A Video Report from Tohoku / A Stage for All


A Stage for All – Rin Rin Popolo



This video report, filmed by photojournalist and documentarian Jake Price, captures the spirit of collaboration in Tohoku surrounding the construction of a gathering space for local residents affected by the 3.11 triple disaster.

The video can also be found and viewed online.

Thank you to the Toshiba International Foundation for supporting this effort.

JDW2013 / The completion

After all the participants’ and local community’s hard work, the mini stage is finished in a record time!  Kota Isobe, part of the group from the University of Tokyo, wrote the update from August 10th:

In the morning, we went to the landlady’s land and then went to the construction site in Iriya. Today is the final day, so everyone worked hard to achieve each role (e.g. bench, handrail, floor, desk, stairway, wall, floor bed, signboard, and so on). Taking into consideration the demands of the neighbors who visited yesterday, I adjusted the height and appearance of the bench and fixed it. When I finished the work, I participated in the final adjustments of other aspects of the project. 朝はホテル観洋の女将さんの土地を視察しに行った後、入谷の現場に向かいました。本日が完成予定日ということで昨日の各自の持ち場(腰掛、手すり、床、机、階段、壁、花壇、看板等)の仕上げと最終調整に一生懸命です。本当によく分業化が進んでいました。僕は前日にご近所の方々から頂いたご意見を元に腰掛の高さ調整と固定、見栄えの向上に尽力した後、別箇所の見栄えや耐久性の微調整に参加しました。

Although we were a little behind schedule, we finished the construction satisfactorily! やや予定より遅くなりましたが、明るいうちに満足いく形で完成!

We invited neighbors and people who we felt indebted to for the stage completion ceremony! Seeing their smiles, I felt a sense of accomplishment and believed that this stage would be used. I felt that architecture cannot stand up alone without its users. お世話になった方々とご近所の方々にお越しいただき、落成式をしました。皆さんの笑顔が本当に素敵で、達成感に浸れたし、今後も使っていただけると思えました。使う人がいてこその建築なのだなあと実感。

I’m very glad to have met you all! It has been a great pleasure!!! ジェイクがとってくれた集合写真。本当にみなさんに出会えてよかった!

We enjoyed a barbecue together and gave a toast! We invited the town mayor of Iriya. We students gave cards with handwritten messages to Kanda-sensei and Otsuki-sensei to express our gratitude. Laying down on the bamboo stage, I could see stars glittering in the night sky and spent a happy moment there. I’ll never forget this experience, ever. みんなでバーベキューパーティーをして乾杯!入谷の町長さんにもお越しいただきました。学生から神田先生と大月先生に寄せ書きをお渡ししました。出来上がった舞台の上で横になると、夜空に星が輝き疲れを忘れて本当に幸せなひとときを過ごせました!忘れられない経験を、ありがとう。

A bit about today’s contributor:
Kota was born in Yokohama.  In the future, he wants to become an architect.  When the earthquake happened, he was practicing judo in Tokyo and the impact of the disaster was huge even in Tokyo.  Through this workshop, he wanted to know for himself the real state of Tohoku region.  He likes Pokémon video games and has practiced judo for six years.


Read more about this year’s program participants here.

JDW2013 / Teamwork for the finish

Apologies for the delay, but things have been busy with the workshop wrap up and the preparations for the upcoming school year.  The update from Friday August 9th is brought to you by Yuki Hamano of the University of Tokyo:

A garden is being planted near the entrance to the stage. Many colorful flowers were brought from the river and forests nearby. Thanks to these flowers, the place now looks more welcoming. 入り口付近に花壇が作られている。近くの川や林から色取り取りの花々を持って来た。これらのお花のお陰で、この場所はますます華やかになった。

The people from the community came to see the construction and are here sitting on the new bench we made. They were all excitedly talking and telling us their impressions of the project. 地域の人々が建設された舞台を見に来、私達が作ったベンチに座った。彼らは皆賑やかに話しながら、彼らの第一印象を私達に話してくれた。

Some members of the team are making a new staircase and neatly laying the bamboo. It was amazing that they made this only in a day. It was very nicely designed and now it is much easier to get onto the stage. 彼らは丁寧に竹を並べながら、新しく階段を作っている。彼らがこれを一日で作ったのは驚きだ。階段はとても素敵なデザインで、舞台の方に行きやすくなった。

