Located in Asakusa on the banks of the Sumida River — while the Antarctica of Tokyo’s contemporary theatre scene, actually near the heartland of old Edo’s performing arts in Saruwaka-machi — inside the equally loved and maligned Asahi Beer Hall (a.k.a. Super Dry Hall, or Flamme d’Or), the space will close at the end of current fiscal year, on March 31st, 2016.
Asahi Art Square opened in 2004 as the hub of Asahi Breweries’s CSR art projects. (The hall itself was built in 1989.) It has partnered with the non-profit Arts NPO Link since 2007 to operate programmes across three policies: creating future culture, connecting citizens and art, and building regional links with art.
It was the venue for the Azumabashi Dance Crossing mini festival until 2013. Since 2013 it has also been one of the main venues for Festival/Tokyo and this year’s F/T is using it to host the “Roundabout in Yangon” showcase of Myanmar performance, music and art (it happens next weekend, in fact). Later this month it will host an Ei Wada music event as well as Gintersdorfer/Klaßen’s Logobi 06 (also part of Festival/Tokyo 2015) — just to give you a taste of the range of events Asahi Art Square regularly hosts.
After 26 years, the hall has apparently aged too much to be used as an event space and, after a decade of operation, Asahi Art Square will now be closing. Asahi has stressed, though, the Super Dry Hall won’t be demolished. The first three floors will continue to operate as normal.
One quirky thing about the venue is that, being on the four and fifth floors of the hall, it is only accessible by two elevators. This means that events and performances often start in this fussy, overly Japanese way with staff lining audiences up outside so that the right numbers of people can ascend in an orderly fashion. (This is only an exaggerated version of the usual cosseting audiences receive at theatre venues in Japan!) However, the space itself is wonderful versatile since it has two levels, with a deep pit surrounded by a gallery behind glass. This means the studio space can truly lend itself to all manner of event, from dance to music, video, installation and more.