Incorporated Non-Profit Organization “Pieces”
Administrative Director, Mr. Yusuke Arai
What does Pieces do as an incorporated non-profit organization?
We go to see children who refuse to attend school, drop out, and are abused every day. Through our support, we are trying to develop the world where these children can live on their own feet. To make the ideal real, we hope all the citizen will be the supporters for these children.
Government support is mainly the short term business solution, but there is a question “Is this what these children really want to receive?” Because of my experience talking to these children for a long period, they need relationships between people. For example, we can replace paternity and maternity role to supply family function. Relationships with other than their own parents make possible to cultivate trusts in the children. Therefore, not only money but relationships with people are truly demanded by the children.
Since you are facing the hardest thing in the society, there is a difficult image to make others act even though they can understand your concept. What do you think about this?
We cultivate human resources capable of accumulating children’s usual day. We call these people “escort runner for children”. To be more precise, we established a school where adults can learn how to support these children. I hope these adults will have deep relationships with children for a long time period to truck their growth.
Who makes the first contact to let you know there is a child who needs support?
Children’s poverty is becoming not prominent by the physical appearance. Honestly speaking, there is a difficulty finding out children for all the associations. We try not to receive information from the government. When we go to see one child, similar children will naturally gather around him. Therefore, we try to catch the entire circle.
To do this, we have to be deeply involved into the community and their lives.
What is the trick to open up children’s consciousness?
It is definitely demonstrating perspective of people. When you see the child who is playing the game all the time, we throw a message containing “we are interested in you” rather than give out “do not play the game”. Then they will have a sense of security such as “this person will not judge me”.
What made you to work in this field?
When I was a freshman in college, I spoke to a homeless in Shinjuku, Tokyo. I heard their background and why they became homeless. It was kind of interesting to hear their stories. It became a weekly activity and other homeless people gathered around me. Some of them wanted to work in the farms, so I made their CV and brought to farmers.
There were associations who invited us to their farms, and other associations prepared meals outdoors. From there on, I supported homeless people for a long time. I kept listening their childhood and realized about 80 to 90 % homeless grew up in the poverty, abuse, and having disability. They had difficulty finding a job and could not avoid choosing the way to be a homeless. That was the time when government started “study support for poverty children”. What I heard from homeless people and poverty children linked together, and since then I have been supporting children’s study.
What is your motivation to be involved into this field?
There are two factors motivate me;
My grandmother who had a disabling condition but kept supporting others.
My ex-girlfriend who had to give up on her dream because she became deaf.
I was suffered torment and was not able to handle my emotion. But when I started talking to homeless who have a bigger tsouris, it looked like I was stacking in such a small problem. I might have wanted to contribute to something meaningful.
How do you understand Japanese poverty?
Compare to the developing countries, there are relative poverty groups in Japan. Children start to hold a feeling of inferiority because of not being able to attend an after school or born in poverty family compare to others families. These children end up not being able to say what they really want to do and shut up their doors to the others.
Family culture is carried down to the next generation. If their parents are poor like eating dinner bought from the convenience store and not going to the college but getting a job, these culture would be linked to children. We introduce different adults who can support them to show how fun it is to learn and expand their world. Children open up their mind to adults once adults understand their feelings. We just devote a lot of time to listen to them well and face to each problem.
What has changed for children because of your effort?
We have supported many children and some of the smart kids went to the college with getting donations form completely unknown person.
It is difficult to measure our achievement especially with numbers like employment rate. Throughout supporting children’s life, they begin to build up trusts others and understand us who can encourage their dreams. Therefore, these children’s feeling is not easy to measure. Because they change their communication style, people around them change their communication style automatically. That is why we can sever a link with negative spiral.
What kind of cooperation do you need?
Of course money is important, but we would appreciate if there are people who can invest their time. Donation has a limit to build a relationship with these children. They need a person who can be with them for a long time period.
Not only family but also other adults should be able to raise children, and this society can change our family picture. As for the socialization of education, we will create a community where these children can seek through their jobs by establishing trusts between adults.
For this future, it would be great if there is enough space and money.
Tokyo Traditional Art & Craft Designation “Edo Embroidery”
Tokyo Embroidery Cooperative Association
Mr. Tsujiguchi Yoshiyasu
Can you tell me how you are related to Edo Embroidery?
