Building on our previous work with rural Japanese community of Toge, we are delighted and honoured to be invited to lead this initiative to connect the Japanese village of Kiwanosato to a viable future. The village is in Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture in western Japan - the nearest big city being Hiroshima.
In 2017 we were invited to take part in the original '10 year dream' as conceived by 87 year old local farmer Okomoto-san. The ambition of his project was to bring younger people to the farming way of life, to his small village with a rapidly-ageing population. Okomoto-san knew that their way of life that was not appealing to most of Japan's contemporary population.
Later that year we undertook a 10-day scoping residency on site with the Fairland Collective including Brenda Kearney, Francesca Ulivi, Motoko Fujita (who grew up close to the village and has facilitated much of the project) and Tom Philipson, undertaking a busy programme that saw us creating village products, teaching and learning new skills.
We built and ran a bread oven, an antiques shop and a cafe, as well as taking part in pickle-making, soba noodle-making, bamboo harvesting, a ceramics workshop, basket making, bamboo working and many cooking workshops.
As a result of these research projects we developed the idea of an entire village as a school, one that could exchange skills (social and craft) with other villages in different parts of the world. We are growing this project as part of a worldwide initiative called (at the moment) 'The Confederacy of Villages', for which we are presently raising funding and gathering partners. We aim to learn from each other's approaches to similar issues, housing, population and infrastructure. The project is set to become an ongoing host for a series of 'schools' in architecture, craft, hosting, collectivity and reinvention, each led by different groups from across the globe.
In November 2018 we made a second visit to Kiwanosato with a small group of artists and craftspeople to further develop the project, concentrating on refurbishing accommodation suitable for forthcoming groups to visit and work in residence in the village.
2019 sees a number of visits across the seasons, and our first residential schools.
The summer Architecture School attracted over 30 applications from 16 countries. 14 students were selected to spend an unforgettable week designing and building a Bee School in the village, using traditional and new techniques and crafts taught by local experts. The autumn Horticulture & Cookery School will help to plant nectar-rich berries and flowers in former paddy fields around the apiary to support the initiative further. Its programme will also include hands-on workshops on koji, miso and other Japanese culinary traditions, as well as excursions and visits to nearby attractions.