They are pushing the stage up with all their strength in order to place a new bamboo underneath for support. Many of the local people helped us with this difficult task. 力いっぱい舞台を押上げ、舞台を支える新しい竹を下に入れている。多くの地元の人々がこの作業を助けてくれた。

They are making the handrail stronger by using rope and bamboo. Also, their efforts helped to make the arch of the handrail more beautiful. 彼らは紐や竹を使って、手すりを強化している。また、それにより手すりの描くアーチもより美しいものとなった。

A bit about today’s contributor:
Yuki is a sophomore in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Tokyo.  She is eager to view reconstruction through the lens of international exchange, while taking into consideration the voices of the local people.  She hopes to do her best and be able to be of some help to the Tohoku region.


Read more about this year’s program participants here.

JDW2013 / The Logistics of bamboo

A day of difficult labor and structural trouble shooting, but the rewards are clear!  The update from Thursday the 8th, by University of Tokyo student  Natsumi Nikata:

Today in spite of the strong sun, we worked hard as usual. This is the signboard, which is halfway done. The bamboo pieces makes bright sounds when they knock together. こんにちは。8月8日担当の荷方なつみです。強い日差しにも関わらず、今日も元気に作業を進めました。これは作成途中の看板です。ひとつひとつの竹がぶつかって楽しい音楽を奏でます。

Some teammates are making the handrail for platform safety. It is difficult to adjust the curve of bamboo and so this takes a long time. 手すりを作っているところです。竹のしなり具合を調節するのが大変でした。

This is Kanda-sensei, and he is in charge of this project. He is a humorous and happy gentleman, who takes both structure and design into consideration. プロジェクトの責任者、神田駿先生です。構造・デザイン両方に対して細やかな気配りをなさる、ユーモラスで陽気な方です。

Ken-san, a TA for this project, is making a table or a bench. I wonder how his work will come together with our end product. TAの建さんです。テーブル又はベンチになるべきものをデザインしているところで、真剣な眼差しがかっこいいです。はたしてどのような形で作品に反映されるのでしょうか。

As one of columns supporting the platform broke, we had to replace it with a new one. The strength of the building, which is made mainly of bamboo and ropes, is a serious issue. 全体を支えていた柱が壊れてしまい新しい柱と交換しました。竹と紐で作る建造物は強度を上げるのが難しく、これからの課題といえるでしょう。

A bit about today’s contributor:
Natsumi is a freshman liberal arts student at the University of Tokyo. She is from Kumamoto, Kyusyu, which is far from the earthquake-stricken area, but as part of this program, she wants to see firsthand what has happened in the Tohoku area. She loves music and plays percussion instruments and the keyboard.


Read more about this year’s program participants here.

JDW2013 / New volunteers

From Wednesday the 7th, written by University of Tokyo student  Eri Furusawa:

Attaching the stalks of bamboo to the beams in order to stabilize the floor. This took some real rope techniques. 二本の土台の上に、更に竹を結びつけて強化しました。ロープ使いに皆が四苦八苦。漁師の方々に丁寧に教えて頂きました。

Five students from Professor Hiraoka’s Lab at Miyagi University joined us today. They were friendly and caught up quickly with our process. 今日から宮城大学の平岡先生の研究室から5人の学生さんが加わり、一緒に作業を始めました。

Cutting 90 sticks of bamboo to equal length and diameter. We really got the hang of working together in good harmony. 一定の直径の竹を、90本も切りました。大人数でテキパキと仕事をこなせるようになったのは7日目ならでは。

Here is the team in charge of building the entrance. What they came up with was very artistic and cosy at the same time. 入り口の看板作りのチーム。そこにある材料だけで素敵な看板を創ってくれました。

A shot of the sunrise that I took this morning, at the Hachimann River. It was silent and somewhat tragic, but with definite hints of morning and the beginning of a new day. 八幡川で日の出を見ました。静かな夜明けでした。

A bit about today’s contributor:
Eri is currently a sophomore at the University of Tokyo. She plans to major in architecture, and also has a great interest in international relations. She was born and bred in Tokyo, except for the two years she spent in France during her childhood.  She is wrong in all the right ways.

