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160 Years of German-Japanese Friendship: Pioneers and Monuments

A monumental mural depicting the path of 160 years of German-Japanese relations

A monumental mural depicting the path of 160 years of German-Japanese relations, © TokyoDex

25.01.2021 - Artikel

Embassy walls showcase avant-garde interpretations of history and what lies ahead

The German Embassy in Tokyo and TokyoDex are pleased to announce the unveiling of a novel mural artwork to commemorate the anniversary of 160 years of friendship between Germany and Japan. Curated by TokyoDex and created by the Osaka-based Japanese artist duo WHOLE9, the exterior wall of the German Embassy now features elaborate murals with larger-than-life portraits of pioneers and events which have shaped – and epitomize – the long history of relations between the two nations. They will be finalized on January 28 and is scheduled to adorn the Embassy walls for the remainder of the year.
160 years ago on this day – on January 24, 1861 –, the Kingdom of Prussia and the Tokugawa Shogunate signed the Treaty of Amity, Commerce and Navigation, which today is largely considered the starting point of German-Japanese diplomatic relations. In tribute to these long-standing ties, the artwork commissioned by the German Embassy and implemented by the art agency TokyoDex looks back at history to pay homage to the pioneers who have profoundly contributed to German-Japanese relations. It is the third time TokyoDex has curated the artwork of the Embassy’s exterior walls, which encompasses 80 meters.

Duo WHOLE9
Duo WHOLE9© TokyoDex


Divided into six sections – medicine and science, culture, trade and economics, music, sports, and politics –, the murals show photo-realistic portraits of trailblazers including Philipp Franz von Siebold and Mori Ogai, as well as more recent personages such as the East German conductor Kurt Masur and award-winning choreographer Pina Bausch. They will also feature a QR code for each section which will lead interested observers to dedicated posts on the Embassy’s Instagram account (@germanyinjapan) with further information on the respective sections.
Apart from the portraits, the artwork also showcases events which have determined much of the joint history, with the descending slope symbolizing the flow of time. With the largest surface dedicated to politics, it also contains symbols of the darker chapters of German-Japanese history: The rise of fascism and militarism as well as the devastation of war.
The work of art merges memories of the past with visions for a brighter future; from early German traders in Dejima to the Bandō Prisoner-of-war Camp – where Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony was performed for the first time in Asia – to Germany and Japan’s present-day shared values such as multilateralism, rule of law, democracy, and human rights. The murals also highlight the evolution of German-Japanese relations from the exchange of individuals to an exchange of societies.

The official relations between our country and Japan all started with a diplomatic mission led by Count Friedrich Albrecht zu Eulenburg. As such, it is only fitting to see this remarkable artistic homage to our long, shared history brought to life on the exterior walls of, again, a diplomatic mission.

Ina Lepel, German Ambassador to Japan

Influenced by various genres including street art, Artists „hitch“ and „simo“ of WHOLE9 create live paintings and large-scale, high-quality murals.

We believe their unique style of photographic-realism mixed with energetic abstract expression in bold colors has resulted in a work that is both educational and inspiring, while capturing the essence of the rich history the two nations share.

Daniel Harris Rosen, Creative Director of TokyoDex

It is a great honor to be involved in a project that marks the 160th anniversary of Japan-Germany relations. We were very excited when we were asked to work on this 80-meter-long wall, which is the longest surface we have ever painted.

We've heard that cities in Germany, such as Berlin, have a great environment for artists. After receiving various reference materials in preparation for this project and learning about the history of the country, we now feel closer to Germany than ever before. After finishing this wall, it is our dream that we may one day be able to visit Germany and create our own artwork there

WHOLE9

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