Chapter 3: Koganecho
Approaches to Community Development
3-1 Koganecho Facing Challenges
Yokohama’s Koganecho was a district known for its illegal sex trade and thus a place one should not enter. In 2005, the Kanagawa Prefectural Police, with the cooperation of the local government and residents, conducted Operation Bye-Bye (Baibai sakusen), which forcefully shut down small shops dealing in prostitution. Since then, efforts have been made to revitalize the district. While “art” is one of the key concepts applied in organizing the revitalization efforts, diverse approaches are being taken to activate the Ōoka River waterfront and unoccupied buildings in the area.
The author has been involved in the community revitalization efforts of this area which, after Operation Bye-Bye in 2006, had become a ghost town. This essay intends to summarize, based on the author’s personal experiences, the history of the area and the community revitalization efforts.
About the District of Koganecho
Precisely speaking, Koganecho refers to the area known as the Hatsuko-Hinode-cho, which includes three neighborhoods: Hatsunecho, Koganecho, and Hinodecho. The district is located along the Keihin Kyuko Line’s elevated railroad tracks between Koganecho Station and Hinodecho Station. While the history of Yokohama began when it opened a treaty port in 1859, the Koganecho area had already been developed as a village called Otamura since early modern times. The area’s history was closely connected to the Yoshida-shinden development that laid the general layout of the urban area. Koganecho district is also where the regional government office, Ota-jinya, was established to guard the newly opened port; thus, the area played a supporting role in the development of the port city. It gradually became urbanized and was developed as a periphery of the urban center, and the current layout of the city was formed by land readjustment after the Great Kanto Earthquake. In the 1930s, the present Keihin Kyuko Line constructed elevated train tracks and opened the Koganecho and Hinodecho stations.
Published in 1986, the book Nakaku Wagamachi (Naka Ward, My Town) includes texts based on the oral and written accounts of senior citizens in the area. However, the book does not give readers an impression of the area being a red-light district. In interviewing residents about their memories of the pre-war period, many associated Hinodecho with hospitals. They also mentioned that Hatsunecho — which has a distinct atmosphere of a residential area today — and Akamondori Street — in front of Tofukuji Temple — were lined with many stores. The adjacent town of Hanabusacho is the birthplace of the novelist Jirō Osaragi, and the house where he was born is now a clinic. The area has the tranquil atmosphere of being on the outskirts of the urban sprawl.
In addition, to protect the transformer substations located in the district from air raids, surrounding buildings were demolished and roads were widened near the end of the Pacific War. The subsequent Yokohama Air Raid further transformed the landscape of the district. Consequently, the area went through a drastic change until the post-war period.
On May 29 of the year when the War ended, Yokohama was scorched by the air raid. Koganecho was not an exception as it also suffered from the devastating attack. Those who took refuge in the air raid shelter at Azuma Elementary School survived, but those who rushed into the school building and gymnasium lost their lives. To escape the raging fire, a significant number of people also fled from Sakuragicho, Urafunecho, and Kuboyama to the Koganecho district. Some of them huddled under the guarder bridge of Koganecho Station. Some lost their lives due to the machine gun fire of the U.S. Army and the blazing fire. It is said that people tried to escape the burning flames by hiding under the piles of corpses.
A transitional stage after World War II
In the post-war recovery period, the Allied Forces requisitioned most of downtown Yokohama. To reduce the presence of the U.S. occupation forces in the capital city of Tokyo, a large part of the city center around the port of Yokohama, was chosen for requisitioning. The Koganecho district was spared from military occupation while most of the area across the Ōoka River, including Isezakicho, was placed under the control of the U.S. occupation forces. This led many people from other areas to move into Koganecho district. Some people followed the instruction to relocate to the sites where buildings had been evacuated during the final years of World War II. Interviews also revealed that many did not return to the area after having lost their homes in the air raids. This situation might be pertinent to the complex issues of land ownership and a large number of absentee landlords that were among the factors that contributed to the proliferation of the illegal sex trade in Koganecho district as discussed below.
In addition, the Yokohama Public Employment Security Office and Yanagibashi yoseba, an informal hiring site for day laborers, were located in Sakuragicho, which drew an influx of job seekers.
At the time, the Port of Yokohama was a receiving port for military cargo, grains, and other goods which had always attracted a large crowd of workers looking for jobs. Barracks were built along the streets, a black market formed in Noge district, cheap lodging known as “hotels on the water” (suijo hoteru) appeared on the Ōoka River, and simple hostels were constructed in the Koganecho district. Thus, the landscape of the district transformed drastically.
Under these circumstances, some began prostituting themselves to U.S. soldiers and laborers. Some community members recalled that the illegal business moved to the space under the elevated railway tracks after the activities along the main streets around Hinodecho Station became strictly monitored. As an increasing number of bars began operating under the elevated railway tracks, the number of shops dealing in prostitution seemed to grow as well. Until the enactment of the Prostitution Prevention Law (Baishun Boshiho) in 1958, the business was conducted publicly. At the time, drug-related issues were more severe, which gradually subsided through the efforts of the residents and the police. However, around the mid-1960s, tiny brothels began to line up under the elevated railway tracks, and the district became one of the major centers of the sex trade in the national capital region. Called “special restaurants” (tokushu inshokuten), these shops would usually be housed in a two-story building with a frontage of one ken (about 1.8 meters) and a depth of two kens (about 3.6 meters), with its ground floor disguised as a bar. There would usually be two small rooms on the second floor where prostitution activities occurred.
In the beginning, the sex workers were Japanese. Around the 1970s, foreign nationals gradually replaced Japanese workers, and the business started to grow into a full-blown sex industry.
However, back then, the shops dealing in prostitution under the elevated railway tracks were members of the local association of restaurants and bars, respected unspoken rules such as operating the shops only at night, and cooperated in community efforts such as installing street lights. Hence, they were not necessarily in conflict with the residents.
From under the elevated train tracks to the surrounding area
The Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake of 1995 catalyzed renewed change in this area. Following the earthquake which caused severe damages to the railroad viaducts, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism commanded railroad operators across the country to make their viaducts earthquake-resistant. The Keihin Kyuko Line planned a seismic retrofitting project for the elevated tracks, which necessitated the eviction of the small shops below. As a result, 100 or so small brothels moved out from under the train tracks and spread to the surrounding areas. The number of shops eventually grew to 260, causing the deterioration of safety in the neighborhood.
The leader of the community revitalization efforts once described the situation as “the town collapsing with a bang.” Even the neighborhood residents were no longer able to set foot in the area where the small brothels were concentrated. When the businesses were contained under the elevated railway tracks, the brothel operators communicated with the neighborhood associations. However, after the businesses spread to the surrounding areas, the brothels kept almost no relationship with the neighborhood associations and other local organizations. The sex market expanded unstoppably.
