3-6 Artists in the Local Communities
The number of facilities under our management gradually grew. Back then, the immediate task was to increase the number of resident artists, and the goal was to reach 50 artists in a few years and then 100 by 2020. We achieved the initial goal of 50 resident artists, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of resident artists has yet to reach 100.
The following text is based on a text I wrote around 2018 under the title “Artists in the Local Communities”. While working onsite, I can feel our tasks slightly differ in each phase, but here I edited my old text by keeping the parts that talk about the issues at the time and omitting the parts that speak about the future vision. Recounting and annotating my writings from each year will allow me to trace the Koganecho Area Management Center’s (KAMC) efforts and the district’s changes over time. This time, however, I will only cover the period from 2017 to 2018 for your reference.
In recent years, there has been constant construction of condominiums with small one-room units, and there are concerns that these buildings could once again become a nest for prostitution or for so-called “poverty businesses” that aim to exploit low-income citizens. The local communities are becoming alarmed and are trying to tighten their guard against signs that past problems are returning in a different form. The City Government has published a guideline on construction of new buildings in the Koganecho area, which requests the architects to present and discuss their architectural plans with the Hatsuko-Hinode-cho Environmental Cleanup Council in advance. However, the local communities are now aiming to establish legally binding rules to prohibit the construction of condominiums with small one-room units.
KAMC was established with the goal of revitalizing the district through art. In reality, we are responsible for art and community development, two distinct tasks that cannot easily be merged into one. Our routine task is to maintain and manage the facilities for the Artist in Residence program (AIR) while organizing various support programs for artists, facilitating artists’ exchanges with the local communities and international art exchange programs mainly focused on the Asia region. We also aim to facilitate artists who want to settle in the district beyond the period of the residency program. Resident artists are selected through a screening process as well as through interviews. The length of the short-term residency program is generally three months while the long-term program runs for one year. Artists may switch to the long-term residency program, and the contract for it is renewable for up to five years unless there is a problem. Young artists often have part-time jobs or take on other jobs to support their artistic practices; thus, the nature of our AIR program is a little bit different from the general image of AIR programs wherein the artists are always in their studios. Artists from other provinces start their residency programs by looking for part-time jobs.
AIR in Koganecho is characterized by the fact that there are many participating artists and the facilities are located across the district, which enables artists to come into proximity to the local communities. The members of the local communities are not the audience for the artists. Sometimes they become the audience, but other times they don’t. That is the common relationship between the artists and the communities in Koganecho.
Most of the buildings used by the artists are the renovated spaces, which once were premises used for illegal businesses. The spaces are small, but each artist utilizes them creatively. In addition, several facilities constructed under the elevated railway between 2008 and 2012 are used for exhibitions, productions, and events.
Our other work is categorized as community development wherein we take responsibility for the administrative work for the Hatsuko-Hinode-cho Environmental Cleanup Council and commercial associations. In addition, we work on issues such as crime prevention, illegal dumping prevention, and reactivation of economic activities in cooperation with local government, police, universities, and companies.
Over the past ten years, the district has gradually changed. On the everyday level, public security has improved, illegal dumping has decreased, and the flow of people has been restored little by little. The district, once inaccessible to children, has become an afterschool playground for them. In such a situation, resident artists and children naturally begin to interact with each other, which has led to the opening of Koganecho BASE.(*1) It is a scrap wood workshop that opens twice a week. The area’s child population is becoming increasingly ethnically diverse, and Koganecho BASE has helped them build relationships with each other.
In addition, the vacant spaces under the elevated railway tracks of the Keihin Kyuko Line have been attracting new businesses. Many groups are also exploring the potential of using the Ōoka River for their activities. These changes in the district are largely due to the fact that artists have become active in the city.
Artists have managed to create unbiased relationships with new residents, including an increasing number of foreign nationals, and with the people who have remained indifferent or even opposed to local community development. Their stance will continue to be essential in creating a new local community that embraces diversity. Therefore, it is crucial to have more artists settle in the district and continue being active members of the community. I also want to note the role of artists as a community-building force in urban contexts.
(*1) Koganecho BASE was a creative space for children to hang out after school and try out what they want to create. It was run by resident artist Yusuke Yamada and former KAMC staff members Lee Jihee, Tomoyo Mizutani, and Koki Sugiyama (at that time).
3-7 Exchanges with Asia
One of the core projects of the Koganecho Area Management Center (KAMC) is the continuous exchange programs with the artists and institutions in the Asian region.
In 2014, the Agency for Cultural Affairs initiated the Cultural Cities of East Asia project to link Japan, China, and South Korea. Initially, Yokohama City was grouped with Quanzhou City (China) and Gwangju City (South Korea). KAMC was invited to take part in the project so we made research trips to these cities. KAMC had maintained exchanges with organizations and artists in South Korea, which also provided us the opportunity to give a talk and participate in conferences about community revitalization. For the Cultural Cities of East Asia project, we hosted at our artist in residency (AIR) program an artist who was recommended to us by Mite Uglo, an organization based in a market in Gwangju. Later on, Mite Uglo shifted their organizational direction. Someone introduced us to Space Pong, another private organization that operated an AIR and a gallery space in Gwangju. They were looking for a partner organization in Japan to develop an artist exchange program. Thus, we started the AIR exchange program with them in 2016. Space Pong has added a new AIR facility over the past several years.
In recent years, an increasing number of restaurants have opened up in the neighborhood, transforming the area’s atmosphere. As the urban development began to take place, the district has gradually become a more vibrant place. Recently, Space Pong has moved to Sejong from Cheongju to continue community activities and AIR.
The collaboration with Space Pong has been ongoing since 2012.
I had visited Beijing and Shanghai in the past, but I had never visited Quanzhou in Fujian Province. The Cultural Cities of East Asia project was the beginning of my exchange with artists in Quanzhou. The city was also the birthplace of Cai Guo-Qiang.
Historically, Quanzhou flourished as the world’s largest international port during the time of the Song and Yuan dynasties. The city still retains much of its historical heritage, and has long been known as a multinational and multicultural city.
