ROUND TABLE 4: Mr Kiichi Kaiko

Recreation of the community to prepare the future crisis

Mr Kiichi Kaiko is an architect living in Miyagi prefecture, East northern area in Japan, where the Great Earthquake hit in 2011. Just three months after the disaster, he started creating the TAIWAKOBO; "Places and Opportunities for Dialogue and Expression" in Onagawa, where is a bay town devastated by Tsunami. The town is also famous for the Onagawa nuclear power plant that shut down safely without a big incident when the earthquake happened in contrast to the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

While Kaiko himself evacuated, he gathered his friends of artists and creators living in different part of Japan to create a shared space for the people in Onagawa losing their ordinary life by the massive disaster. At first, they supported to build a community café. Then they organised the MUKAEBI project that came from a Japanese tradition in which people talk about their late family members while enclosing a fire. By tracing the traditional style, the MUKAEBI project gathers people from outside and inside of the community to make and enclose the fires on the beach to talk together. They also took the UMI-YAMA walk to experience the history and memory of the place while walking at the sea(UMI) and mountain(YAMA) surrounding Onagawa.

Kaiko said that they are developing the “tool for the dialogue” through these activities, like enclosing a fire, building stalls, playing cards or something giving people a space to express their mind to foster the face-to-face relationship. The relationship might be too small, but could be very intimate and sustainable, which can provide the opportunity for learning history and custom of Onagawa to the people coming from different places. Kaiko believes that this sustainable relationship and networks could give us a good foundation to recreate the community and prepare possible crisis in Onagawa in the future.

What is the condition of “art”?

Mr Toru Oyamada, an artist of the members of the TAIWAKOBO once told that if people regarded the practice of TAIWAKOBO as not an art, that is fine. Kaiko also said that he sometimes felt it not very right to mention his activity as an artistic practice like creating a common space”. He feels what he is doing in Onagawa rather primitive and intuitive than what these conceptual words mean. In the presentation, he explained that the TAIWAKOBO tries to regain the self-expression of the local people in Onagawa through the dialogue.

In working in Onagawa, Kaiko found a different kind of “richness” among the local neighbourhood in Onagawa from the “wealth” in the city. It comes from a tolerance in people’s mind to accept every member of the community to share the destiny. He thinks that the community in Onagawa has accumulated the fundamental system for the coexistence with the others for a long time by reflecting their local environment. He wishes this knowledge and experience pass on to the next generation.

Mr Naoya Fujita agreed that he also has perceived that there is something different from what we generally call “commonness” or “art” or “diversity” through writing about Tohoku after the disaster. He found that a local language/custom/discipline based on their social tradition have created their unique concept and world. So there has been a frustration when the regional uniqueness translated into the general words, which makes the difficulty in describing what is happening on site.

Art as the way of survival

Nowadays Onagawa became a model town of recovering the damage from the earthquake. The Japanese government invests a lot on the town with an expectation to set early re-operation of the Onagawa nuclear power plant.

Kaiko told that the people in Onagawa are trying to reduce the economic dependence on the nuclear power plant. In fact, they are investing more in the resource for the tourism. In this situation, he uses art for the survival of the community very consciously.

Mr Naoya Fujita also talked about the community crisis in Hokkaido where he was born. In 80-90s when the coal mining industry was declined in Hokkaido, the third sector built many facilities for the tourists like social halls and playgrounds, which all became ruined today. As the most severe case, Yubari city was bankrupt in the end. The local communities in Hokkaido are facing difficulty surviving. He asked Kaiko if the art for the survival means to overcome the community crisis, or just to extend the time before their end.

Kaiko replied that the things with form (buildings/facilities) are easily demolished, but the things without form (identity/history) can be lasting. For instance, the marginal community of the islands surrounding Onagawa has no successors, so it is a very emergency problem how their identity survives. He believes that the dialogue can be a medium to transmit something formless; a character and a memory of the place to the next generation.

Today Kaiko also faces the change of the situation surrounding TAIWAKOBO. Five years passed after the earthquake, the Onagawa town has been reconstructing, the amount of the support was reduced, and the motivation of each member living in different part of Japan was changed.

So he is considering the next step how to do. He thinks that learning and archiving a method how to recreate a community is essential. However, the common method based on the network in Onagawa was not very applicable in different cases in different cities. In reality, people have to find their way place by place when they face the crisis. So now he is focusing on more the fundamental creativity in an individual and developing a way of “Bricolage” (which Claude Lévi-Strauss introduced) for the next project.

Photo: Ryohei Tomita

* See AGENDA for personal biography