Residents rising up
The proliferation of illegal businesses caused some community residents to move out of the area. Unscrupulous agents pressured the individual landowners to sell their properties, which were converted into small brothels.(*1) The red-light district was quickly expanding. In response to this critical situation, residents rose to action. In January 2003, they formed the Hatsuko-Hinode-cho Sex Industry Expansion Prevention Committee (currently, the Hatsuko-Hinode-cho Environmental Cleanup Promotion Council or Hatsuko-Hinode-cho Kankyo Jyoka Suishin Kyogikai), led by officers of the neighborhood associations and the parent-teacher association (PTA) of the neighboring Azuma Elementary School. The committee aimed to stop the expansion of illegal businesses in the area — spanning approximately 500 meters along the Keihin Kyuko Line, across Hatsunecho, Koganecho, and Hinodecho — and to ensure safety and security in the neighborhood.
In July 2004, the Committee submitted a written request to the Minister of Justice regarding the strengthening of penalties under the Anti-Prostitution Law and the crackdown against undocumented immigrants. Following this, on January 11, 2005, the prefectural police established the Comprehensive Entertainment District Countermeasures Promotion Headquarters (Kanrakugai Sogo Taisaku Suishin Honbu). The government and residents joined forces to launch Operation Bye-Bye.
The operation aimed to carry out on-site inspections of the small shops, arrest all persons involved in the sex trade, and prohibit the owners and users of such establishments from dealing in prostitution. In April of the same year, the Comprehensive Entertainment District Countermeasures Branch Command Headquarters (Kanrakugai Sogo Taisaku Genchi Shiki Honbu) was set up under the Keihin Kyuko Line’s elevated railway tracks to conduct 24-hour patrols.
These countermeasures for urban entertainment districts were part of nationwide urban revitalization projects. In June 2005, the National Headquarters for Urban Revitalization (Toshi Saisei Honbu) held a joint meeting for the Cabinet Council on Crime Prevention (Hanzai Kakuryo Kaigi Godo Kaigi). They selected 11 districts in Japan as model districts for the urban revitalization project called “Rebuilding Urban Safety and Security through Cooperation in Community Development, including Crime Prevention Measures” (Bohan Taisaktou Machizukuri no Rentai niyoru Toshi no Anzen Anshin no Saikochiku) which included Yokohama’s Kannai and Kangai districts. On this occasion, the Hatsuko-Koganecho area was designated as part of the national urban revitalization project. “Rebuilding Urban Safety and Security through Cooperation in Community Development, including Crime Prevention Measures” states the following objectives:
- Eradication of nuisance and illegal activities such as soliciting, advertising, and parking problems through prevention and elimination of blind spots, urban beautification, and provision of local safety information to visitors, including foreign tourists
- Utilization of unique resources and local culture, creation of urban attractions and dissemination of information based on the characteristics of each area, generating liveliness and flow of people through such efforts as urban revitalization projects, and attracting tenants and commercial and cultural facilities in consort with the vision of community development.(*2)
With the support of the national government and the prefectural police, the Hatsuko-Hinode-cho Environmental Cleanup Promotion Council established the Community Development Promotion Committee (Machizukuri Suishin Bukai) in July 2005. In March 2006, the Council presented the Hatsuko-Hinode-cho Community Development Manifesto (Hatsuko-Hinode-cho Machizukuri Sengen) with the fundamental goal of creating a bright, vibrant, and livable community. They held five visions:
- Uniqueness — A town where people can take on challenges by utilizing local resources and the network of human resources
- Liveliness — A town that is bustling with activities, where artists and artisans gather, and where Yokohama’s visitors make a trip to
- Water and Greenery — A town where one can enjoy the flowers, greenery, and water of the Ōoka River and Nogeyama
- Community — A town where different generations live and where children and adults, Japanese and foreigners, all know each other
- Safety and Security — A town free from crime and sex trade, a town where people can live safely(*3)
Drawing from these concepts, the communities held morning markets, organized and participated in the Sakura Matsuri Festival, and held mural painting workshops on the construction fence along the Keihin Kyuko’s railway tracks in collaboration with artists and the local elementary school.
Meanwhile, the Yokohama City government, working in tandem with the national, prefectural, and local movements, also supports the area’s revitalization efforts. In March 2006, the community crime prevention base Step One was inaugurated in a former illegal bar, and Sakura-so was experimentally opened as a base for art and cultural activities.
Sakura-so’s core project was an artist-in-residence program which has influenced the subsequent direction of community revitalization efforts in the area.
(*1) For a detailed account of the events that took place during this period, see “Yokohama Koganecho Puffy Dori” (Taiju Agawa, 2004). The author, who was a resident artist, describes the situation at the time based on his interviews with local residents.
neighborhood associations and the parent-teacher association (PTA) of the neighboring Azuma Elementary School. The committee aimed to stop the expansion of illegal businesses in the area — spanning approximately 500 meters along the Keihin Kyuko Line, across Hatsunecho, Koganecho, and Hinodecho — and to ensure safety and security in the neighborhood.
(*2) National Headquarters for Urban Revitalization, “Rebuilding Urban Safety and Security through Cooperation in Community Development, including Crime Prevention Measures”, 2005. Translated by Mayumi Hirano
(*3) The Hatsuko-Hinode-cho Environmental Cleanup Promotion Council, “Hatsuko-Hinode-cho Community Development Manifesto”, March 2006. Translated by Mayumi Hirano.
3-2 Ways to face the negative history
The University’s Participation in Community Development
Shortly after Operation Bye-Bye in January 2005, I attended a conference held in Kannai where I met Mr. Mitsumasa Kobayashi, the chairperson of the Hinodecho Neighborhood Association and a member of the Hatsuko-Hinode-cho Environmental Cleanup Promotion Council (Hatsuko-Hinode-cho Kankyo Jyoka Suishin Kyogikai) at the time. After my lecture, I had the chance to ask him about Operation Bye-Bye and the situation in Koganecho district. Prompted by his request, I visited Koganecho on the same day.
Although I heard some people yelling at each other in the distance, the area was pitch-dark and felt deserted. I only saw police officers patrolling the site, and they stopped me for questioning and identification. Although I would occasionally see Koganecho district while driving the road across the river, I had never strolled around in the district, so it was practically my first visit there. The area had a quiet yet coercive atmosphere.
Later, Mr. Tsuyoshi Ohori, who was from the Yokohama Naka Ward Office and was in charge of the countermeasures against the entertainment district in Koganecho, visited Kanto Gakuin University where I was working, and some of the faculty members had the chance to exchange opinions with him.
In April of the following year, I took a new position at Yokohama City University and developed proposals for revitalizing the Kangai area with students as course activities. A team of students selected Koganecho as the subject of their research. They proposed to utilize small vacant premises as a satellite base for the university to facilitate communication with the residents.