Such a multicultural atmosphere is still vibrant in the area despite the ongoing urban development. The officers of the Quanzhou Maritime Museum in Fujian took care of us from the very beginning of our stay. Aside from the museum, they toured me around many historical buildings, old streets, and many other places including newly developed areas and a district of antique shops. I was also introduced to the people involved in urban development, members of the artists’ associations, and entrepreneurs who were interested in art. One of the purposes of my first visit was to look for an artist to invite to the Koganecho Bazaar. However, I could not find anyone during the stay, so I searched for artists from Quanzhou after returning from our trip and invited Jiawen Hou.
Quanzhou became one of my most favorite cities, which I have since repeatedly visited. This is largely due to the people I met there. Through my multiple visits, I was given opportunities to give lectures and organize an archival exhibition at the museum to introduce the projects of the Koganecho district. For reference, I reproduce here a blog post I wrote immediately after my return from Quanzhou in 2014.
I visited Quanzhou City from October 27 to 30.
This time, I had prepared a short video presentation about Koganecho and also brought a project proposal to present at different meetings. To my surprise, I was requested to attend a roundtable discussion first, and then to give a lecture. I hastily re-edited and tweaked the existing PowerPoint presentation for my lecture. The director of the Quanzhou Maritime Museum, Ding Yuling, had gathered a large audience for my lecture.
First, I introduced the project of the Koganecho district and talked about its relationship with the Creative City projects of Yokohama, particularly the Yokohama Triennale, and its future prospects. Then I explained and proposed the potential of applying the scheme in Yokohama to the case of Quanzhou.
There are always limitations in explicating a project for people in different countries and different social contexts. However, the video presentation that I brought from Yokohama captures the atmosphere of the community and the activities of the artists in Koganecho well, so I had the impression that probably some aspects of our efforts were conveyed to the people in Quanzhou despite the unavoidable misunderstandings.
I wonder how the people in Quanzhou understood my intention of making a proposal by applying the Yokohama scheme to Quanzhou. As time was limited, I couldn’t address many of the questions raised during the meeting.
Later in the evening, I was guided to a vast area under urban development. I learned about the plan to repurpose the former factory in the area as a facility for cultural programs, including AIR.
From there, I was taken to a dinner at a place called Yuanhe 1916, which was envisioned to be like Beijing’s 798 Art District.
Since then, every time I visit Quanzhou, I propose to them to utilize the city’s historical background and geographical conditions, and establish an art center for international exchange to connect East and Southeast Asia.
KAMC has been expanding and updating its network with art collectives and other cultural institutions in East and Southeast Asia by inviting and dispatching artists.
I thought that the method and network of KAMC could be useful for Quanzhou. Considering its historical and geographical location, I believed Quanzhou would play a significant role in forging linkages between East and Southeast Asia, and it was crucial to have China as an active member in this project.
We were witnessing two concurrent movements in Quanzhou. On one hand, there was the force of redevelopment, of buildings being demolished in some of the old town blocks. On the other hand, there was also an effort to preserve and repurpose buildings in the other areas.
My proposal envisioned reusing the existing buildings in the old district to host activities of international artists and bring them into proximity to the lives of the local people, which will transform situations for the district. At the time, I put together a short proposal, which is reproduced here with a few minor word corrections.
A proposal for making an art center in Quanzhou City as the international hub of cultural exchanges
● Aim of the proposal
Quanzhou City in Fujian Province, China, has long had strong economic and cultural ties with East and Southeast Asia partly due to its geographical location and has long served as a center of international exchange. The city still retains its multicultural and multi-religious character, but in recent years, there has been a rapid expansion of new businesses moving into the historical landscape of old neighborhoods. Under the urban development projects, the old district is experiencing the problems of demolition and facing both the challenges of conserving old buildings and the question of cultural and economic coexistence with the old residents. These are common challenges facing many Asian cities undergoing major transformations. Since 2014, I have proposed to the relevant organizations in Quanzhou the establishment of a center for international artistic exchange. My proposal was based on my experiences working in the Koganecho district. It is a proposal for an art and cultural center, operated by joint efforts between China, Japan, and other participating countries from East and Southeast Asia. I believe this new type of a cultural hub will allow the participants to co-develop an unprecedented model for art projects and eventually provide a guidepost for solving the challenges of coexistence.
● Proposal for experimental models
Representatives of cooperative organizations and artists from the East and Southeast Asia regions will convene with the partners in Quanzhou for a period of two weeks to one month, during which they will experiment with the operation of a temporary art center, co-organize exhibitions in various locations across the city, and hold a symposium to discuss the future potential of Quanzhou as a hub for international cultural exchanges. Different functions of this temporary experimental art center will be housed in different buildings in the old part of town and will be accessible for the local communities. The stay of the participants and their exhibitions could be realized by utilizing the networks among the hostels, galleries, shops, and cafés in the city. The symposium will be held in cooperation with the Quanzhou Maritime Museum, and activities will be designed to explore various aspects of Quanzhou, including its historical heritage and new developments. This experimentation will be an opportunity to discuss with Quanzhou officials the permanent establishment of an art center and the continuation of an international network.
This project is based on the concept of multilingual and multicultural coexistence. Therefore, it is important that the participants disseminate information about the projects in their respective languages through the processes of writing and translation. Ideally, information about the project should be available in various languages and presented all at once. In addition, Quanzhou itself is a city that has a cultural history of embracing diverse languages and icons of various origins. It would be best to create a documentary film that provides an overview of such historical background and current initiatives.
Finally, all the data gleaned through the above-mentioned efforts will be collected, re-edited, and archived in the forms of video and publication. In the future, the network should be expanded to include more participating countries and organizations. In addition, information should be disseminated widely to form networks with businessmen and investors in multiple fields not limited to the arts. Securing their cooperation will lead to the next stage of its development.
Exchange program with Chengdu City, Sichuan Province
The LUXELAKES A4 Art Museum (formerly A4 Contemporary Art Center) in Chengdu City initially began an exchange program with Yokohama City through the Arts Commission Yokohama (Yokohama Arts Foundation) in 2010. However, since the artists stayed in the residency facilities in the Koganecho area during their residency with the Arts Commission Yokohama, KAMC eventually continued the program. Since then, KAMC has hosted the artists recommended by A4 for the residency program and presented their works at Koganecho Bazaar. In exchange, artists of our recommendation stay in Chengdu during the summer and fall to create exhibitions or public art. Chengdu is a large city where many artists live and work, and A4 plays an important role in supporting younger artists.