建築学科志望の古澤えりと申します。東京生まれ東京育ちで すが、小学校のときに2年ほどフランスで暮らしていました。サークルはバンドと、模擬国連という活動をしています。将来は建築を通じて、途上国で働きたいと思っています。歩くことと、洋楽を聴くことが好きです。宜しくお願いします

Read more about this year’s program participants here.

JDW2013 / Taking shape in the rain

The project requires quite a bit of manual labor, but this doesn’t stop the participants from putting their all into the construction.  Here is the update from Tuesday the 6th, written by University of Tokyo student Ryoko Fukumoto:

Today we started working by making the platform posts from lumber by hand. We rarely use metal screws in this workshop. このプロジェクトでは金属のねじはなるべく使わずに、主に竹とロープで完成させていきます。杭も自分たちで木材から作ります。

With Professor Kanda’s instructions, we adjusted the position of the bamboo again and again so that the shape of the stage would be beautiful. I was surprised how big a difference just a little change in length or angle affected the overall shape. 神田先生の指示のもと、美しい形になるように微調整を重ねます。少しの長さや角度の違いが全体に大きく影響するのに驚きました。

The bamboo has been cut to the needed length with saws. It must be cut accurately to fit the structure. It seems like everyone has gotten used to cutting bamboo. 切り出してきた竹を、のこぎりでちょうど良い長さに切っていきます。シンプルですが正確さが必要な作業です。竹を切るのにもだんだん慣れてきました。

This is Taka, the coordinator of the program. He is so reliable and has a good handle on every situation. Today he seems to be in a pretty good mood…and what is he drawing?? コーディネイターのたかさんです。プログラム全体を円滑に進めてくださる、頼れるお兄さんです。みんなに指示を出すための図を描いているようですが…なんだか楽しそうですね。

Unfortunately, it started rain in the afternoon, but the work continued. We wouldn’t stop because there are many supporters who are waiting for the completion of this project. We will work harder and harder to meet their expectations! 午後になって、心配していた雨が降り始めてしまいました。そんな中でも雨合羽を着て作業は続きます。みなさんに喜んでいただけるように、一同頑張ります!

A bit about today’s contributor:
Ryoko was born and grew up in Tokyo and now is a freshman at the University of Tokyo. She is interested in architecture and urban planning and wants to learn as much as possible while keeping an open mind.  She likes musicals, travelling, and has just started playing tennis.


Read more about this year’s program participants here.


JDW2013 / Foundations

The mini stage is taking shape.  Update from Monday August 5th by University of Tokyo student Masumi Ogawa:

Hello. I’m today’s reporter, Masumi Ogawa. Kanda-Sensei was quite considerate and gave us a rest this morning, so we started our activity in the afternoon. Thanks to this rest, every member worked vigorously. 本日リポーターを務める小川真純です。神田先生の粋なはからいによりメンバーたちは午前中休息をとり午後からの活動となりました。おかげで午後は全員精力的に働いていました。

The foundation of the stage is really important because it is directly related to the safety of people using the stage. That is why it took a long time to build, and members were working cautiously. 舞台の基礎部分は利用者の安全と直結するため、非常に重要な役割を担います。従って、設置には長時間を要しメンバーは慎重に作業を行いました。

We learned how to tie strings from Yamaguchi-San, a local carpenter. It was amazing that MIT students learned just by watching him, despite the boundary of language. 地元の漁師である山口さんからひもの結び方を教わりました。MITの学生たちは言語の壁をものともせず、見よう見まねで結び方を習得していきます。

We also looked for materials for the signboard and thought about the design. We actually picked up some nice-looking materials and found that they were good. Here, one of our team members broke one of the branches by mistake, but her smile was really big, as if there hadn’t been an accident. また、看板の素材探しとデザインを考える作業も行いました。良さそうな素材を実際にとってきて、うまくいきそうか実験をしてみます。写真の彼女は誤って枝を折ってしまいましたが、そんなことは感じさせない実にいい笑顔をしています。

Now that I can start to grasp the shape of the stage, I can hardly wait for its completion! I also feel that it looks like a ship, maybe because Minamisanriku is closely connected with ships and fishery. 舞台の全貌が明らかになるにつれ、完成がますます待ち遠しくなってきます。舞台の基礎が船のような形に見えたのは、南三陸町が船と漁業に縁が深いからかもしれません。

A bit about today’s contributor:
Masumi is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Tokyo.  He was born and raised in Hyogo Prefecture and now lives in Tokyo. From childhood, he has been dreaming of getting a job related to architecture.  He hopes this program will give him a good chance to know more not only about architecture but about earthquakes and reconstruction. He like playing baseball and listening to music.