Based on this proposal, the Kogane-X Lab, a facility managed by the Hatsuko-Hinode-cho Environmental Cleanup Promotion Council and the Yokohama City University research group, was inaugurated in June 2007. “Kogane-X” was the moniker of the Council, and “Lab” referred to their collaboration with the university. We gathered the remaining funds before the end of the fiscal year and renovated a former brothel. Since the premise had been constructed using scraps from a fire, slight structural deformations made it impossible to make an architectural drawing with precise measurements. Adjustments constantly had to be made on-site throughout the construction. The bar counter — a symbol of the illegal business — was removed, and three premises were merged into one. Still, the total floor space of this renovated two-story building measured only 60 square meters. This was how tiny each brothel used to be. The DIY method counterbalanced the financial shortage. Takeuchi Chemical, a member of the Council, donated the paint and wall putty, and the students did the painting job.
When the Kogane-X Lab opened, there was hardly anyone walking outside, and honestly, it felt like there was nothing to do at the Lab. Thus, we approached Azuma Elementary School and cooperatively held a workshop about community safety and security as part of their integrated study class. We organized a neighborhood walk using a giant “Gulliver’s” map to allow participants to rediscover local resources and created “An-An Map” to discuss ways to create a safe and secure district. Due to safety concerns, the parent-teacher association (PTA) and members of the Isezaki Police Department’s Anti-Criminal Gangs Division (Bouryokudan Taisaku-ka) joined the neighborhood walk. While adults had negative ideas about their town, children were genuinely proud of it. While some children expressed their fondness for theŌoka River and the red trains of the Keikyu Line, adults shared negative stories such as their feeling of repulsion for litter and the frightening experience of being followed by a stranger. Certainly, the district had the potential for change; therefore, we compiled the workshop results into a booklet and distributed it in the community.
Around the same time, infrastructural development was being executed along the Ōoka River. It included the construction of a promenade and a pier by the prefecture. Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTE) informed the promenade design. The pedestrian path was built higher than the adjacent traffic lane to prevent illegal side parking, and the trees along the river were replanted to ensure a clear river vista.
The pier construction was the result of the residents’ efforts. Seeking ways to utilize the Ōoka River, the residents lobbied directly the governor of Kanagawa Prefecture who is responsible for river management. The action to use the Ōoka River was initiated by the residents whose social ties were forged through their involvement in the annual Sakura Festival. In a dialogue with the prefectural governor, they directly appealed to the Kanagawa Prefecture their request to use the river.
Their request perfectly matched the interests of the prefectural government, which was searching for a location in which to construct a pier. The plan was realized at a rapid pace. Since building a pier was the request of the residents, the local community took the responsibility of managing the pier. Usually, piers along urban rivers are built for disaster prevention purposes and are often placed under the control of a government office. Therefore, access to the pier can be complicated on Saturdays, Sundays, and early mornings when the government office is closed. However, the pier in Koganecho district is managed by residents who are also active users of the waterside and welcome users from elsewhere. It gradually has become the go-to destination for those who want to access the river and riverside. Today, the Sakura Pier is becoming the center of the Ōoka River for having hosted regular activities such as the Stand Up Paddle (SUP) and the Canal Challenge (formerly Canal Parade) which use the entire downstream.
Ways to face the negative history
When I was initially invited to join the community development efforts in this area, honestly, I was somewhat hesitant because I was not sure about how to tackle the issue of prostitution.
Some argued that large cities will inevitably have a pleasure district, and cleaning up dodgy parts of town would result in the loss of diversity. Some wondered where the female workers would go once they had been driven away. Would eviction solve the underlying problems? I was aware of these opinions.
However, constantly having conversations with people in the community revealed another side to the issue. The eradication of the small brothels through Operation Bye-Bye was part of a nationwide regulatory measure for entertainment districts. However, in the case of Koganecho district, the movement was initiated by residents who had raised their voices, who had called for the need to transform the red-light district into a safe and secure place.
Tracing the area’s history elucidates some crucial aspects in comprehending the situation. Koganecho was one of Yokohama’s neighborhoods that supported the city’s development before the war. It was an average town that raised cultural figures such as Shin Hasegawa and Jirō Osaragi. However, Koganecho district unintentionally had to take on the unfavorable roles necessitated by the process of post-war reconstruction. The area does not inherit the history of yūkaku, the historical legal red-light district which emerged in the early modern times but had developed as an ordinary town. Therefore, many longtime residents bemoaned the stigma of Koganecho district being associated with drugs and prostitution. It was also the residents who decided to end the negative economic cycle fueling the area, despite how many of them were owners of restaurants and bars that served to the workers and customers of prostitution.
According to the Act Regulating Adult Entertainment Businesses (Fuzoku Eigyo-ho), each prefectural government in Japan has enacted ordinances enforcing regulations on the location of adult entertainment establishments. Yokohama also has designated areas where adult entertainment businesses are permitted to operate, like Fukutomicho and Akebonocho. However, Koganecho district is not a designated area. Small premises in Koganecho, where illegal business was conducted, were registered as bars. This situation had been untouched due to the complex historical issues engendered in the aftermath of the war. Many people often overlook this point.
How can we address another criticism — did the banishment of female workers solve the underlying problems? I only started participating in the community development of the district after Operation Bye-Bye. In other words, the women had already left the district, so I did not have a way to contact them directly. This leaves many things unknown to me. According to the prefectural police, the female workers had likely moved to other places. Women from foreign countries are often saddled with debts to the job agents, and are caught within the crime syndicates’ system. The area is also considered a hotbed of human trafficking. In such a case, it is reasonable to point out that banishing the female workers, individuals, and criminal groups who benefited from the lucrative prostitution business in Koganecho district would not solve the fundamental problems. Accompanied by members of the Isezaki Police Department, I visited the offices of gangs involved in prostitution to inform them, as the chairman of its executive committee, about the inauguration of the first Koganecho Bazaar.
The gangs might just have been acting tough, but they intimidatingly told us that eliminating the illegal business would not matter to them and that the women might have moved elsewhere in the country. They talked about the situation as if they were not a part of it.
As I became more aware of the issue’s complexity, I was more puzzled as to whether or not I should participate in the district’s community development.
However, the perplexing context is not a reason to allow illegal business to flourish.
Small premises dealing in prostitution should have been cracked down in the first place, but they were left untouched due to historical circumstances. And this caused the residents to suffer unreasonable disadvantages for many years. We cannot disrespect the efforts of the residents who have raised their voices despite their fear of reprisal from gangs.
I understand the perception that a red-light district is essential and sympathize with the tragic stories of women involved in the illegal sex trade; however, these should not be reasons for society to ignore the situation. We must not allow the exploitation of women from other countries in Japan. Of course, we should have provided support for women forced into prostitution against their will, and I continue to believe so today.