In Fukuoka, private galleries have begun to introduce contemporary art from Taiwan starting with a series of exhibitions in 1998, through which I had become familiar with artists from Taiwan. In 1999, the Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale invited artists from Taiwan for the first time in its history. Since 2010, Taiwanese artists have participated in the residency programs of KAMC. In 2013, we began a long-term exchange program with Bamboo Curtain Studio in Taipei. I have had several opportunities to give talks about projects in Fukuoka and the Koganecho area; through these exchanges, Taiwan has become close to me.
Research on Southeast Asia and the relationship between art, community, and cities in Asia
I have been researching the activities of artists in Southeast Asia in parallel with the efforts to create exchanges in the East Asia region. While developing networks was a primary purpose, I was also interested in the different attitudes toward art in each locality, and I believed that common challenges for us could be found despite the differences. I’m not certain if I am fully aware of the transformations that have taken place over the past few years, as I haven’t been able to travel as much as I wish. The following text brings together the ideas that I got during my visits in Southeast Asia. While some artists try to remain deeply connected to their communities, more artists live in an increasingly urbanized environment across the region. The situations are creating various artistic directions that are not necessarily aligned with each other. Based on these reflections, my text attempts to imagine what lies ahead of us.
I imagine multiple frames that support artists, and speculate how these frames influence the formation of an artist’s practice. For instance, I call one frame “modernization” and another frame “community,” and attempt to speculate on the location of art within the tensions between these two frames. This is the question that we face when we try to situate art activities within the urban context. This is one of the challenges and themes shared by artists in Asia. I do not believe that art can always be art in an urban context. However, there is a widespread belief across the cities in Asia, including Japan, that the integrity of artistic practices can be retained amid modernization. The belief seems to preach that art is defined, endorsed, and disseminated by institutions.
I have always imagined a form of an art center that exists on the border between art and non-art. For example, we may start by questioning why art is neglected in the city. And our experience tells us that the situation would not change by educational campaigns . How can we make a contact point between a city and art? I imagine this is the question that we are commonly faced with in cities in Asia. In some cities, people may believe that art will eventually be a part of everyday life as the result of thorough modernization of society. An increasing number of biennials and triennials are being held throughout Asia and urban development projects incorporate the construction of museums and the presence of artworks. Accepting such situations suggests that art should be further modernized. Are all these movements going toward the same direction? I don’t mean to say that we are in the pre-modern times, but would modernization lead all of us in the same path across Asia? What matters the most is to find potential in the small differences. Artist collectives and various organizations in Southeast Asia are forming strong and functioning networks with each other beyond the boundaries of countries and regions. They may play a major role in creating the next developments.
3-8 Area Development Efforts in the Koganecho District
Regarding area development in Koganecho, new facilities continued to be built, and renovation work continued after the Koganecho Bazaar in 2008. In addition, the area slowly began to attract the interest of private investors in recent years.
Initially, the Hinode Studio and Kogane Studio were the only newly built facilities in the area. In the second phase of the development, several more facilities were built for different purposes, such as a gallery space (Site-A, designed by Contemporaries), an office space for the Koganecho Area Management Center (KAMC) (Site-B, designed by Studio 2A), a shared workshop for artists (Site-C, designed by Akiko Takahashi + Hiroshi Takahashi / Workstation), a meeting hall to host the activities of residents and artists (Site-D, designed by Koizumi Atelier), and the Step Plaza (kaidan-hiroba), which is an open square for hosting a variety of activities not limited to art and culture.
In the process of designing Sites A to D, workshops were held with residents, as what was previously done during the designing of Kogane Studio and Hinode Studio, so that the architects could hear the local residents’ opinions and use them as references for their designs. KAMC coordinated the entire process to ensure that the design of the new studios would also consider the needs of the resident artists and their activities.
Regarding the Step Plaza, the members of the Hatsuko-Hinode-cho Environmental Cleanup Association formed a task force called “Team Hiroba” (hiroba means “public square”). Team Hiroba’s proposal for the Step Plaza was selected by the Yokohama City Government for their Citizens Sector Yokohama Project (Yokohama-shimin machi-bushin Jigyou).
The Citizens Sector Yokohama Project is a unique grant program wherein the city subsidizes the construction costs of projects, led by citizens’ groups, that a reviewing committee of experts selects. Architect Kiyoshi Nishikura, who was in a long-term residency program with KAMC, designed the architecture of the Step Plaza. He worked closely with the staff of KAMC from the very beginning of the project by supporting the residents’ activities and assisting them in realizing their vision. The Keikyu Corporation agreed to lease their land located under the railway bridge to the Yokohama City government who then sublet it to KAMC free of charge. Team Hiroba obtained the construction subsidy and took responsibility for the maintenance. While they received a subsidy of approximately five million yen from the city, it was still not enough to cover the entire cost of construction; the project was completed in cooperation with many others. For instance, the residents voluntarily helped the team to finish the painting work.
Since its inauguration, Step Plaza has hosted various events and activities, such as a morning vegetable market, craft market, and performances by choirs and dance or theater groups. On a daily basis, Step Plaza functions as a children’s playground and as an extension of the Koganecho BASE, a workshop run by artists in the Koganecho area. At the Koganecho BASE, children can make their crafts using scrap wood gathered from the artists’ studios. Thus, Step Plaza can also be called a children’s art studio.
Step Plaza is located in the area that used to be the busiest spot back when the district was a red-light district. Female workers in extremely skimpy clothing would stand by the shop entrances even in the morning. Facing such a situation, some people began expressing their concerns for the children who had to pass through the area to go to school. The discussions eventually led to the formation of the Hatsuko-Hinode-cho Environmental Cleanup Association.
As a side note, the street next to the Step Plaza was commonly known as “Puffy” doori (street), named after a famous sex shop along the street. The novelist Taiju Agawa, an artist who resides in the Koganecho district, titled his nonfiction story about the district Yokohama Koganecho Puffy Street.
