Asuka Design Week

Asuka, Nara, Japan
Date: July 16th & 17th, 2016

Three areas in Japan’s Nara Prefecture came together as part of ASUKA DESIGN WEEK
held in July this year, featuring design conversations, live music and various workshops.

The areas of Kashihara, Takatori-cho and Asuka-mura, Nara hosted leading Japanese creatives and
thinkers for two days of cultural investigation, design dialogue and live performances.


The event helmed an impressively diverse range of speakers from various fields and disciplines. Japanese architect Kengo Kuma and footballer-turned-Japan cultural instigator Hidetoshi Nakata were amongst some of the speakers and creatives involved, also including Katsumi Asaba (Art Director), Toshiyuki Kita (Product Designer), Kenichiro Mogi (Neuroscientist), Yusaku Imamura (Director of Tokyo Wonder Site), Kenji Watanabe (Professor of Keio University) to name a few.


The area of Asuka is known for it’s origins in Buddhism culture and known as “the heart of Japan”. Asuka remains as one of the untouched areas of Japan, surrounded by farming and forests and locals who proudly protect the historic landscape of temple and shrine culture. To gain attention for the pivotal area, it was in fact one of Japan’s leading architects Kengo Kuma, along with a designer and musician who instigated the idea for the first “Asuka Design Week”.

The Asuka area is known to inspire Japanese leading creatives to initiate design conversation. Asuka holds over 1000 years of Japanese Satoyama culture and sees the image of the capital from 1500 years ago through tumulus, stone and Buddhist statues left in the shrine. Locals and even businessmen such as Konosuke Matsushita (founder of Panasonic) encouraged to create a special law for protecting Asuka village and its continuity.

Satoyama is know for it’s residents that lived for about 1500 years, including temple and shrines which provide wide inspiration for discussing design. Asuka Design Week was developed for various people to obtain rich inspiration from the cultural climate. Asuka’s icon, Ishibutai Tumulus, made in the 7th century is a tomb of aristocracies who had extreme power. It is now a huge grass park where people enjoy seasonal landscape.

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 Alongside Asuka Design Week, the Asuka Otowa Festival featured free live pop music, and was also held with the aim to revive the landscape of Asuka Design Week as “Asuka Music & Story Festival”, featuring Japanese rapper GAKU-MC, and the National Asuka historic park Ishibutai Tumulus Asuka Kaze Butai.

During the event, the Japanese rapper GAKU-MC showed a “rhythm for dancing together” and performed “songs for singing together” to all generations young and old on the green field. It gave people happiness in the beautiful evening. The vocalist Salyu then magically lit up stage with her performance in the dark forest. She is respected by various musicians, including Yo Hitoto, as the “Most talented singer in Japan”. Her melodious voice attracted everyone at the venue, who called for an encore for 30 minutes after the performance even though it had begun to rain. The festival finished with a touching end.

Alongside the live music and workshops, throughout the two days of the event the new dialogue between leaders in their field had begun. Speakers including Ururu Kaigo (General Producer of Asuka Design Week), Akihiro Nishino (Comedian), Novemichi Tosa (MeiwaDenki), Hidetoshi Nakata (Director of General Incorporated Association Foundation Take Action Foundation), Yasumichi Morita (Designer), Maiko Kawakami (Actress, Glass Designer), Jun Nakagawa (13th president of Nakagawa Masashichi Shop), Yoshiko Ikoma (Fashion Designer).

Oka Temple, Asuka, Japan

Asuka Village, Nara, Japan

Organized by The Committee for the Promotion of Asuka Design Week
Supported by Tokyo Design Week, Design Association NPO