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Controversial 'freedom of expression' art exhibit to change Tokyo location after protests

Yuka Okamoto, right, and Sadaaki Iwasaki, organizing committee members of the Tokyo exhibit of "After 'Freedom of Expression?'" are seen during a news conference in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward, on June 10, 2021. (Mainichi/Yuki Miyatake)

TOKYO -- An exhibition that sparked controversy over displaying a statue of a girl representing wartime "comfort women" in a 2019 art festival, which was slated for a June 25 opening in Tokyo, will be rescheduled to a different venue after it was faced with protests, the organizers said on June 10.

    The organizing committee comprising editors and others planned the Tokyo edition of the exhibition "After 'Freedom of Expression?'" -- that was featured in the 2019 Aichi Triennale international art festival and temporarily halted following protests -- for a larger audience in the capital. It was scheduled to open at the Session House Garden gallery in Tokyo's Shinjuku Ward through July 4.

    According to organizing committee member Yuka Okamoto, who held a news conference on June 10 at the House of Representatives members' office building in Chiyoda Ward, the gallery received phone calls and emails objecting the exhibition from the day after the plan was announced on June 3. On June 6, up to 26 protesters showed up in several cars at the gallery. Some of them reportedly screamed, "Don't lend them this place" and "Cancel the anti-Japanese exhibition." It prompted neighbors to complain to police.

    In response to these protests, the owner of the gallery asked to retract his offer to lend the organizing committee his venue, and the committee and featured artists have decided to change the location of the exhibition.

    (Japanese original by Yuri Hirabayashi, Cultural News Department)

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