The students in my university research laboratory have held meetings with the local residents more than 100 times. The participants from the local communities are mostly older women, and the activation of the Step Plaza is a recurring topic of discussion. I still remember the response of many residents to the newly completed Step Plaza. They all said that having the children play in that particular location was unthinkable when the streets were still lined with brothels. They were astonished at the transformation of the environment after the Step Plaza was completed through their efforts.
After the Effort of Dispelling the Negative Image
When the Koganecho Bazaar opened in 2008, the image of the area gradually began to transform. However, residents in the neighborhood still had the persistent impression that “Koganecho” was a place they should never enter, as they were told since they were small children. Most of the area’s condominiums, even those built right by the Koganecho Station, had names referring to the areas outside the Koganecho district, such as Isezaki and Bandōbashi. However, I recently began to notice some new buildings with the word “Koganecho” in their name. My university research laboratory published and distributed a booklet about the history of the area and the community development activities since 2008. Entitled Koganecho Tokuhon (Koganecho Reader), the publication was printed three times, in 2008, 2010, and 2014. One day, I received a request asking for a copy of the booklet from a salesperson of new condominiums on the opposite side of the Ōoka River. The salesperson told me that many of their clients wanted to know the current situation in the Koganecho district, so he felt the need to learn the history of the area and the community development efforts. I provided a booklet to him.
The Activities of the Students
Although changes were taking place in the district as mentioned above, there were many vacant stores and no one was walking on the streets. As such, the university students designed and conducted activities based on the questions, “What should be done with a place where even the locals generally do not enter?” and “What can we do to change the situation?” Every year, the students would plan different activities to address those questions. Here, I try to briefly look back on the history of students’ activities in the district.
During the Koganecho Bazaar in 2008, the students set up and operated a small café by renovating a small shop space. They came up with the idea because, back then, there were hardly any places in the area where one could rest and eat. Some graduate students proposed to sell at the café a selection of well-designed, unique products sourced from the neighborhood’s wholesale stores. Managing this shop allowed the students to build relationships with the shop owners and residents in the neighborhood. The project continued for several years. The café, albeit tiny, became one of the few places where people could have a break.
Afterward, there was an observation that different kinds of events, not just art events, would be needed to spur the interest of the residents to enter the area, particularly around the train tracks. Thus, we also started to organize Rinjin matsuri (a festival of neighbors). It aimed to facilitate exchanges among the residents while enjoying food served by the local restaurants. Furthermore, in cooperation with the neighborhood association, we organized Sanma Matsuri (festival of Pacific saury). Sanma fish is a specialty of Kesennuma City in the Tōhoku area. The festival served grilled fish that were freshly delivered from Kesennuma City, thus supporting the area’s recovery after the earthquake and tsunami.
Seeing these events taking place, a woman proposed to sell vegetables from Ōtaki village, in Chiba Prefecture, at the Kogane-X Lab. As she constantly traveled between Ōtaki and Yokohama, she thought of selling fresh vegetables from Ōtaki that were not sold at the market.
Information about the weekly vegetable market quickly spread through word of mouth. The vegetable market also became a gathering place for the residents. The students also supported its operation, through which they became closer to the residents. Later, the vegetable market initiated a weekly café project called Kiraku-tei, which served 500-yen dinners using vegetables unsold at the morning market. It created opportunities for resident artists, elderly people living alone, and various people to enjoy food and talk to each other.
The Festival of Neighbors was well-received; to increase opportunities to interact with residents, it was eventually merged with the “One-Day Bazaar” initiated by KAMC. Later, the One-Day Bazaar changed its name to Nokisaki Art Fair, which still continues to this day.
At the One-Day Bazaar, the Sanchoku Ōtaki (Fresh from Ōtaki) vegetable shop and Kiraku-tei continued to create opportunities for the residents to see each other and spend time together. However, the two ended their activities despite their popularity.
In the Koganecho district, which only had a few stores, the weekly Sanchoku Ōtaki and the market events provided essential opportunities for exchange among people in the neighborhood. Learning from it, Ayako Usui, an alumnus of my university laboratory, took the initiative to launch a market event called Hatsu-Ko-Hi Ichiba to maintain the interactions between the residents (“Hatsu” refers to Hatsunecho, “Ko” refers to Koganecho, and “Hi” refers to Hinodecho; hatsukohi means “first love” while ichiba means “market”). As a graduate student, Usui actively engaged in the projects of Koganecho Bazaar in 2008 and has continued to organize various food events and projects since then. Her passion persuaded the local commercial associations to start the Hatsu-Ko-Hi Ichiba, which still continues to this day. Notably, when the market features bread and coffee, it attracts many visitors from the neighborhood and beyond. While the university students help run the market events, they also organize workshops for residents who are raising small children at home and don’t have many opportunities to participate in community meetings. The students also continue to explore various ways to utilize the public square.
In addition, the students have published Koganecho Tokuhon and other free papers on the area’s history and shops.
In 2007, I began my activities in the Koganecho area by announcing that I would continue my engagement with the Koganecho’s revitalization efforts for at least the next ten years. Since then, we have held resident and student meetings (jimoto gakusei kaigi) more than 100 times. Reflecting on the students’ activities in the community thus far, there are three major tasks that the students took on while KAMC mainly organized art events: (1) disseminating information about the community, (2) facilitating exchanges among the residents, and (3) activating the public space. Throughout its ten-year history, the students’ activities have made some positive outcomes in the area.
Changes in the Scenery and Communities in the Area
A wide variety of activities was initiated after Operation Bye-Bye in 2005. Today, we can see many people walking along the promenade and enjoying stand-up paddle (SUP) on the Ōoka River on weekday mornings. This change of scenery did not happen naturally; it started with the residents’ will to transform the area, once notoriously known as a place plagued by illegal prostitution. It is also the residents who took on the responsibility of cleaning the promenade, with support from Yokohama City’s Hama Road Supporters program. The residents, who also manage the Sakura Pier, openly accepted the proposal from the non-local group to set up the SUP station. Today, the users of the river have organized themselves as the Ōoka River Station Committee (Ōoka-gawa kawa no eki jikkou-iinkai), which functions as a network of local citizens and river users who monitor the activities at the pier.
