Building on our previous work with rural Japanese community of Toge, we are delighted and honoured to be invited to lead this initiative connect the Japanese village of Kiwanasato 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 Kiwanasato 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.