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An art world insider sheds some light on how Tokyo is evolving as a cultural hub and what she loves about her hometown.

Japanese art comes in all forms and sizes, from woodblock prints and ceramics to manga and sculpture. One of the best places to brush up on contemporary works is Tokyo’s Mori Art Museum, where chief curator Mami Kataoka has developed exhibitions on artists such as Ai Weiwei, Makoto Aida, and Lee Mingwei. She also guest curated “Phantoms of Asia: Contemporary Awakens the Past” at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco.

Kataoka is one of our featured local speakers at AFAR Experiences Tokyo this November, where she’ll be talking about the fanciful world of Japanese pop culture with journalist and video game aficionado Matt Alt. We caught up with her in advance to get an initial overview of the state of the arts in Tokyo.

How would you describe the art scene in Tokyo? How is it evolving? 
This city keeps regenerating like metabolism, both physically and conceptually. Tokyo is a cosmopolitan city with so much energy of life itself, and art and cultural activities are very much a part of the whole energy.

There’s a positive momentum in the city as it looks toward the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and art and culture will also follow that direction—with a growing number of major-scaled exhibitions and artistic events looking at both traditional and most innovative Japanese culture.

The “Maman” spider by Louise Bourgeois looms large over Roppongi Hills, a complex of offices, shops, and cafés that also includes Mori Art Museum
Where do you go in Tokyo for inspiration or to find emerging artists? 
Inspirations from Tokyo come from its historical sites and from life itself, including food, fashion, design, and all other events happening every day. It is not limited to the emerging artists, but extends to creative talents of all ages.

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What do you love about living in Tokyo? 
It is not only about Tokyo, but living in Japan is just more convenient than any other place, period. Things are organized, punctual, with wide variety of diverse choices, but this is also because I know the code of the city.

What do you suggest visitors see or do to get a richer understanding of Tokyo culture?
I would suggest experiencing both the old and the new; the traditional and the city’s most innovative face; the classic and the experimental. There is so much to see in the newest developments but also you should not miss the old part of the city where you’ll find amazing secrets.

Want to delve deeper into Tokyo and meet Mami Kataoka and other notable locals? Register now for AFAR Experiences Tokyo, November 10-13, 2017.