I was once presented with survey results about land and building rights holders and was asked for advice by a person involved in the community development efforts. The document listed not only Japanese names but also foreign names. And the majority of the rights holders were living outside the district. This meant that Koganecho district was an investment target, and there was a possibility that illegal money was flowing into it.
In 2006, I had the chance to enter some of the abandoned premises in the area. The workers had left some handwritten notes in Thai, but I also found some in curvy and circular Burmese script. I had worked in Myanmar in the 1990s, so the Burmese script caught my attention. I imagine it would have been impossible for the Burmese to leave the country and find work in Japan under their military regime. Perhaps some women drifted into the district under false identities. Koganecho must have been a place where countless stories intersected with each other.
Perplexed, I became involved in the area’s community development. I knew it would be a challenging task so, to make people expect my commitment, I announced at a Council meeting that I would continue to participate for at least ten more years. I intentionally put myself in an inescapable position because I was afraid my decision might be swayed otherwise. I’ve been the target of negative criticism on the Internet and received prank calls. Kogane-X Lab’s windows have been smashed. Some people living outside of Koganecho ridiculed my involvement in the area’s community development. I suppose the residents and the staff of Koganecho Area Management Center have had similar experiences.
3-3 Toward Community Development Through Art and Culture
While the promenade and the pier were being constructed, the district was still left with many vacant premises and was struggling to dispel the negative image it had attained in its recent history.
To address the situation, the concept of “City of Culture and the Arts” — which was used in the reactivation of central Yokohama’s waterfront area — was proposed as a possible strategy for the redevelopment of the district.
In June 2006, there was a call for project proposals for supporting the community development efforts of the Hatsuko-Hinode-cho Environmental Cleanup Promotion Council (Hatsuko-Hinode-cho Kankyo Jyoka Suishin Kyogikai), and the proposal submitted by Jun Sakurai Planning Studio was selected. Jun Sakurai, a renowned planner in Yokohama, had been involved in the projects held under Yokohama’s Creative City of Culture and the Arts Measures since its implementation in 2004. His plan, anchored in the potential of soft power, proposed a vision of an art village that, through art events, reactivates the space under the elevated railway tracks.
The idea of using art to revitalize the community was not entirely new to the locals. They had experienced a mural-making workshop where artists and children collaboratively painted the steel fences along the elevated railway tracks. The Council’s Hatsuko-Hinode-cho Community Development Manifesto in March 2006 also states that one of its visions is to create “a town that is bustling with activities, where artists and artisans gather, and where Yokohama’s visitors make a trip to.” The inclusion of art here may have been influenced by the adjacent Noge district which regularly hosts street performances and other cultural events.
This initiated discussions within the Council to explore the potential of using art and culture to revitalize the district.
As its first project, Sakura-so was opened by repurposing a small premise donated by the owner to the Yokohama City government. The store, previously used for prostitution, was transformed into an artist-in-residence facility (where artists stay, create, and exhibit their works) which also served as a base for the local residents’ crime prevention activities. (Later, the building was demolished and rebuilt as a police box).Kanagawa University’s Sogabe Laboratory took charge of the architectural renovation of the premises. BankART1929 handled the programs and management. This non-profit organization (NPO) was entrusted with the operations of art spaces in the former premises of Daiichi Bank (now BankART Temporary) and the Fuji Bank (now Tokyo University of the Arts Bashamichi Building) in Bashamichi. Sakura-so became a pioneering model for using art for community development in Koganecho. Initially, having an art space in the neighborhood may have appeared irrelevant to the residents who generally had no contact with contemporary art. However, organizing talks with community leaders gradually helped shorten the distance between us and the residents. This became the catalyst for Yokohama City to establish a full-scale policy to employ culture and art to revitalize the Koganecho district. The central figure in this initiative was Mr. Masaharu Nakahara of the 150th Anniversary of the Port Opening Creative City Headquarters. Mr. Nakahara had been involved in planning and operating the art event Yokohama Flash, held in the Mitsubishi Warehouse which was to be demolished in 1987, and had networked with people in the art field. He was also one of the central figures in the realization of the City of Culture and the Arts Vision (Bunka Geijutsu Souzou Toshi Kouzou) in Yokohama City. In line with these developments, an art event in Koganecho was envisioned to coincide with the Yokohama Triennale, an international contemporary art exhibition that was to open in September 2008. The art event in Koganecho was distinct from the Triennale in its aim to initiate collaborations with the local community and revitalize the district.
Studios Under the Elevated Train Tracks
The idea of building two cultural art studios (Kogane Studio and Hinode Studio) under the elevated railway tracks surfaced as the driving force in pursuing the vision of community revitalization through art events. Mr. Nakahara played a central role in the realization of this plan. Due to Mr. Nakahara’s persistent negotiations with Keikyu Corporation, a scheme was finally implemented wherein Keikyu Corporation would build art and cultural studios and lease them to Yokohama City. Constructing a public cultural facility typically requires long-term planning and careful consensus building to align the proposal with various administrative plans and obtain approval from the Council. However, the plan for constructing the studio buildings in Koganecho was executed at an astonishing speed. The architectural design of Hinode Studio was commissioned to Professor Yoshihiko Iida’s now-defunct laboratory at Yokohama National University, and the design of the Koganecho Studio was commissioned to Professor Masahi Sogabe’s laboratory at Kanagawa University.
Both professors are eminent architects who have their own architectural offices. However, the projects were commissioned to their university laboratories. This was because when Sogabe’s laboratory took charge of the renovation of Sakura-so, the students’ interaction with residents generated liveliness in the area during and after the project. Therefore, this time, the design process also integrated several workshops with residents in which I participated as a coordinator. I remember the residents expressing that they wanted a clear view under the elevated railway which the steel fence had blocked. They also said that they wished to cross the street, below the elevated railway. The residents’ demand was actually aligned with the concept of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTE), which explores the potential of surveillance conducted by residents to reduce the risk of crimes in the community. The modern glass and steel building of Hinode Studio reflects in its design the residents’ demands. It has a small open space that allows people to walk under the elevated train tracks and a passageway on the second floor from which people can enjoy the vista of the cherry trees and the Ōoka River. The design of Kogane Studio is characterized by its façades. On the riverside, the façade has windows that allow people walking the promenade to see artistic activities. It’s a long building with a veranda connecting each studio unit. The opposite façade facing the residential area can be fully opened to invite passersby to the events. This is another design concept that carefully incorporates the residents’ requests.
Toward Koganecho Bazaar
Mr. Shingo Yamano, the curator of the Yokohama Triennale 2005 and the founder of the Museum City Project, a community-based art project in Fukuoka, was appointed as the director of the Koganecho Bazaar, where I also served as the chairperson of the executive committee. Through discussions, the festival was conceptualized not simply as a contemporary art event but also as a project to generate activity in the community. Therefore, we agreed not to use the word “art” in the title and named the event Koganecho Bazaar to create an image of a place for gathering.