As the area’s image transformed, people began buying condominium units, which inevitably led to an increase in the area’s population. The total population of Hinodecho, Hatsunecho, and Koganecho has grown from 2,610 in 2004 to 3,977 in 2010. That is a 52% increase in population in 16 years. Of course, the growth of the population does not simply mean the successful revitalization of the area. However, we are certainly seeing more people walking along the Ōoka River daily, and some of the residents of the new condominiums have been active as volunteers and supporters of Koganecho Bazaar.
Land prices have been on an upward trend in recent years, not just in the Koganecho area but also in the surrounding areas. And yet, there are no instances where residents are forced to move out due to soaring rent prices. Not so many private investors are interested in the area yet. The area’s economic activity is not thriving to the extent that gentrification has begun. The area needs to attract more people to start businesses and live there. Otherwise, the situation might return to its previous condition. That is the challenge that the district is facing today.
However, there are signs of positive changes in the situation. Tinys Yokohama Hinodecho opened in 2018. KAMC has approached Keikyu Cooperation numerous times to propose plans to utilize the spaces under the elevated railway. As a result of long-term discussions, Keikyu Cooperation invited the Yadokari Company, known for their mobile “Tiny House” projects that propose a new lifestyle. The invitation led to the inauguration of a complex facility comprising a café and hostel housed in Tiny House and an SUP station. Hinode Food Hall opened in 2020. The district continues to be activated step-by-step. The COVID-19 pandemic has created challenging situations for businesses; however, it would be more meaningful to see their activities gradually become integrated into the area’s everyday landscape.
In 2020, a workshop series, Rokkukaku Project, began to discuss the possibility of activating the space under the elevated train tracks for the people in the area and beyond. Slowly but surely, changes are taking place.
Here, I also want to mention the current situation of the small premises. When Operation Bye-Bye began in 2005, there were 264 shop spaces, 86 of which were eventually demolished to make way for the construction of condominiums and parking lots. Yokohama City bought three premises and leased 91 premises from private owners in 2017. The remaining premises are either vacant or used as rental rooms.
Soon, the lease periods for the small premises will end as the contracts between the city government and the private owners expire. Actions must be taken to prevent those properties from being used again for prostitution.
An increasing number of artists have settled in the area after their residency program with KAMC by renting rooms directly from the building owners. A partnership between the public sector and private actors is required to continue the renovation of the small premises.
3-9 The Future Roles and Sustainability of Koganecho Area Management Center
Over the past decade, Koganecho Area Management Center (KAMC) has assumed various roles expected by stakeholders. These functions include supporting artists, organizing art events and international exchanges, promoting crime prevention, grappling with the issue of illegal dumping, creating a lively environment, reactivating economic activities, and developing a new image for the district. However, these roles have been changing little by little in recent years.
It is mainly because of the gradual increase in the number and diversity of actors involved in the area’s revitalization efforts. We expect this trend to accelerate, which will soon necessitate KAMC to reevaluate the role it has been playing.
In addition, the population in the entire area, including the Koganecho district and the surrounding areas, is increasing and becoming more ethnically diverse, thus calling for even greater efforts in nurturing mutual understanding. The community development projects in the Koganecho district should use such changing local characteristics rather than strive to create a unified local identity by associating itself with a particular type of business or lifestyle. The new goal will be to embrace diversity and nurture multiple communities where people will cooperate and grow together. The role of KAMC in this shifting environment is to work with artists and explore the potential of art in linking multiple communities.
In response to the changes in the area, I propose that KAMC should gradually transform into an entity that consolidates and serves the various functions of an art center. Establishing an art center has always been the goal of KAMC; however, there are always problems that need to be addressed urgently. Thus, KAMC could, so far, only partially serve the functions of an art center. An art center refers to the activities and facilities whose main aims are to support artists, explore and nurture broader understandings of art’s roles in society, develop an industry, facilitate exchanges, and conduct research.
When the art center develops itself as a centripetal and permanent force in the area, it will attract artists, researchers, and practitioners from other creative fields, such as design, architecture, film, dance and performance, music, and literature, to settle in the district. Furthermore, there is a need to develop an economic environment wherein artists can both continue their independent practices and make a living from their work. For that, the art center should be a place for both young and established artists who are making a living from their art, while also inviting art-related businesses to the area. For example, art classes, educational institutions, art supply shops, commercial galleries, and large-scale exhibition halls may open in the district, which will increase the opportunity to sell artworks and create more commissioned works for artists. The presence of the art center is expected to function as a landmark of such an assembly of different agencies.
The development of the art industry in the area, including the Koganecho district, is expected to generate funding for supporting artists and promote the sustainability of KAMC. From here on, KAMC is expected to cooperate with various businesses to support the local art industry instead of acting as a single entity. This is the next phase of Koganecho’s community revitalization efforts through art.
International exchanges can respond to the multicultural environment of the area and also play a significant role in updating and expanding the projects of the art center. I hope to invite not only artists but also researchers and interns to the Koganecho district, and to collaboratively develop programs with organizers, universities, and government agencies abroad. The uniqueness of the Koganecho area developed through its long history as a commercial district, where craft skills have been passed down through generations of residents. These important local resources form the foundation of the community’s everyday life. This means that artists can access materials and skills in their immediate environment, local resources whose active utilization could facilitate collaboration between the residents and the artists and thereby develop new local resources. For this, it is essential that the artists, who are the new residents in the area, make the efforts to create a horizontal relationship with the local stores and artisan skills that have existed even before the area had become a red-light district. And one of the roles of the art center is to facilitate relationship building and coexistence.
Having artists reside in the area is part of the strategy to make an artistic intervention in the local community and facilitate urban regeneration in the Koganecho district. Such approaches have attracted the interest of government agencies and art professionals both in Japan and abroad. Our future goal is to transform the strategy into an economically sustainable model.
However, I want to note something that we should remember. Even today, the area’s situation remains unstable and it goes through ups and downs. I cannot always say that everything is going in the right direction. There is always the danger that what we have built can suddenly collapse, and to prevent that, the local initiatives, including KAMC, must continue their activities patiently and persistently. If we stop, the district will go back to its previous state. We should never forget this.
