Art Gallery Space “kokonoka”

There is a student community which uses a renovated old folk house for the art exhibition space in Kitasenju, Tokyo. While utilization of the old folk house becomes a fad, what feeling do the students related to this project have? What effect does this art space have as through the exhibition of art?

Why did you decide to run “kokonoka”?

There were three to four members at the beginning and one of the renovation associations invited them to run a gallery. They sent messages through LINE to the art students in different schools and gathered 13 students in total.

We started preparing for the opening in April. We had to pay our running fee from individual budgets at the beginning, but now, there are enough fund from the people who want to exhibit arts in “kokonoka”. This old folk house has 75 years of history, and we try to take advantage of old house architecture for the art exhibition space.

Most of the galleries are very expensive in Tokyo and students have a hard time using them. We would like to rent a space with a reasonable price for the students so that they can exhibit art or hold some events. We also want to create a close connection with local people. Therefore, we introduced the local culture of Kitasenju after taking all the photos of public baths by ourselves.

Each member has different skill like leaderships, organization, design, repairmen of the space. We take advantage of these strong points each other. We gathered some money through crowd-funding and we used them for installing an air conditioner.

Since none of us have an experience as a member of society, we are learning by mistakes when it comes to the business operation. It was more than hard to live in the two worlds, school and “kokonoka”. However, we are very happy to take this opportunity for every single aspect. For example, when a problem happened, we have to think how to take in different opinions, how to respond to the clients so that the society will accept us, and how to take a responsibility as a business person. We are all learning something new every day through “kokonoka”.

Now all 13 of us are representatives of the group so that we can keep a flat relationship. We try to chat something rather than “kokonoka” in order to have a friendship mind as through knowing our private information.


How do you understand a location of Kitasenju?

This is a very friendly area and people are not like the typical tight Tokyo type. For example, we greet casually often with our neighborhood and there is a warm feeling. On the other hand, it is a waste to leave the vacancy in the old folk houses. We wish there are more people who want to use these houses like us.

How do you understand an existence of art while there is a variety of art in Japan these days?

There is a lot of art which is hard to understand in the colleges, and there are only a few people who work on a realistic painting. The people in public have a hard time understanding this field, and we also feel “As expected, they pass through our art”. Most of the audience do not pay attention to abstract art, and go to see graphic art which is much easier to understand.

We just want them to feel even a little of something, “This is kind of cool” or “This must be suitable for my room”.

It would be great if there are more people relatively interested in art. There are a lot of music TV programs which are very casual and close to our life, but there are not so many of art TV programs in Japan. There are plenty of artists who are doing something interesting.


What feedback do you get from the audience who came to “kokonoka”?

People said, “I did not know there is an art exhibition space here at all”, “I will come to visit here again”, “I just dropped by after work”.

There are people live around here and also the audience who came all the way from other prefectures to see the certain theme of art or meet the artists.


What would you like to try next?

We are searching the next generation staff for running this space for a long time. It would be best if we can establish a framework which involves sophomore students mainly in the project. Current stuff need to prepare for job search and graduation exhibition soon. We wish there were more students from the general colleges as well. We would also want to exhibit our own art collections here.

Even after running this space, we would love to keep in touch with each member. We will be able to contact any members based on the trust relationship built here when there is an issue in the future. We would like to learn from other member’s strong point and add an essence to our own skill. We are very happy to work together under the clear goal beyond the limited school circle.


Please send the last message to the audience.

Just come to drop by to see our space when you are around Kitasenju. We look forward to seeing everyone!


Feel Limited.

Mr. Kodai Kawai

When I saw you at the very first time, you were in the middle of making a logo for one of the companies with some metallic materials. The powerful piece and your concentration for work caught my eyes. What brought you to the world of ironmongery?

My father established the ironmongery company called “Feel Ltd.” and this is the 11th term. I joined them five years ago. We handle custom order metal products for the apparel companies and restaurants, and we also handle ready made products like keys and hinges. Since we were on the position of broker at the beginning, we did not manufacture ourselves or attach products at the field. But ever since I joined them, we started these services as well.

As for the work record, we worked for Starbucks coffee, McDonald’s, Uotami under Monteroza Corporation, Saizeria, and Ueshima coffee. The latest one is Shake Shack at Gaien, Ebisu, and Tokyo International Forum.

