“The Fascination of Italy: Perceptions and Images of Contemporary Japan” is the title of the conference scheduled for 1 October in Kyoto to wind up this year’s numerous celebrations for the 150th anniversary of Italian-Japanese relations. The meeting – sponsored by the Italian Embassy in Japan and organised by the Kyoto University of Foreign Studies, the Italian School of East Asian Studies in conjunction with the Tokyo Club and the Italian Cultural Institute (IIC) in Osaka – aims to analyse Italy’s position within Japanese society over a century, from the middle of the 19th century to the outburst of World War II, in the first attempt to systemically place Italy in the cultural imagination of modern-day Japan. Six renowned experts will examine from different perspectives how Italian culture was represented among two or three generations of Japanese and overview the images transmitted through the first-hand experience of Japanese visitors or residents in Italy.
The conference run in parallel to the exhibition entitled “The Iwakura Mission to Discover Italy”, which was on show in Tokyo in July and is now in Kyoto through the month of October, which takes the visit to Italy by the members of that 1873 mission as the point of departure of the “discovery” of Italy. The members of the Iwakura Mission (1872-1873) visited different parts of Italy in May 1873 during a trip across America and Europe. After seeing the institutional setup of modern states and the technological advancements of the United States of America and of several European countries including France, Britain and Germany, Italy to them was awe-inspiring. The political unity that both countries achieved over the same lapse of time lay the groundwork for the subsequent tightening of friendly relations in several areas, especially in the field of culture and industry. One of the starting points of this long-standing relationship was undoubtedly the Iwakura Mission. The exhibition is subdivided into three parts and shows details of the visit through photographs and documents of the period, both Italian and Japanese.