4-1 Outcome of the Creative City Policy
In 2004, Yokohama City announced its policy regarding culture, art, and creative city, and ten years have passed since the first Koganecho Bazaar was held in 2008. Yokohama City’s creative city policy has brought about some substantial results.
Certainly, the city has attracted new groups of artists and creatives. In recent years, the new generation of artists and creatives, who are even younger than those who had moved to Yokohama for the Kitanaka Brick & White project, began to have notable success. Various projects have also provided opportunities for architects and designers to start new activities, not only in the central areas of the city such as the Kannai and Kangai areas, but also in the suburban areas. Before the creative city policy was implemented, there had been artists and creatives who were known for their strong ties to Yokohama, however, it is fair to say that the policy produced a generational change.
It is also important to mention that a number of spaces opened in the city’s central area. After the Kitanaka Brick & White project ended, the director of BankART, Ikeda Osamu, along with several other architects and designers initiated a project called Shigokai by utilizing the fourth and fifth floors of the historical Honmachi Building, which has since been demolished. When the Shigokai project ended, some members of the project team set up their own offices in different locations in Yokohama while others moved into a new space called Utoku Building Yonkai. In addition to those examples, there were other private properties that were turned into creative hubs, which has attracted various creatives. Through the Culture and Tourism Bureau (bunka kankou kyoku), Yokohama established an art and real estate program that provides assistance in setting up studios and offices for artists and creatives. It also promoted the renovation of buildings constructed within the fire protection-building zone, which was created during the post-war reconstruction period. Such initiatives in Yokohama have made a significant contribution in transforming private properties into creative bases.
Yokohama Arts Foundation established an office, named Arts Commission Yokohama (ACY), that provides support to the activities of artists and creatives in Yokohama and assistance to those who want to move there. The artist-in-residence programs offered by BankART, Koganecho Area Management Center (KAMC), and other organizations registered as part of the Creative Neighborhood Core Area Bases (Souzō kaiwai kyoten) have also contributed to the career development of artists and creatives.
Of special note is the Kannai Open, an open studio event for artists and creatives held every November. The Yokohama Arts Foundation serves as its secretariat, facilitating the participation of artists and creatives based in the Kannai and Kangai areas throughout the entire process of planning and creating the event. The number of participants has been increasing every year and, in 2019, a total of 36 studios and offices joined the event. In 2020, under the COVID-19 pandemic, it was held online. Events also began to expand into the streets in response to the pandemic, creating more contact points for both citizens and the business sector.
As a result of the ten-year existence of the creative city policy, the activities of artists and creatives in Yokohama have gradually gained visibility and have expanded their networks. The series of activities initiated by the Creative City Core Bases — such as ACY, BankART, Zou-no-hana Terrace, and KAMC — have played an important role in the formation of artist and creative networks.
The creative city policy is characterized by a framework that is distinct from the ones employed for the city’s general administrative planning. When the government sets a specific goal and promotes a policy, it typically requires a detailed roadmap so that the achievement of the goal can be discussed in concrete terms. Every detail needs to be planned and executed according to the roadmap. In this way, it is easier to manage the progress and ensure consistent adherence to their mission and vision even when a new officer-in-charge steps in. It is also persuasive in terms of securing budget. While the creative city policy does have an overall goal, it does not prepare a long-term plan. Instead, the city government appoints organizations to plan and execute their own projects. It encourages individual organizations to apply their creativity to initiate new activities, while the city government provides support to their impactful activities and promotes some of them as new projects. Creative activities cannot be planned in detail; it requires space for extemporaneity, like jazz improvisation. The policy facilitates the formation of new networks among stakeholders of the policy like the government, companies, artists, creatives, and various local organizations, and these new networks or people’s linkages generate new activities and develop an ecosystem, which is the fruitful result of the creative city policy.
A noteworthy feature of the creative city policy would be the evaluation method used for the operation of the organizations appointed as members of the Creative Neighborhood Core Bases. In the case of a designated administrator system (shitei kanrisha seido), the organization in charge of managing the facility must make and submit a detailed plan for each fiscal year. According to the plan, the municipal government allocates a budget to the organization, which is expected to implement the projects as specified in the plan. The performance of the organization is evaluated according to its ability to execute their plan. On the other hand, the organizations designated as the Creative Neighborhood Core Bases are not asked to submit a detailed plan; instead, their performance is evaluated according to the content of their projects. The review is done by a group of professionals and not by applying a standardized evaluation criteria set by the government. This evaluation system requires the reviewers to consistently observe the activities of the organizations throughout the year, which demands the availability and willingness of the reviewers.
Such systematic redundancy is essential for policies, such as the creative city policy, which intend to explore new and unconventional fields. However, as mentioned earlier, the creative city policy is somewhat considered peculiar relative to the way things are usually done in government offices. The absence of clear evaluation indicators, and the lack of a detailed plan make the evaluations susceptible to the opinions of the reviewers. While experts assess the projects, the government officers also give their evaluations, which make it difficult for the policy to maintain a consistent direction.
Challenges of the Creative City Policy
In 2004, the vision for a creative city included the goal of making Yokohama a city open to artists and creatives, a feat which has been successfully achieved. However, what if we assess the outcome of the project in terms of the development of creative industry and activation of the central areas through art and cultural tourism?
Since the policy was implemented, Yokohama City University has conducted research to identify the locations with creative industries. The activities of the creative industries in Yokohama are concentrated in the Kannai district and the areas around Yokohama Station and Shin-Yokohama Station. Information technology (IT) companies and other businesses are concentrated in the small-to-medium-sized buildings in the area slightly away from Yokohama Station. The area around Shin-Yokohama Station has a notable concentration of semiconductor-based IT companies. On the other hand, it has become clear that various fields of creative industries — such as design, architecture, and web service — are concentrated in the western side of Kannai district, which includes areas around Bashamichi and the former city hall. Most of those offices are in the small-to-medium-sized buildings constructed during the time of rapid economic growth and in the buildings constructed within the fire protection-building zone that was established during the post-war reconstruction period. Each area presents a particular cluster of creative industries. Yokohama’s creative city policy began in response to the decline of the old city center as only 14% of the properties were occupied in the Kannai area around 2002. The creative city policy intended to have more artists and creatives start their activities in those areas and to invite creative industries to relocate to Yokohama. I think those original intentions have been achieved.