For example, Koganecho Bazaar strategically invited well-known brands that were never associated with the area — such as Naro Tamiya + Issey Miyake — and a specialty café to open temporary shops under the elevated railway tracks. The aim of the art event was not only to showcase artworks but to explore the future potential of the district. In addition, the exhibition included artworks which invited the audience to participate rather than simply spectate. The students of Yokohama City University saw the potential of the district being a home to wholesalers. They took the initiative to open a small local brand store at Kogane-X Lab to introduce and sell the local stores’ products. In addition to the newly built cultural art studios, former brothels were rented from the owners and used as exhibition spaces to present a possible way of utilizing the small premises which had remained untouched. Furthermore, the offering of water transportation that connected the venues of the Yokohama Triennale and the Koganecho Bazaar was a strategy to attract more visitors from other areas to the Koganecho district.
From the perspective of community development, the Koganecho Bazaar’s attempt was to rebuild the area’s identity from a place of prostitution to a place for cultural activities. In central Yokohama, the urban planning incorporated the area’s history and the landscape around the port, creating Yokohama’s identity as a port city. On the other hand, the case of the Koganecho district was considered an experimental model because the area had no historical buildings and distinct local culture.
The most unique and significant aspect of the Koganecho project is its application of art to revitalize the local community. The Koganecho area was experiencing a proliferation of small shops dealing in illegal businesses, which forced residents to move out of the area. Business owners also disappeared from the district when the police shut down their stores. It was undeniable that the district had lost its vitality. Koganecho Bazaar aimed to activate interactions and communications between residents, artists, and local communities.
Renting and Utilization of Small Premises
The plan to hold the Koganecho Bazaar pushed the government to begin renting the small premises from the owners officially. Since this initiative began, people often wonder why the government would rent premises used for prostitution. Below, I will try to address this question.
There are several types of premises used for prostitution. Some buildings were built explicitly for this purpose by companies associated with antisocial organizations after having forcefully acquired the land from the owner. In other cases, existing buildings were converted into small brothels. Especially in the latter case, the properties were illegally sublet from one person to the next without the original owner’s consent. Through multiple subleasing, the rent skyrockets, and the significant difference between the rent paid to the owner and the actual rent paid by the end tenant goes to antisocial forces.
The illegal business operators were paying considerable rent and, in some cases, their investment was significant. Hence, they could not simply back out even when the police disrupted their illegal business. Therefore, they quietly waited for the police force to withdraw from the district.
This negative chain needed to be broken to prevent the illegal business from taking over the district again. Thus, a scheme was set in place wherein the police and the government had the land and building owners terminate their contracts with their tenants so the government could rent their properties. Indeed, the government could not afford high rent and generally could only pay rent that is lower than the market price. Nevertheless, some owners were willing to clear the issues related to the rights and lease their properties to the government to be used for art events and as artists’ studios. This was the basic scheme.
It had also been suggested that the government should sublet the small premises to restaurant or shop owners. However, it would be unfair for the government to sublet the property to selected restaurants and stores at low rents. Most of the restaurants were frequented by customers who came to the area mainly for prostitution; their sales had significantly decreased after Operation Bye-Bye. What if the government would lease spaces to new competitor restaurants at a lower rent?
There was also an opinion that the government should focus on facilitating and attracting stores and restaurants to rent the small premises directly from the owners. However, even three years after Operation Bye-Bye, there were still few people walking around the district and it was still risky to open a shop.
Organization of Community Development
As mentioned above, Yokohama City was already implementing the Creative City Initiative for Culture and the Arts when the community revitalization project — through art and cultural activities — began in the Koganecho district which was teeming with social issues. Later, the community revitalization project in Koganecho district was positioned as part of Yokohama City’s Creative City vision. Initially, the area’s revitalization was approached as a city planning project and placed under the management of the Urban Development Bureau and the Naka Ward Office.
Eventually, the 150th Anniversary of the Port Opening Creative City Project Division (later the Culture and Tourism Bureau) became part of the project.
Koganecho Bazaar 2008 was organized by the executive committee, but many residents expressed their concerns about the future, once the event has ended. Therefore, the members of the executive committee and the Hatsuko-Hinode-cho Environmental Cleanup Promotion Council decided to establish an NPO, the Koganecho Area Management Center (KAMC), to continue the efforts. Mr. Yamano — the director of the Bazaar — was appointed as the NPO’s executive director and Mr. Mitsumasa Kobayashi — who was a central figure in the community development project and had served as the president of the Council — was unanimously elected as the chairman.
Since the establishment of the KAMC, the Koganecho district has been promoted as one of Yokohama’s Creative Areas, places which represent the concept of the Creative City. From the beginning, KAMC intended to handle art management and community development. Art management responsibilities included organizing the subsequent Bazaars, managing the newly built art and cultural studios, and utilizing the small premises as artist studios by organizing an open call for artists and creators (the artist-in-residence program). Responsibilities for community development included providing support for the activities of the Council, publishing a community newsletter, managing and maintaining the buildings including the small premises on the lease, and organizing discussions on development plans proposed under the District for Urban Development Consultation System (Machizukuri Kyougi Chiku Seido). While events like the annual Koganecho Bazaar are widely known, the KAMC’s activities cover various professional fields. For example, the Yokohama City government has established the District for Urban Development Consultation System which facilitates discussions between developers and resident organizations before the former could apply for a building permit, especially for the construction of a condominium. Since Operation Bye-Bye, several condominiums were built in Koganecho district. If the studio-type apartments in the condominiums were sold as investments, the rooms could again be used for non-storefront sex businesses. Such cases have occurred in the surrounding areas, and there is a possibility that the illegal business in Koganecho will continue inside the condominiums. Therefore, through the discussions, developers are requested to convert the studio-type apartments into family-type or even larger apartments However, the system operates based on informal guidelines which are discussed among the government officials and are not yet formally approved by the City Council. Thus, the system does not have legal power, which makes it challenging to obtain cooperation and agreement from the developers. Therefore, organizing workshops to discuss the community development policy of the district and reach a consensus is also an essential responsibility of KAMC.
The wide range of duties of the KAMC includes grappling with the problem of illegal littering and securing road use permits for events. These invisible efforts to maintain the community’s wellness make art events possible in the district. Therefore, to address the question as to why an organization holding an art event should call itself “area management,” it is necessary to also shed light on the persistent efforts of community development in the Koganecho district.
3-4 Koganecho and Koganecho Bazaar
My work in Koganecho began suddenly.
Around October 2007, I received a phone call from Masaharu Nakahara, then head of the Creative City Headquarters of Yokohama City. He was thinking of holding an art festival in Koganecho in conjunction with the Yokohama Triennale 2008, and he asked me if I would be willing to help him with a part of the project.