My father had been doing embroidery for kimonos used for Kabuki (traditional drama performed by male actors) for a long time. They always informed us the patterns for kimono about a month before the opening after they decided costumes and acts. To cut our time, we made patterns beforehand and stitched to the kimonos right before the opening. Then we had to deliver kimonos to the theater when audience are lining up for the opening. Our work was that much important. Then a sewing machine hit the streets and the price battle had begun.
During the babble period, we got a lot of orders from kimono shops. Until the end of this period, we just had to respond to their orders.
We have been stitching family crests since my grandfather’s age. The master used to make a design for family crest and a craftsperson did embroidery with that design in the past. There is no more master & craftsperson structure but a craftsperson makes a design and does embroidery in this day and age. There are craftspeople specialized in family crests and there are other craftspeople who do embroidery for other patterns. We have naturally found our area of expertise.
Because of the reduced demand of kimono, the order from the kimono shop has stopped. We show our handiworks at the exhibition only about two or three times a year now. There are not many places and opportunities to sell our works.
I currently do not have any disciples but teach at an embroidery class for the general students. Human beings are marvelous and we make the impossible possible. We become the person to be able to make an amazing embroidery. It would be best to learn when someone is waiting for your embroidery.
You have inherited lineage of traditional edo embroidery.
As you can see an old photo on the wall, this a year-old baby here is me. All the people around me are craftspeople. My grandfather had been training these disciples. Our trade name is “Matsuu” and it has been inherited more than 18th generations. This photo was shoot right before the world war Ⅱhad begun and we had difficulty getting silk lines at that time.
Since I was the oldest son in the family, I was the one to inherit family business. I started my training when I was in the junior high school. Of course, there was a time I did not want to be involved into embroidery but I ended up here. By the way, this flag in the photo is right here. You can still see the shining gold stitch.
What do you excel at in your work?
I try to seek my customers’ mindset and create something makes them happy. Sometimes I get a difficult order and it makes me not to sleep well. But I always make it possible. It is not so important to stitch finely but it is more important to choose the best colors and silk lines based on the patterns.
What kind of laboriousness did you have in the past?
There are many moments made me want to quit and it was painful to see the young craftspeople leaving us.
There used to be more than 100 craftspeople, but it has been decreased to 24. Embroidery is unnecessary and a sewing machine can replace us to produce in large volume with a law price. It was a high status to say “We have an exclusive contract of this kimono shop.” There are just a few craftspeople who maintain this tight relationship between Mitsukoshi Department.
We just had to respond to the orders from Kimono shops and that was how we lived. But the wholesale merchants are closing their businesses now. Craftspeople are left behind and struggling to seek out the way to expand sales since we do not have an experience on marketing.
Our work is not only stitching but also designing which is the most difficult and important part. It sounds obvious to inherit traditional art & craft but it is impossible to live just with embroidery nowadays.
Where do you mainly get a demand?
We even do not know it and wonder around, so we create some prototypes off-the-cuff basis. For example, we have made bags, parasols, scarfs, and place mats. You can even get an embroidery on the collar of a jacket. There is nothing we cannot create. However, you need to be careful for handling because they are not washable. No one has the same thing in the world and yours is the only one original. Our customers understand this value and use our product for a life time. We do not do embroidery because of the trend but for the possibility which we are seeking.
How do you understand the presence of traditional art & craft?
Some people stick to the negative concept of “Because of no demand over kimono, people do not use a belt anymore”. Of course, there is other issue that there are not so many young craftspeople. But more than that, there is a fact that the traditional pyramid structure including a general manager, a master, and a craftsman had disappeared. There are no people above the craftsman, so he has to take over everything.
There is a movement that traditional art & craft should be remained, but we are wondering the meaning of remaining these things. Craftspeople are not motivated by the government’s call like “Please demonstrate your work in this exhibition”. We also hear many words like “Oh, this is beautiful and I feel overwhelmed”. But these words do not lead to anywhere nor anything.
What do you want people in overseas to feel from your work?
I just want to let them know there are these kinds of embroidery and hopefully they will come over to look. We cannot create quantity output, but we create one piece cautiously and with a lot of feelings. The price is worth spending more than for the sewing machine products if you know the true value.
What is the best thing you have earned through continuing doing embroidery for a long time?
As long as working, I feel like I am alive. This is what I put a lot of passion and there is someone who is waiting for my embroidery. I met many people through work, and work for a life time is now also my hobby.