However, the statistics suggest that Yokohama’s creative industries — in comparison to the situation in other cities — are not expanding rapidly. The number of companies in the information and communications technology (ICT) industry has been growing in Yokohama, while other sectors like architecture, media production, and design are not. Although more artists and designers in Yokohama are having successful careers, the total size of the creative industries in the city is not growing. What does this situation indicate? There should be a careful analysis of the effects of the policy’s implementation.
Creatives based in Yokohama often tell me that there are not many work opportunities available within the city. Undeniably, Yokohama has fewer media stations, publishing houses, and advertising agents than in Tokyo. This is because most of the companies who are the creative industries’ clients are based in Tokyo. However, there are some designers and other creatives who have actively developed business partnerships with companies in Yokohama. It can be said that the development of creative industries does not only require having companies located in Yokohama, but also, connections between people and companies must be forged.
There have been two notable trends in the central area of Yokohama in recent years. First, new business buildings are opening up one after another in the Minatomirai area. The other is the emergence of a new support program for start-up companies in the Kannai area.
To give more details on the recent development in the Minatomirai area, a number of new office buildings, including Keikyu Corporation’s headquarters and Shiseido’s new research center, were built at a rapid pace prior to the Tokyo Olympics. In addition, cultural facilities, such as a concert hall, were built and inaugurated in the area. Efforts should be made to link the companies new to the area with the clusters of creative industries, as the new relationships will create great possibilities for the city.
The support program for start-up companies in the Kannai area is a measure promoted by the Yokohama City Economic Bureau in recent years. Some of the start-up companies, like the website development and design offices, in fact belong to the creative sector, and they can provide indispensable service to start-up companies. In fact, fostering creative industries and supporting start-up companies are closely related to each other. Creative city policies in Europe and USA, as well as China and Taiwan, are centered on the development of creative industries, which includes support for start-up companies. Yokohama City may need to review the relationship between its creative city policy and its industrial policy from the perspective of industrial development. Yokohama City encompasses many suburban areas, and the scale of the industries is small considering the overall population. During the period of population growth, the local economy was fueled by the consumption activities of families moving into the city. The increase in residential tax revenue created a positive impact on the city’s financial situation. On the other hand, the declining birth rates and population in recent years necessitate an increase in the government’s mandatory social security expenditure to address the expanding needs of an aging society. Thus, the government is facing the challenge of managing such financial difficulties. To respond to the situation, the scale of the industry concentrated in the city center needs to be expanded as much as possible. The debate over the development of an integrated resort (IR) is also responding to these problems in Yokohama and other suburban cities in the capital region. It is necessary to review the efforts of creating an attractive city, which will lead Yokohama’s economy, with the future in mind and beyond the creative city policy.
4-2 Art and Community
I could start talking about the relationship between art and community by first mentioning the assumption that the two are unrelated.
I consider my profession to be art, but people keep asking me to stop focusing on art and open a bakery in the Koganecho district instead. Each time, I reply to them that baking is not my profession. This happens because the local community does not understand my expertise. It is also because art had developed in Japan without any relation to the development of local communities. The two are too distant from each other.
There are moments when the local community welcomes art. Art events can draw visitors to the district and attract media attention, which can widely disseminate information about the area. Opening receptions provide joyful opportunities for stakeholders to gather together. But on second thought, the events can be about something other than art. Any event could attract visitors, media attention, and stakeholders to get together.
When I started bringing art to public spaces, I was interested in transforming the concept of art. I believe that an artwork does not necessarily maintain one identity. It was my experiment to place artworks in an unusual environment. When I began this experiment, most artworks were created without considering the environments where they would be presented. Placing artworks in the space of everyday life exposed them to the risk of losing the context that presupposes their status as artworks. In such a new environment, several trajectories for artistic practices began to open up. Sometimes, it was the artistic practice that attempted to alter the environment for its own purpose. Other times, the artistic practice tried to change itself in response to the given environment. By actually making some attempts, I became interested in the instances that created changes for both the artistic practice and the environment.
A public space is where people from different communities come and go. Suppose that museums and gallery visitors are considered serious audiences. In that case, the passersby in a public space could be considered inattentive audiences, and they have the potential to connect art with their communities. I once wrote about inattentive audiences as connectors of art and various communities: the connecting point between these two worlds stirred the imagination of a new type of audience. Audience might be an inaccurate word choice, but this type of audience doesn’t locate the artwork in the center of their view; thus, they are an unserious and inattentive audience. I was only writing about it as a possibility; however, a consciousness that decenters an artwork helps explore the relationship between art and the space of the everyday and between art and communities. Imagining the perspective of people with such consciousness allows me to think about the relationships between art and community, in the context of their respective communities.
I also imagine a director who keeps his distance from the art world. For instance, when looking at an artwork, he simultaneously tries to grasp what’s outside of the artwork. He does not respect or even care about the autonomy of the artwork. He is more interested in looking for undifferentiated elements and boundaries through which he tries to grasp the moment where the concept of art transforms, and also, where art starts to play its role. From such a point of view, he conducts his experiments in places where multiple communities coexist and creates scenes of encounters where an unserious audience encounters art. He intervenes in everyday life to create moments where those people transform into new audiences.
A significant result of such experiments is the emergence of new relationships where no one can remain the way they were. Everyone is given the possibility to change. Those transformations create a situation where people exist in reciprocal relationships, which I’ve been thinking of calling “pedagogical relationships.” Still, I wonder if those words explain what I’m trying to say. “Pedagogical relationships” may sound moralistic, but what I’m trying to say involves one’s attitude, so maybe that’s how it is. A pedagogical relationship is a question of one’s stance when facing problems arising from interpersonal relationships. In other words, it is the question of one’s attitude toward others and their willingness to learn from others. I have been looking into those relationships, hoping to grasp the moment when the concept of art transforms. I also believe a community can transform itself in the same moment.
