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The 20th ASSITEJ World Congress & International Performing Arts Festival for Children and Young People / MIRAI 2020 in Tokyo has come to an end and constituted an important and rich meeting place in this time of crisis.

The virtual event was populated by 1169 unique registered users from 75 countries attending 190 events. On the ground in Japan, the congress was visited by 3680 audiences attending 103 performances, workshops and symposia.

Relive the Congress & Festival:


Reflections on the Congress

Speech by Hisashi Shimoyama

Everybody gathered here tonight, and everyone in regions all over Japan, and everyone in every country and every region of the world: the 20th ASSITEJ World Congress is now drawing to a close. This World Congress, being the 20th, is a commemorative Congress, and is being held in Asia for the first time in 18 years. It is the first World Congress to be held in Japan. This World Congress has succeeded in the middle of a continuing pandemic. We join hands with our many friends all around the world, resolved to make it so that children may thrive in the present and be hopeful for the future. We strive to make sure that all the children of the world can exercise their right to experience culture, and to secure children’s cultural spheres. I would like to thank everyone for their hard work: everyone on the ASSITEJ World Congress Executive Committee; the staff of the executive office, who did their utmost; our many volunteer staff, media staff and theatre staff; everyone who participated in this Congress, and our friends all around the world. Thank you very much.

Speech by Morita Katsunari

I’m Morita Katsunari, Chairman of the ASSITEJ Japan Centre. The 20th ASSITEJ World Congress, which was held over the past 12 days, is now drawing to a close. There are many people to whom I would like to express my sincere gratitude for the fact that we have been able to hold the Congress safely, not least those of you who are here today. Thank you very much. 

Time really has flown since the Opening Ceremony in Tokyo a few days ago. It feels as if things have only just begun. With the postponement of the Congress, it took us a long time to get to this point, but now it seems as if things are over just as they’re getting started. Despite the postponement of the Congress due to coronavirus, and the constraints placed on us by the pandemic, we were more than equal to the situation in our preparation and response. It was a real shame for the children of Japan, who had been looking forward to seeing them, that theatre companies from overseas, despite hoping until the end that they would be able to join us, were ultimately unable to travel to Japan. However, in the midst of this, we created a World Congress that was the first of its kind in history, with online performances and meetings becoming a place to share wisdom and create new bonds with one another. 

I’m very happy that we were able to hold it in this way, with so many people contributing. I think this Congress will remain in our memories for a long time, and I’m very glad that we managed to hold it. Of course, our opportunities watching live theatre in person and  interacting with each other are restricted, but this has only reconfirmed for us the wonders of live performance; I think, to a certain extent, this can be seen as an upside to the COVID-19 crisis. It is a brilliant achievement that, despite these grave circumstances, thanks to the efforts of so many people in Japan, we have managed to hold the Congress with very few changes to the programme. 

I would especially like to thank those who offered us venues at short notice after the Congress was postponed. Thank you all very much. And finally, I would like to thank Yvette Hardie and all other members of the ASSITEJ World Congress Executive Committee who organised the Congress in these extraordinary circumstances. Thank you to our advisor, Fujita Asaya; our director, Ōtani Kenjirō; our Artistic Director and General Producer, Shimoyama Hisashi; our Executive Director, Morimoto Mayako; and all others who have lent their strengths to this event, as well as everyone on the Executive Committee. I am sincerely grateful for everything you have done. 

I would like to close extending my heartfelt thanks to everyone who has supported this Congress, everyone who is gathered here tonight, and all the organisations and staff involved. Thank you all very much.

20th ASSITEJ World Congress: A Feast at my Table Jenny Rogers

The 20th ASSITEJ World Congress theme: Towards the Unknown, Beginning the Journey aptly describes my first experience with ASSITEJ globally. I hesitated registering for the virtual event because I wasn’t sure what I was actually purchasing and I’ve been feeling a bit frugal since the upending of normal life in 2020. My deep hunger for an arts experience compelled me to relent. The ensuing eleven days of the Congress delivered a vast smorgasbord of theatrical expression, a profound depth of research, interesting and introspective talkback sessions with creatives behind the work, unexpected conversations in foyers of networking sessions, as well as familiar faces and voices from my attendance at IPAY and through TYAUSA.  This choice and perhaps once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to ‘go to Japan’ to participate in a live cultural event managed to close the gap between the miles and connect with me through the screen, perhaps—in this case—because we had a screen to meet through. 

I planned my participation fastidiously, reading every line of the program, ensuring that I had the time correct (there was a bit of a learning curve in this regard). I took copious notes as I attended sessions and made notes to ‘attend’ recordings of those I missed, which I did more than once (I am still doing it as of this writing). I downloaded abstracts and bios, outlines and transcripts. I watched performances and invited my husband to watch with me. I was quite literally enjoying a feast at my dining room table, devouring every morsel I could manage as the program ensued.

Participating in the World Congress was a gift of immeasurable worth. My thirst for arts connection was quenched and then some. As my journey continues and I connect with practitioners and new friends from across the globe I look forward to collaborations, fresh insights, and continued growth in the world of theatre for young audiences, a bit more equipped as I venture off into the new unknown.

Speech by Maemura Haruna

I’m Maemura Haruna, I’ve been working full-time as head of preparations since February 2019. First of all, I’m not a member of ASSITEJ. I’m a freelancer with no special affiliation. As a student, I learnt how to compose and perform musical works, but from that time onwards I began to feel a sense of discomfort within myself. I had the impression that art was distant from our lives. Of course, it’s not true of all culture or arts, but I felt that art was not close enough to us, especially to children. I wondered what I could do. It’s while I was searching for an answer to this question that I encountered the ASSITEJ World Congress and MIRAI Festival.

With the World Congress being held in Japan, I realised what my mission was. I, as an individual, wanted to provide equal access to cultural experiences, and to create a society where not a single person is left behind. That’s why I participated in this project. I found myself animated by this mission, which can be summarised simply with these questions: how would we on the Japanese side interpret the ASSITEJ World Congress, and would we succeed in connecting it to society and to children’s lives? However, to tell the truth, the two years up until this point have been very long.

I first participated in the ASSITEJ Artistic Gathering held in Norway, and I was very happy to be able to interact with people from around the world, and to feel that I had so many friends in different countries. The day that this Congress was postponed because of the global COVID-19 pandemic, around 200 visa documents from members arrived in our office, as if urging us to push on and do our best. We paused, and discussed the matter many times. I found myself returning to my conviction that now was exactly the time that we needed to communicate the power of culture and the arts to society, for the sake of children and the future. Many children were able to enjoy themselves in Nagano, and I believe that the warmth and kindness of all the staff here in Nagano will be remembered. 

We truly have many friends here with us now: Shimoyama-san, the Artistic Director and General Producer; Morimoto-san, the Executive Director; those involved in the 2017 World Congress in South Africa; Ōta-san and Ōtani-san, who lent their strength from the Asia Festival and Inclusive Arts Festival; everyone from the ASSITEJ Japan Centre; everyone on the Executive Committee; the production team who put in hard work from early morning until late at night; all the general members; everyone on the technical and recording teams; all the volunteers who’ve put forth their efforts; all those in the Nagano support team who enthusiastically hosted us; and all the creative organisations and speakers, including all those around the world who were unable to be with us in person. 

As this ASSITEJ World Congress and MIRAI Festival, and this part of our mission, draws to a close, the fact that we have been able to connect together, and the fact that ‘Children’s Art Action’ has come about, makes me feel like this is just the beginning. I believe that from here on out, by connecting with each other and contributing to sharing our efforts, we will build the future. Let us all do our best together. Thank you very much.

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