If you want to order your original embroidery or purchase from him, please contact me.infokadona@kadona-
This young artist named herself “BOJW” meaning the hope of Japan and the world. She has been influenced by three dimensional art. She creates artworks related to Japanese culture and tradition now.
Can you tell me your carrier background and details of work?
I mainly create three dimensional arts as an artist, and it is specifically called “installation” changing the space. You can usually see it when you go to the outdoor sculpture exhibit.
I was not so into planar art but I wanted to work on something rather than paint or sculpture.
The word of “installation” itself has not completely fit into my value yet, so I am still seeking what really I do want to create.
As for installation, I always check space of the venue since my piece and the space collaborate together and become one new art.
I grew up in Sakurakawa city, Iabaraki where stones are famous for. There are stone sculpture exhibits every year (http://members.jcom.home.ne.jp/amabiki/）. Many of the famous sculptors move there to live in.
When I was in the elementary school, some of the sculptors got together and opened the exhibit. I was very impressed by their pieces standing in the middle of the rice field. All the pieces somehow fit into the nature even though they set them unexpected places. It completely changed my boring life in the countryside, and I just wanted to do something like this exciting work. It made me visit sculptors group called “RA” for the first time. I met my master there.
Ever since then, I assisted my master for her exhibition and attended meetings of the adults. I was able to learn professional level of arts very close. My parents took me to the museums so I was in the well-endowed environment of arts.
I went to the high school located in Toride, Ibaraki taking about two and half hours in one way to study in the art department. At that time, I believed that passing the examination of art college makes all of the future of mine. In the high school, all they taught me was flat design and graphic design but not the three dimensional arts. It was completely disappointing and I lost my motivation to go there.
I ended up not going to the college but continued creating arts myself. I got an offer from an architect studio through the outdoor exhibit and trained as a member of society.
It is sometimes hard to live as an artist, but I want to cleave what I love. I learned this strong purposefulness by my life other than arts in teens.
What is the message in your arts and the main target of the audience?
I want to create something makes people in 50s happy like my parents. If my mother does not understand my art, it would not be possible for others. Therefore, I want to entertain her first through my arts.
As a theme, I am thinking about how to express “issues that we should not let slip.” It must be different for the audience to get these issues from the text or the arts. My arts have completely different atmosphere in the bright side and dark side.
Specifically, social issues and Japanese traditional cultures are the main theme. As for the Japanese traditional culture, there are festivals and sideshow acts. For example, Japanese service policy is often excessive, but I describe it sarcastically but not in judicial tone.
To get ideas of the artworks, I often observe silent people and receive inspiration from them.
The other target is people in 30s who are the same age as mine. I guess they are in the very busy life style and there are many things that they miss out, so I want them to come to a stand and realize all the things happening around them sometimes.
There are many people who think they are useless and cannot do what they really want to do. I want to send a message “You should do whatever you want to do” through my arts.
The image of my arts is “a secret tool of Doraemon.” Doraemon has many tools not only for convenient purpose but for fun and entertainment purpose as well to make everyone happy. I want to create arts like “If there were・・・, I could ・・・.”
There is a strong flow of energy as if you were a child in your artworks. Where does this come from?
Probably it came from my childhood influence. I am just expressing something I felt when I was a little. I had seen many of striking arts and I wanted to express passion for a long time.
What do you think about the contemporary arts and what are the issues in there?
Because of emergence of “Hetauma” (unartful but captivating in some way), there are artworks which do not need to include proficient skills like Japanese traditional art crafts. It will be very important for each of us to value arts based on our criteria not others.
The youth artists tend to crump up together so that they can send out strong messages through SNS. They have a very active communication style. Sometimes, they only show their artworks through internets.
On the other hand, there are artists who want to show audience colors and details thorough looking at the real ones. There are more artists but only a few places for the exhibitions. Youth artists are struggling about these issues.
Japanese people do not go to the museums often unless they really love it. If there were a custom celebrating an art prize like Turner Prize in England, it will be great. Since there are many artworks which are difficult to understand by visual effects, people would not want to get close to them. On the bright side, there are lines of people when there are famous exhibitions in the museums. That means they are interested in arts in some points. We, artist, should create something more understandable for the audience.
What would you like to do after three years?
