We are entering a time in which the value and potential of rural areas are being reconsidered. Higashikawa, the “Town of Photography,” and “Cultural Capital of Photography,” is a beautiful town in Hokkaido, Japan. Located in a stunning rural setting, surrounded by the Daisetsuzan Mountains, it is also blessed with pure groundwater. With the aim of communicating the richness of life through architecture and furniture, the town has decided to start a new initiative in collaboration with architect Kengo Kuma, who has a strong interest in the use of architecture and design in rural settings.
Higashikawa, with its small size and thriving furniture production industry, has long implemented programs that would only be possible here: It starts with the “Your Chair” project, which gives the children a sense of safety and belonging from a young age. In Elementary School, the children learn while surrounded by wooden furniture. When they graduate Junior High School, as a graduation present, they take home their wooden chairs that they have used and cared for over three years. It is now time to start a new project and train the young people who will be the leaders of the next generation.
As the world endures the new Coronavirus crisis, the problems with our overcrowded metropolitan lifestyles have become clearer, and a search for a new lifestyle has begun. The resources and possibilities in each region are beginning to provide inklings of ideas for the development of this new lifestyle. Architect Kengo Kuma has joined us in supporting our town and our region. He is an early advocate of promoting the appeal of regional communities through architecture, with a strong interest in expanding the use of local resources and educating the next generation of young people. In a sense, Kengo Kuma, who is working on regional revitalization though the world of architecture, and Higashikawa, a sparsely populated town blessed with a rich environment and a thriving furniture industry, are working together to propose a new way of life.
It is our great hope that many people will join this initiative and enrich the hearts and lives of people around the world. The competition will begin in 2021, the memorable year of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.