Nakahara was willing to give me a position for a fixed period of one year, so I started to consider staying in Yokohama temporarily. I already had a plan to visit Tokyo, so I decided to stop by Yokohama to meet with Nakahara to learn more about the project.
I had no prior knowledge about the Koganecho district aside from knowing that the film Heaven and Hell (1963) has a scene staged in Koganecho. That was the only thing I knew about the area. While working for the Yokohama Triennale in 2005, I would occasionally visit Thai restaurants in neighboring Wakabacho with Thai artists and staff. However, I was completely unaware of the Koganecho district, which is just across the Ōoka River. During the meeting with Nakahara, a file folder was provided to me and I was given a lecture on its contents.
Below is a summary of my recollection of the lecture.
In the area called Koganecho — which includes not just the tiny Koganecho proper but parts of Hatsunecho and Hinodecho — some people have, for many years since the end of the war, operated illegal prostitution businesses disguised as small “restaurants” under the Keihin Express Line. After the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, the railway company started evicting the tenants under the elevated railway. This eviction eventually led to the opening of more illegal “bars” both around the railway and beyond in the late 1990s to the 2000s. In 2003, residents started to lobby the local government and police to prevent the spread of shops dealing in prostitution.
In January 2005, the local government and police expelled illegal businesses. Yokohama City had begun renting vacant premises, which had been left untouched, from private owners. The file folder included photographs showing the actual conditions of the premises leased to the city government. There were also photographs from the opening of BankART Sakura-so, which was already in operation. The folder also contained a map with notes and markings detailing ideas for the future. In hindsight, these plans have since been realized.
The festival was tentatively named “Kogane-X Art Festival”. An executive committee and a planning committee were formed for the festival, and I became a member of the latter. Nobuharu Suzuki of Yokohama City University was appointed as the chair of the executive committee, and other members included residents and government officials. The planning committee was in charge of creating the content for the festival. It consisted of Takaaki Kumakura, Taro Amano, and myself. While Kumakura was tasked with developing performing arts programs, Amano was perhaps expected to bring in big-name artists and I was assigned to handle outreach programs focusing on a larger area and Asia. However, after attending one meeting, Kumakura decided to study abroad and withdrew from the committee. Thus, Amano and I were left in charge of developing the curatorial plans for the festival.
At the time, Yokohama City was pursuing a plan to build new cultural facilities under the elevated railway tracks while continuing to rent small premises previously used for prostitution. Yokohama City University and BankART Sakura-so had already been managing spaces that hosted activities for the local communities. Initially, I was given a desk in the corner of the office of the Yokohama Museum of Art. Soon after, we were provided with an office space in Hinodecho, along the Ōoka River, and we formed an initial team with only a few staff members.
The first staff member to join was Kazuki Saito, who was brought in by Nakahara. The next one was Mayumi Hirano, who worked in Amano’s team for the Yokohama Triennale in 2005. We also discussed changing the tentative name “Kogane-X Art Festival” to “Koganecho Art Bazaar”, but we eventually decided to drop “art” from the name.
Two cultural facilities were constructed under the railway and inaugurated in conjunction with the opening ceremony of the Koganecho Bazaar. They were respectively named Hinode Studio and Kogane Studio. At the time, the Yokohama City government had signed a lease for only a few premises, so our office had to rent several vacant premises along Hirado-Sakuragi Road, parallel to the elevated Keihin Express Line, which we used as exhibition sites.
I decided to experiment with the temporal framework of the festival to present a future image of the district. Thus, we invited not only artists but also business owners to open stores temporarily for the duration of the festival. We knew it was an unreasonable request for the business owners, but we managed to persuade Issey Miyake to open a temporary store. Two café owners also agreed to open temporary shops during the festival. We also invited photographers Shigeo Anzai and Takashi Arai to operate a photo studio, not just as an exhibition space for their works but also as a portrait studio for members of the local communities. We also ran a shop for artists’ merchandise and books. I also requested the Fukuoka-based painter Chisato Tanaka to stay in Yokohama for a while and paint portraits of people in the area. She had been painting figures but not portraits of people, so my request to her did not necessarily align with the direction she was pursuing in her previous works.
We also thought of using the Ōoka River as an exhibition site. Amano showed me documentation of a video projection on a lake done by Australian artist Craig Walsh, and we decided to commission him to create a public artwork on the river. Artist Taisuke Abe, with whom I had worked for the Yokohama Triennale in 2005, also made a significant contribution to the Koganecho Bazaar. Jun Honma proposed the breakthrough idea of using the space under the bridge and successfully realized this plan.
We also tried to make the entire exhibition accessible to a broader public by including participatory works and art projects that took the form of a store. We also exhibited most of Tanaka’s portrait paintings in the existing shops in the neighborhood. The first Koganecho Bazaar was perhaps the only edition that I put together with the help of Amano and the staff. The number of participating artists continued to increase during the exhibition. As seen in my previous projects, I intentionally keep exhibition management loose. There were no part-time receptionists or exhibition guards unlike in the succeeding editions. All of the venues were open to the public free of charge. The exhibition managed to draw many visitors to the Koganecho district and reactivate the area, which had been abandoned and was overflowing with rubbish. There were challenging moments that reminded us of the violence that once permeated the neighborhood, but we managed to get through it.
On the occasion of the first Koganecho Bazaar, a supportive group of volunteers began its activities. Both children and adults participated in the events and provided support for the operation of the festival.
We staged the opening ceremony in front of Kogane Studio, on the street, as well as inside the studio. The mayor, prefectural governor, police chief, and community members attended and gave speeches, and the ceremony concluded with great success.
The city government and police did not inform me until several years later that a dead body was found in the Ōoka River in the early morning of the opening day of the first Koganecho Bazaar. They thought the news would terrify me and I would run away from the project.
3-5 Inauguration of Koganecho Area Management Center (2009)
During the Koganecho Bazaar, unbeknownst to me, there were discussions about the district’s future prospects and the possibility of establishing a non-profit organization (NPO) to take over the responsibilities of organizing art events and community work. Before the end of the Koganecho Bazaar, I was invited to continue working in the Koganecho district, and the NPO Koganecho Area Management Center (KAMC) was established in April of the following year, in 2009.(*1)
KAMC was closely related to the Hatsuko-Hinode-cho Environmental Cleanup Promotion Council (Kogane-X), a neighborhood association active since 2003. The executive committee of the first Koganecho Bazaar was mostly composed of the members of the Kogane-X. Thus, KAMC was naturally envisioned to bridge the activities of the two groups. Initially, KAMC was not responsible for the administrative work of the Kogane-X. However, there were conflicting opinions about the positionality of KAMC among the stakeholders, which eventually led KAMC to take over the administrative work of the Kogane-X.