I would like to work on a huge installation in outdoor. I want to create more Japanese style artworks as well. For example, I got an inspiration from Hanawa which is usually seen in pachinko store. Then I made it for a miniature size so that people can write a message on it and give it together with gifts. I wanted to incorporate Hanawa into our daily life.
What do you want people from overseas to feel when they see your artworks?
It would be great if they can recognize there are many Japanese customs. Japanese people have an obsession with celebration. So people from overseas can laugh about it.
I want them to know there are unseen deep feelings, votive customs, and invocations of Japanese people through my artworks.
Cooking Class Teacher, Yuko Hirata
Ikkuan is located in Seijo Gakuen, Tokyo and they serve tea-ceremony dishes. Ms. Hirata teaches students not only the cooking method but also importance of life in food.
Can you tell me your carrier background?
I was working as police until I get married. When I was cooking at that time, I was not able to satisfy myself. I was looking for a good instructor and place to learn. One day, I watched one of the TV shows in the morning and found my master, Mr. Soko Saito. He was just showing how to rinse rice simply but improves its taste. I was very impressed by his technique and knocked the door of Ikkuan.
Mr. Saito was the master who valued the essence of cooking and basic of cooking. He taught his method of cooking to wide range of people every day, and I was one of the students. Days passed by, I began to feel like “I want to be helpful for Ikkuan” and I started working for serving lunch plate to customers. This is a place not only serves meals but for learning and passing down Japanese culture which we all must know. For example, we can learn putting our hands together in front of the meals and god, making green tea, so these are customs we must not forget.
I mainly learned “Cha Kaiseki” which is the tea-ceremony dishes. I worked as one of his disciples at the kitchen. Now Ikkuan and I are like a family so they call me anytime they need at the kitchen. This place is part of my life and hart. I understand cooking is a lifetime relationship. He has already passed away, but I have something new to learn every time I come to work here.
What is the hardest experience throughout your time in Ikkuan?
Probably it must would be the time when I was learning from my master. His demand was too difficult to understand and I had hard time seeing the picture from what he was saying. This difficulty made me who I am today and it was worth working under him.
What is cooking for you?
I just want someone to be happy after eating my dish. It is not whether I am a good chef or not, but I want my customers to feel comfortable resonance after finishing my dish. Cooking is a tool to make someone happy. What you eat makes who you are.
When did you realize the importance of food?
When I was a child, I was taking a kendo lesson. I god many injuries and faced to the scenes of shedding a tear. When I was in high school, I became a captain of the kendo team to be responsible for junior fellows. Since I lived in the dormitory away from my parents, I learned my injuries and loose lifestyle is related to food I eat every day. Ever since then, I became very careful for my eating habit.
What do you want everyone to feel throughout your dish?
Happy feeling!! It will be great if they can feel “It was worth coming here to eat.” Eating is such a basic habit and just a slight moment of our life. But I would like to serve something memorable to emblaze their one scene. I hope I will be the one to be chosen as a chef for the special meal.
What is your favorite dish?
I love simmered eggplant cooked by my mother.
And I strongly remember all the ordinary dishes like simmered dish, soup stock, steamed fish cooked by my master.
You have two children. Is there something you are patient for their daily meals?
I do not prepare anything special, but I cook at home every day using whatever I can find from the fridge. More than that, I am very strict about their manner at the table. We have to show appreciation to food as we take life into our mouth. We are not allowed to eat just one hand. If my children are not facing to food properly, they would have to receive a strict upbringing.
The key for maintaining a strict discipline is in mothers’ steady attitude about food. I teach my children “You have to finish what you have been served. I cooked for your health and served the right amount on your plate.” This concept might be the most important thing I want to teach mothers.
What is the key in your cooking lesson?
I am trying to tell the importance of food rather than technique. I just want my students to feel cooking again in their home. For example, we supported horse mackerel fillet with both hands and put on the plate. This gesture represents appreciation for life but not seeing as an ingredient. Therefore, menu is just a tool for me.
What would you like to work on in the future?
I want to keep teaching many people importance of cooking. Preparing soup stock with dried bonito and seaweed is especially important not using the instant dashi powder. Repeating the basics of cooking expand your recipe. I would like to create my own recipe more. To do that, I eat out at Japanese classic style restaurants sometimes.
My cooking style is not something special, but the method and technique are useful for your daily meals. It is very healthy so all of your family members will love it from the babies to elderlies.