I have joined establishing “zens” since 2014 (http://www.en.zens.tokyo/ ) which is the directorship service company of airbnb, and I worked with the current CEO, Mr. Machida and the first-class architect, Mr. Yokoyama. Our aim was “cheering up Japan”, so we put our effort on creating the most suitable space.  As through working with them, my work has been slowly acknowledged by other designers and architects, and they gave me orders. About these clients, I see the faces of people who actually use my products and I can talk to them directly.

It seems like the second generation for the company would usually get on the prepared railroad easily. But why did you decide to do something totally new and rather challenging?

I worked for the real estate company as a sales representative for several years. Before joining my father’s company, I worked for the metal processing factory for three years just to accumulate experience and knowledge. At the real estate company, we had business with some robust growing application development firms and IT start-up companies. We had high motivation and spirits towards our own firm and I was able to enjoy the life has a sense of speed.

Then I joined the completely different world “workman”. Therefore, I felt a huge gap between.

When I was working as a sales representative, there were many occasions that we cannot close deals even after spending so much time. On the other hand, there were occasions that we could easily close deals with just a little time. As for the workmen, more they work, it certainly leads to the outcome. Their life style is well-regulated and they make an honest living.

However, I have realized that I did not have any passion for the thing I made. There was no “delight” when I completed a piece. We just work consistently to make a beautiful piece and deliver it to the client. If we do not receive any complains, we are tentatively relieved. That’s it. That is why there are no feelings of “desire to improve” in the workmen. Workmen usually do not receive “good” feedbacks form the clients, and this is the reason in the root.

This is the reason that I started making variety of things in the completely different field from construction to be related with clients directly. I made some furniture for my friends with some listings after work. I sold these things at the flea market in Yoyogi park sometimes. It was the first small step for me to hand out my own pieces to the clients directly.

You have mentioned that you do not have any passion for the things you made. But as for the technique, what aspect do you pay extra attention when you are working on a piece?

I point out or propose necessary things related to the design which I receive from the designer to make it in real. As through the proposal from the workman to the designer, the image will be converted into the real. The most important things are the brain and the feeling. If you think it is impossible to make it, you can never make it. As long as the design is clearly imaged, it is possible to make it. Of course, there are things that I do not know when I have a meeting with my clients at the first time. But it is important to use your brain fully and prepare for making it possible with your feeling. In order to improve myself more, I would like to cut down the time to think and judge immediately at the first meeting.

I am conscious of making a piece close to the designer’s stand point of view. There are many moments that you want to check with the designer until it is completed. But more you check with the designer, it would not go smooth. Therefore, it is necessary for us to be able to see and understand the things at the same level as designer’s value from the beginning.

In order to do this, I ask many questions to the designer at the first meeting, and I try to read the designer’s taste and tone from his response. I apply these taste and tone to the variety of places in the process of making a piece. The great piece cannot be created if it is too much of designer-oriented nor showing myself. I have to maintain the good balance between.

What new challenge would you like to step in next?

I would like to put my effort on the development of human resources. Cultivation on the workmen’s mind is especially necessary. Most part of our mind is difficult to change once we grow up. Workmen live on the fixed routine automatically and they do not see someone’s happy at all. Therefore, their mind run low. We need to set up the state before going to this phase. Workmen’s aspiration is more important than learning high skill. How do they send their messages to others, and how do others receive their messages? How can they keep telling their fascination to others?

I would like to be the first workman who is doing something fun to engrave the milestone. I want them to feel they can find and do something new and fun rather than the limited world.

To make it possible, it would be great if people can recognize who I am based on my value. I think I can build a long lasting relationship with who understands the way how I live.

I am still struggling and wondering whether my virtue and judgement would apply for my father’s company.  But I want to keep challenging on something new without fear.

However, I do not do cheap things. We must not be too cool, and we should not look too happy when someone else looked at us. The word of “workman” gives better impression like living on the distant life rather than “CEO”. I feel worthless if it is too distant. Therefore, we add value on the basic “workman” position. “I thought you are just a simple workman, but you say something cool!” When I see this surprise, I am happy.

We are not the designer, and our work will not be completed until our clients are satisfied even though we make a beautiful piece. Therefore, all the workmen work on the pieces with stern look. I have to make workmen enjoy even though the work is restrained. We cannot make an excuse and fake with our expression.

Can you send the audience last message?

If you are bored of current job, why don’t you join us becoming a workman?