The routine operation of KAMC is to renovate the premises formerly used for prostitution as well as other properties leased to the city of Yokohama and rent them out to artists.
The number of long-term resident artists was small in the beginning, but we managed to open up avenues for artists and local communities to interact with each other on a regular basis by downscaling the Koganecho Bazaar and organizing a diversity of projects throughout the year.(*2)
development were seamlessly united. The formation of the team was In the same year, Nobuhiro Shimura created a video installation, Red Shoes (2009), which illuminated dark alleyways in the district. The work perfectly embodies the theme of community vitalization through art. The context of everyday life reveals the quality of an artwork.
L PACK, Kazuya Shikinami, and Koji Sekimoto became interested in an abandoned Japanese-style hotel built immediately after the war. As the building stood in the area designated for redevelopment, the property owner agreed to lease the building to us until the demolition. The artists named the building “Ryugu Bijutsu Ryokan” (Ryugu Art Hotel). They renovated some parts of the building, particularly the kitchen, and reopened the building as a café and exhibition space. Ryugu Bijutsu Ryokan became a gathering place for both artists and the people in the neighborhood.
In front of Ryugu Bijutsu Ryokan was a building previously occupied by the cult group Aum Shinrikyo. We were also able to rent and use it for residencies, meetings, and exhibitions.
HEAVENHELL (2009) by Malaysian filmmaker Chris Chong Chan Fui was also shot in the Koganecho district in the same year. The video work captures the lingering
also divided into two. I proposed the idea of “community development through art” as a goal to bring together people with different backgrounds and create a platform for them to work together and influence each other. However, people did not accept my idea so easily. People have ceaselessly advised me to focus on either art or community development. I keep explaining the meaninglessness of choosing one over the other, and yet it seems like my intention has not been fully understood to this day.
atmosphere of the district’s history as a red light district. The work was realized by a large production team, which was formed by professionals with the cooperation of the Tokyo University of the Arts.
When KAMC began its operations, public security was the primary concern of the district. There was also the issue of illegal dumping.
The situation was unstable. Any event could trigger the revival of the prostitution business at any time. KAMC’s main projects were the annual festival of Koganecho Bazaar and the artist-in-residence program. However, public safety was still an issue, and the studio spaces were tiny; the environment was not exactly favorable for an artist-in-residency program. There was constant backlash from those who benefitted from the district in the past. The glass windows of our facilities were often smashed. There were also instances where gang members entered our office to use the toilet without our knowledge. A man once threatened me with a kitchen knife, saying, “you are the cause of all the problems.” It was the phase of continuously trying new things while being resilient to harassment. The situation gradually improved as artists finally settled in the area.
Back then, the situation changed only little by little. While we could not optimistically say that every change was aligned with our vision, we could move forward by constantly making small yet careful efforts.
(*1) The first chair of the board of directors of KAMC was Mitsumasa Kobayashi. The president, as of 2021, is Kazuo Takeuchi.
(*2) Although the activities of KAMC began with the catchword “community development through art,” it does not mean that the disciplines of art and community
Activities after 2011
Around 2011, the number of long-term resident artists began to increase, but only some artists actually used their studios full-time, and their presence was only felt during public events. On the other hand, the active presence of architectural firms defined the characteristics of the residency program at the time. (The novelist Taiju Agawa joined the residency program in 2010. He has transferred his office from one location to another within the district in the past 10 years.)
The year 2011 was marked by the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. Some of the exhibitions at the Koganecho Bazaar responded to the situation in Tōhoku. Tsubasa Kato constructed a work in a vacant lot under the Koganecho district’s elevated railway tracks and transported it to the affected area in Iwaki City. Ichiro Endo held a ceremony launching a new bus, the “Mirai-e-Go” (go for future), which rarely appeared in Koganecho after its initial departure. Tsuyoshi Ozawa wrote a folktale about the earthquake and nuclear power plant and translated it into a video installation in which a TV monitor would suddenly shake and make a thumping sound. Hitoshi Ushijima and Risa Sato also exhibited their works under the elevated railway tracks. Ushijima’s work was a sculpture that looked like playground equipment while Sato’s work, entitled Madame K, was a giant soft sculpture.
Also on display was a series of oil paintings of the scenery of the Koganecho district by Yasutoshi Taniguchi, owner of the Taniguchi Store and the president of the Hatsunecho-Koganecho neighborhood association at the time when the Kogane-X was initiated.
As part of the Koganecho Bazaar in 2011, the exhibition Chikuho Sukabura Market was presented to commemorate the inclusion of Sakubei Yamamoto’s work, which documents the life of coal miners, in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register. Kiyonori Bori curated and organized the entire exhibition and its related events, which included original paintings of Sakubei Yamamoto as well as the artwork of Maika Kunimori, a performance by Yukinko Akira, and Rainbow Okayama. Merchandise was also sold at the exhibition site.
It was a time when we gradually started to feel the effects of our ongoing efforts.(*3)
(*3) KAMC published annual reports from 2009 to 2011, documenting each year’s activities. The publications are still available as of 2021.
Hiyori Art Center (2011–2014)
On March 11, 2011, our office building suddenly started trembling strongly, and we hastily exited the building. Soon after the tremor, the water of the Ōoka River receded dramatically, revealing the river bed. Police cars started driving along the riverside to alert people to stay away from the river.
When I returned home, I saw that my bookshelves collapsed. So many things happened in the following days. In some situations, I couldn’t even make a decision.
Some time later, I received a phone call from the artist Ichiro Endo, asking me to visit the affected areas in Tōhoku. He had been going to the affected areas early on. Two months after the earthquake, on May 11, I met up with him in Sendai. From there, he took me to some of the worst-hit areas in his yellow van, Mirai-e-Go. Endo consulted me about his plan to get a larger bus-type vehicle to bring more people to the affected areas. I replied to him that I would help as much as I could, and we started looking for a used bus. At the same time, I wondered what artists could do for the areas in Ishinomaki, where almost all of the shops were shuttered. I decided to visit the officers at the Ishinomaki City Hall and ask their opinion on an artist-in-residency program being set up there. I was not even sure what that would mean for the community at all. However, the officers replied to me that reopening even one premise would be a positive move for the community. Thus, I decided to give it a try. We obtained a subsidy from the Kanagawa Prefecture (Kanagawa Prefecture Model Project for Creating New Public Spaces in fiscal years 2011 and 2012). Using the subsidy as the primary financial source, we rented and repaired a building in the tsunami-stricken area. We named the space Hiyori Art Center, after the street where the building stood. We also managed to rent a bus for Endo’s project. In the end, the leasing company generously donated the bus to the artist. Hiyori Art Center continued its activities until 2014.
