Fumiyasu
Fujimoto Syuzo
Yamada Hiroshi
Shigeru Nakamura
■Main venues
Kobe Meriken Park
Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art
Port of Kobe
Sannomiya/Motomachi Shopping Arcade area

Office of the Organization Committee for Kobe Biennale
Kobe City Hall, 2nd Bldg., 1F 6-5-1 Kanou-cho, Chuo-ku, Kobe 650-8570 Japan
TEL・078-322-6490 FAX・078-322-6136