Special Report

Multigeneration intercommunication day service facility & nursery school

“Minna Ishio no Ippo & Ippo” (first step for everyone)

One of my great friends opened a complex facility of day service and nursery school in Ageo city, Saitama. What is it like in the actual facility which solves the most serious issue in Japan regarding aging population and lacking of nursery school? What is happening in the communication of elderly people and children? I went there to see with my eyes and summarized as follows.

The representative of the facility, Mr. Yuichi Abe, started running a day service facility at the different location in Saitama originally. Since he heard that children can develop their warm feelings because of the relationship with elderly people, he transformed his dream of establishing a complex facility combined a day service and a nursery school into reality.

There used to be a bank before in the building and it is renovated to make a spacious place. There is no wall from the kitchen to a space for elderly people and children so that staff member can overlook at once. It also creates borderless and lively atmosphere.

In the morning greetings, elderly people sit around children. When children’s name is called by the teacher and children respond with lively voice, elderly people smile and clap their hands.

It was the end of August, they had a BBQ lunch event to finish the season of summer. Both staff member and elderly people prepared for the BBQ. About 60% of elderly people are demented people. I did not realize this fact until I heard it from the staff since elderly people were chopping vegetables lightly and deliverly. They never stop chatting and smiling. They catch up, acknowledge and give praise each other.

On the other side of the facility, toddlers finished playing with water are running around. Even though there is a space for kids, the staff member let kids free to come across the room so that kids can visit elderly people’s space anytime. The staff member said, “He is gone there again!”. “We were not sure whether it works well for both of them to see each other freely at the beginning. But while staff member watches over them, we are comfortable letting elderly people and kids communicate freely now.”

The staff have a multiple of skill and I am very impressed by their high motivation. “Because of this complex facility, we need employees who have multiple skill.” There is no one who come to stand but they all find what to do independently. They also communicate and track without boundary between elderly people and children.

Before noon, the easy physical exercise is started for the elderly people. They stretch their bodies with a lot of smile while children hold balls to show their cute exercise in front of the room.

From this visit, the following is the thing I found.

The elderly people feel they are needed by the society because of watching over the children.

Since the children communicate with not only the nursery teachers but also the wide generation of people, they are able to see a variety of world and enjoy. Therefore, they become to communicate with anyone proactively.

There is warm and comfortable atmosphere in the coexisting space of elderly people and children. This atmosphere is strongly related to the fact of cultivating children’s gentle hearts.

This facility is approved as a licensed nursery school by the government from September.  I would like to send my best wishes for the continued success and growth for this facility. Increasing the number of these complex facilities will lead to solve the issues of aging generation, lacking of nursery school, and trend toward the nuclear family.



CEO Mr. Yuji Tsukamoto

I came here today to interview Mr. Tsukamoto who designs logos, maps, posters, and guidebooks of Adachi-ku, Tokyo which we often see around in our daily life. He also designs music class books of elementary school. Because of his arts, many children and adults who forgot excitement take back their smiles.

When I got your business card at the first time, there was a word that you were a musician before. I was wondering how you have sifted to a designer from a musician. Can you tell me your story about this?

I was playing music but it did not go as I expected. I decided to quit a musician and find a job when I was 26 because of the marriage. Since I had never worked for the companies, my options were only limited to the inexperienced person boxes. Then I applied for a creator on website position at the IT company. I had never used PCs and only had a portfolio from the college when I majored in design. The interviewers told me, “You are not qualified for this job since you have no skill for the PC.”

Then, the manager came to see how our interview goes. He told me, “As long as you can draw, PC skills are unnecessary.” He hired me on site. If this timing had gone wrong, my door for design would have been kept closed. Therefore, I sincerely appreciate for this encounter.

It must had been hard for you to use PCs as a web creator from a musician at the first time. What did you feel at that time?

After work, I was always searching for a part time job which I can work for my spare time at night. I was thinking about stabilizing a foundation of family economy because of newlyweds rather than having a passion for design. Moreover, my experience as a musician had been dragging me down emotionally, and I mentally lost my heart. There was a person myself who could not accept the fact that things did not go well as expected.

I only had limited budget for allowance, but I bought a variety of books like management, marketing, and a magazine for corporate manager, which none of them were directly related to me at that time. For three years until I start my own business, I kept reading them and put in practice from the book. It was very interesting to see and experience how the things go well because of the information from the books. Then I have realized that there was a person myself who enjoy growing up and learning a lot from the books.