An artist-in-residency (AIR) program can create opportunities for artists to stay close to a local community and even become an active member of it. Within the discussion of art and community, an AIR program has the potential to generate pedagogical relationships; therefore, it could be a strategy that is related to what I mentioned above.
Going back to the beginning of the essay, some people’s requests for me to open a bakery may not be as irrelevant as I had thought. If they are serious with what they have said and are willing to commit themselves to run a bakery instead of leaving all the responsibility to me, I might consider the idea. That is perhaps what I mean by a pedagogical relationship.
Visions for an Art Center
The problems of the Koganecho district cannot be solved by the Koganecho district alone. They must be situated within a larger vision, from which we must review our ongoing efforts. I have made some statements from such a perspective, but since I was not in a position to make such statements, there was no response to what I said and there has been no opportunity to discuss it.
Ideally, that kind of discussion should occur in parallel to the debate on the issues within the Koganecho district. Still, at the moment, I can only let someone else initiate it.
It was not in Yokohama, but I was the chairperson of the committee that, in 2006, drafted a recommendation entitled “Creative Fukuoka Ten-Year Plan”. Immediately after we submitted the recommendation, the mayor changed. Since then, the city government never considered the recommendation and the committee also dissolved. I also, for a long time, didn’t have a chance to read it again and I had forgotten the contents. However, this time, I had the opportunity to access the file, which was kept by Mitsuhiro Yoshimoto who had compiled the recommendation. Obviously, the plan’s overall vision was much larger than I would be capable of imagining, and it was created through the joint efforts of Yoshimoto, the committee members, and others at the Nissei Research Institute.
However, reading the recommendation reaffirmed that it includes the ideas and vision of an art center that I had at the time. The foundational idea for the art center plan was to consolidate urban policy and cultural policy. Addressed to the city government, it included suggestions such as: reorganizing the Fukuoka City Foundation for Arts and Cultural Promotion into an arts council, securing the relative independence of the art center from the city government, employing people from the private sector, supporting the activities of the private sector, and taking charge of coordination. The recommendation does not reasonably state the positionality of the art center in relation to the public institution or the proposed arts council; however, it clearly defines the function of the art center as a hub that connects the city with art and culture.
The idea was conceived in response to Fukuoka City’s issues at the time. First, there was an overflow of young talent due to the lack of awareness of human resource development and the absence of a financial support system. Also, Fukuoka City implemented many projects related to Asia; however, many of them were disjointedly organized and the city failed to present a full picture of the efforts and to widely disseminate the information beyond Fukuoka. Also, the city government was not interested in collaborating with the private sector; thus, rather than support and utilize the potential of the private sector’s activities, the government directly led many of the projects. I also want to mention the problem of education. The government never really saw the importance of our projects, which had dispatched artists to schools. If we try to turn the situation around, we first need to create a system to develop human resources and provide financial support in order to increase the number of artists living in Fukuoka. The projects related to Asia should also be reorganized in a unified manner to enhance the ability to disseminate information widely. The city government should also work with the private sector’s human resources and energies to plan and execute projects. The recommendation suggests the establishment of a City Creation and Culture Bureau (toshi souzou bunka kyoku) as the organization in charge of such projects.
These ideas were never explored in Fukuoka, but as I write to look back at the ideas, a part of the recommendation overlaps with the situation in Yokohama. However, the recent discussions in Yokohama have been fragmented without reviewing the overall vision, which is essential in moving forward. I believe it is necessary to first consolidate the frameworks of urban policy and cultural policy and then to evaluate past efforts and figure out what should be done in the future through this unified perspective. Speaking of the current situation in Yokohama, there is undeniably a sense of disconnectedness with the various efforts undertaken. Due to the lack of an umbrella organization, the collaboration among the different actors remains inactive or invisible.
When the recommendation was drafted for Fukuoka City, I recall how the municipal government expected our recommendation to be more about constructing new public facilities. However, we had completed the recommendation by mentioning only the intangible aspects of an art center. I know that the recommendation for Fukuoka City is a thing of the past, but I still want to try it out and pass on the concept to someone else.
Afterward, I added to the recommendation:
I may sound exaggerating, but this recommendation contains many plans I have wanted to realize over ten years ago.
The recommendation is also the culmination of the ideas and passions of the committee members, all of whom come from different backgrounds. Each committee member has helped to make the recommendation more objective and substantial by engaging in detailed examinations and discussions of the contents from their respective standpoints.
All committee members, including myself, agree that our efforts should not end with the completion of the recommendation, but what’s most important is to find ways to proceed from hereon.
The recommendation discusses some changes required for Fukuoka City to consolidate the frameworks of cultural policy and urban policy. Still, I believe the final goal is to find ways to nurture relationships that enable new collaborations between the private sector and the city government. I believe new collaborations will nurture new talents who can look ahead to the next ten years and beyond to form and realize a new vision of Fukuoka.
I hope this recommendation will contribute to the development of the future cultural and urban policy of Fukuoka City.
I believe the recommendation can also be applied to cities other than Fukuoka. I might have repeatedly been talking and writing about the same concept through the years.
This publication contains English translations of the texts written by Nobuharu Suzuki and myself, excerpted from the book of the same title published in Japanese in August 2021. The original publication contained several other articles, including interviews and conversations, which I also hope to publish in English in the future.
In the essays selected for this publication, Suzuki and I mainly discuss the efforts to revitalize the community in the Koganecho district through art, however we also provide background information such as the Creative City Project that has been ongoing in Yokohama since 2003 and the Museum City Project in Fukuoka that I was working on prior to my engagement in the efforts in Koganecho.
I hope this English version of the publication will reach out to a wider range of people and disseminate information about our efforts.
From the production of the first publication to this translated version, I received cooperation and support from numerous people. I would like to express my gratitude to all of them.
Art and Communities
Life and Practice in Koganecho, Yokohama
Publishing Date: March, 2023
- Nobuharu Suzuki
- Editorial supervisor:
- Minori Sawaki
- Risa Sato
- Makiko Hara
- Native check for English:
- Randy Gledhill
- Toshiaki Ogasawara Memorial Foundation
This English text is an excerpt and translation of a part of Art and Communities published in Japanese. The original was published by Shunpusha in August 2021.
- Randy Gledhill
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