Koganecho Art School
From the beginning, I wanted to organize educational programs as part of the activities of KAMC. In 2012, I, along with staff member Minori Sawaki, prepared and started offering courses on arts management by inviting different lecturers. The program was modeled after the classes that I prepared for the alternative art school Bigakkō and the one-month intensive course at Tenjin Geijyutsu Gakkō (Tenjin Art School) in Fukuoka. What mattered to me the most was the vision of having a place to study art right at the heart of the district. I prepared a paper to be delivered at the start of the second term in May 2013. During the class, I did not read the manuscript straightforwardly. However, I present here a modified and shortened version as the introduction to Koganecho Art School.(*4)
Today, we start the second year of the Koganecho Art School, and this is the first session for the arts management course.
Last year, we named this course “curator course.” However, the actual work in the field of art includes a wide range of tasks. Thus, we have reorganized the program to think about the field beyond the framework of a curator. Therefore, the course is not necessarily focused on a curator’s point of view but covers various perspectives surrounding it.
I started organizing a course in this style more than ten years ago at Bigakkō. It was called the “Art Project Course” and was composed of lectures. The class met once a week, just like this course. I lived in Fukuoka then, so I would travel to Tokyo once a month to handle one session and invite others from the Tokyo area to handle other sessions. And I have designed this one-year-long art management course in a similar way with Nozomu Ogawa, the director of Art Center Ongoing. At least one of us will be present at each session. As the introduction to the course, I’m going to discuss the
(*4) Due to the incurring cost, we could not continue designing the courses by inviting different lecturers. After some reconsideration, we started working with long-term resident artists in the Koganecho district to handle the studio courses. Makoto Murata conducts in-class lectures.
idea of art history today. Thinking about art history is an attempt to reconsider a larger environment surrounding art, so my lecture today will not introduce a ready-made history of art.
In the final session of last year’s Art Project Course, I showed a recent timeline of art projects and mentioned art history as an arbitrary construct.
Only some of the projects that I was involved in were included in that timeline. Some were mentioned, but others were not. From my perspective, some significant projects were omitted from the timeline and some relatively unimportant ones were included. This is not a question of finding the right answer but of who is writing the history.
As history is a construct, it is crucial to acknowledge that a diversity of historical narratives can exist.
What is the driving force for a person to write a history of art? Is it only composed of the artists or their works? I’d like to tell you my view preemptively — these are not the only forces.
First of all, art history is a creation; in that sense, it is plastic. Today, scholars and practitioners across the Asian regions are writing art histories of their own countries or cultures. Younger generations are actively making the efforts. Some might consider they are writing about the present moments, not necessarily the past. Ren Fukuzumi will discuss the current state of art history in the next session and proffer the need for discursive space as one of the driving forces for writing a history of art.
History, having effects on our perspective, always and necessarily captures the past methodologically from a viewpoint grounded in the present. And the present is determined by our prediction about the future.
The Japanese embarked on such an effort in the Meiji Era (1868–1912). It began with devising the word “bijutsu” (art). Tenshin Okakura’s History of Japanese Art, published by Heibonsha, questions the possibility of writing a history of Japanese art. Japanese art cannot be articulated without its relation to the history of Chinese art. In other words, we can only talk about Japanese art with the knowledge of the historical paths of Chinese art.
The question arises — did Okakura perceive the currents of Japanese art as a continuity? The conception of the past as a continuity is a perspective of modernity. It is brought out by the consciousness toward methodology.
Okakura thought that Japanese art history could be articulated as continuity only in relation to Chinese art. His method is to integrate two separate stories into one. If I may use the common observation about Tenshin Okakura, he was simultaneously a modernist and an anti-modernist.
However, we need a new term to articulate Okakura’s critical attitude toward the question of modernity in Asia. It is the challenge that artists, curators, and researchers in Asia persistently face.
How did I develop my perspective? I lived and worked as an art worker in a provincial city until I was 55 years old. Back then, our work in the province was almost never acknowledged in Tokyo. Even when it was acknowledged, it was mostly denounced as low-quality and insignificant compared to the projects in Tokyo. We also followed these external evaluations. However, encountering the works of young Asian artists has changed our perspective, and we began to question ourselves for following the judgments made in Tokyo. When we first encountered the works of young Asian artists, we perceived their works as low-quality because we looked at them simply in terms of style and technique. The works appeared to be outdated imitations of Western art.
However, I learned that understanding the works of these young Asian artists required an entirely different perspective. They were striving to create a new artistic language that would enable them to address the challenges that they were facing. They attempted to do so by referencing and combining fragments detached from their original context.
Now, I look back at their work from a completely different perspective. Each of them grappled with the nuanced challenges of modernity and tried to overcome them by using what was readily available.
We have long assumed that art history was about tracing the continuity of Western art. We also thought that we were part of that continuity, and many of our predecessors have tried to position themselves within it. Some may still believe in this today.
I believe in the potential of constructing one’s own art history. Here, I talk about your potential of becoming a maker of local art history.
Throughout the year, this art management course will invite different lecturers. I hope they provide you some clues on how to start composing your own version of art history, so I recommend you join the sessions as often as possible.
According to Mallarmé, modernity is ambiguous, which challenges the idea of cohesiveness. I also believe in the impossibility of grasping the whole, as he wrote. Therefore, we need to look at things from various angles, but there is no assurance that the result would establish integrity. More likely, it would not.
However, through the process of doing so, we continue drafting our art history. It may be a repetitious process of creating and destroying, but it is the preliminary work required to construct a working hypothesis of the future. It provides an essential opportunity for us to think about our work.
The framework of the Koganecho Art School is an actual site where you may find a hint for your work.
As the first step, let’s speculate on the state of art in the context of the small communities in the Koganecho district.
We have been exploring the relationship between the district and art for more than five years. However, our work is still in progress, and there is still a long way to go. One of the aims of this school is to nurture people who will continue the initiatives of the Koganecho district in the future. For that, two things must be passed on. One is the way of thinking or philosophical thinking, and the other is practical knowledge grounded on experience. This course intends to focus on the study of philosophical knowledge. As I mentioned, it will do so by looking at multiple subjects from various perspectives, so the answer will not be readily available. It is a process that requires each of us to engage in the work of reconstructing history as one’s own.
After finishing this art management course, there is an internship program for the following year’s Koganecho Bazaar, under the supervision of Ogawa. Art management is something you can learn by doing. The internship program will provide the opportunity for each of you to have hands-on experience after the completion of your course. It will make your knowledge more solid and valuable in the future.
I said this earlier:
“History, having effects on our perspective, always and necessarily captures the past methodologically from a viewpoint grounded in the present. And the present is determined by our prediction about the future.”
Predicting the future is actually imagining a utopia. Therefore, history is intertwined with the hypothesis for utopia.
The actual experiences of the Koganecho district will give us our first reference to think about the various questions we will address in this course.