After my first son was born and experienced three companies in three years, I started my own business in order to spend more time with my son. I was not afraid of running my own business, but people around me had stopped me. But I wanted to think while I was running. I did not have a concept of making a sales call at all, but instead, all I did was just praying in my heart, “Please give me an inquiry”. Curiously enough, I got some inquiries and made appointments with clients.

However, I kept updating my website so that I get more inquiries. I had experienced three companies before and none of them were design business, so I had to think, be creative, and learn myself. I admire Walt Disney Productions because it gives dreams and move people. I wanted to do the same through music before, but now I want to deliver the same concept through my design. Therefore, I created a character called “Unjour” to make people smile as I have visualized.

When I brought my drawings to the manager who I worked with at the first company, he had a big grin on his face even though he was usually unexpressive. Actually, he contacted me a half year ago but I was not sure whether I would be comfortable talking to him since I was the one who left the company. He became a CEO and asked me for a drawing to his personal motto. I brought a drawing to him and again, he had a big grin on his face. I finally felt “I was able to return the courtesy”.

I think your drawings are full of grace and passion which naturally make people smile. From your website, it seems like there are many art events for children. What aspect do you grow for children through these art events?

I am running these events with the goal of “provide a place to develop children’s imaginary skill and creativity through play”.

The first thing is to develop the ability to imagine so that children can imagine the mind of others and their own future.

The second thing is to develop creativity so that children can sympathize together. Moreover, it is the ability of considering what they have to do for others or think their action for their own future.

There are no correct answers in design or art. That is why it is important to accumulate considerable experience of imagination and fun in order to find our value and important things. All these actions are for the ability to live lithely.

There is other aim of not to forget their ability to imagine and creativity even after people become adults. It is just to enjoy the art at the event for now, but our agenda is to consider how to add more essence related to these two aims.

There is a theme of “live your life more yourself and happier” behind the character called “Unjour”, and my children will be happier if others become happy. Children easily get influence from external factors even though internal family education is fine.

All the human beings have different values. Therefore, bullying happens when there is something different from others. I hope that I can tell the basic of “everyone is different” through art. For example, the process of compliment, consent, and approving the difference with friends after finishing their art pieces is important. We all exist together with the people who have different values. The world is consisted with these different people. That is what I want children to experience.

When I see my children’s classrooms, I think children get constrained education in the present day. There must be more distinct individuality and free spirits, but teachers instruct children “Please color here with red”, which means following teacher’s order is a common practice without doubt. In the end, the same type of children is created. I hope schools involve some non-governmental enterprises which do something fun so that they have more options for the children to be able to expand their interests.

Schools should not be the option of attending or not attending. We should make a variety of learning places rather than schools for children.

What influence would you like to exert to the world through your art?

Basically expanding the chain of smile is the same. I hope everyone to feel happy and be confident to live their own way even a little step every day.

To support the people who have difficulty living every day, we created “Unjour” together with words series- it will be fine -, and some items and picture books for creating their own place.

This age is difficult to live for the people who do everything earnestly. I hope that I could impact on the children who are especially bullying, picked on, watching over bullying situation silently, in the difficult domestic circumstance, and also the adults surrounding these children.

“Unjour” was born with these thoughts. I would like to create some picture books along with songs in order to send a message through the live. I hope these people will be motivated to do something with courage. “Unjour d’enfance” means one of the days of childhood. I would like children and post-children to keep the mind of “gentle and honest feeling” which we all used to have when we were little. We have this feeling but somehow we all simply forget.

What is “design” for you?

Honestly speaking, there is no need for me to draw a picture I like or design cool image. I sincerely would like to design a cue or action to live easier and freely for the people who are tired, too earnest to live, or introversive and cannot find the way of expressing individuality. My happy ending is to create the world that everyone could live the way they want to. Therefore, drawings, words, and music are the media tools for everyone to remember the feeling of honesty and kindness.

What new project would you like to challenge in the future?

I would like to come off the things that I wanted to do like “Unjour”. Actually, I am working on the project called “promissory tree” which is the exciting tree like a Christmas tree and also you can hang with your promise visually. I would like to deliver this tree to schools, hospitals, and families. I think the strong wish will become reality. Therefore, this concept could be designed with a tree which has an effect of going easy on others through collecting wishes of many people. It will be best if I can make a chain that sad people bring back the energy to live and the people around them will be cheered up as well.