Read more about this year’s program participants here.

JDW2013 / Hard at work

The team is hard at work!  Here are the reflections of Kosuke Takenouchi, another University of Tokyo student, from Sunday August 4th:

This is Natsumi. She laughs quite a lot all the time, even if she gets soaked. Her smile always reminds me of the chat slang “LOL" embodied in real life. 同僚のなつみです。びしょ濡れです。憎らしいほど眩しい笑顔ですね。青春の1ショット。まさにlolって感じ。

And after a long day in the field, a good snack is always needed:

This jam is made from plums. It tasted sweet and sour. I had it with cucumbers. お世話になっている山内さん宅ではいつもお昼に何品かいただいているのですが、今日個人的に一番おいしかったのはこの梅ジャム。キュウリにつけて食べました。

This is Professor Otsuki, associate professor in Architectural Planning at the University of Tokyo. He is very sociable and what he says is always to the point, so I respect him. He seems to be in good spirits in this picture. 大月教授です。上機嫌ですね。人当たりがとてもよくて、発言が鋭くいつも的を射ていて、カッコいいです。お世話になっとります。

We had dinner at a restaurant located on the main shopping street of Minami-Sanriku. The food was delicious. We talked about a lot of things, such as the differences between China and Taiwan. Of course, there were many funny things as well. I was very happy because there were a lot of smiles. そして今夜は日曜日だったので、商店街のあるお店にてみんなで夕食を食べました。未成年飲酒・飲酒運転はもちろん0ですよ。とてもいい宴でした。みんなといるといつも笑ってばかりで楽しいのですが、この夜は格別でしたね。

I will never forget this wonderful night.  Thank you to everyone!

A bit about today’s contributor:
Kosuke is a second year student in  Human Sciences at the University of Tokyo.  He is from the Shonan area, which has a famous beach. He is thinking about studying urban design as a major.  He loves music and listens to various genres, especially rock music.  He also plays the guitar almost every day and is very keen on soccer, too.


Read more about this year’s program participants here.

JDW2013 / Lessons in bamboo

Rin Rin Popolo, to be built in Hayashi-giwa, Iriya, an agricultural-based Minamisanriku village inland from the sea, is a small gathering place for the community. A prominent rock stands across from the home of Yamaguchi Kiyoko-san backed by a chestnut tree. Alongside this local natural “monument”, we will construct an aerial bamboo platform – a stage for the local folks to sit, chat, sipping tea, with a great view to the magnificent landscape defining Iriya. While this quiet village did not suffer the direct sweep of the 3.11 tsunami, its villagers have relatives and friends who perished. As with many rural settings throughout Japan, the remaining villagers worry about the declining population and Iriya’s future.

During our workshop, by many hands and with resources available to us, we will build this「小さなみんなの舞台」a “Small Stage for All” from start to finish.

- – -

This post, from Saturday August 3rd, was written by University of Tokyo student Takaharu Igarashi:

Yesterday we cut the bamboo needed for the project. The day started with carrying these from the cutting site to the project site. Long, short, thick, thin, straight, curved… no two bamboo stalks were identical. 今日は、切り出した数十本の竹を竹林から運び出すことから始まりました。全ての竹がそれぞれに違った表情を持っています。

Mr. Yamaguchi, a veteran carpenter, gives us a lesson on how to tie bamboo together with ropes. 棟梁である山口さんに竹の結び付け方をご指導いただきました。

Cutting off the tree branches hanging over the construction site and getting the place ready for work. 現場の上を覆う枝を切って、作業ができるよう現場を整備しています。

We took a short break on the bamboo. Looking up at the blue sky, surrounded by mountains and trees, we closely felt nature around us. 竹の上で一休み。青々とした木々と蝉の声に囲まれ、青い空を見上げています。

Actually laying out the bamboo and trying to figure out the best way to place them on site. During this process, there was an exciting moment when I got a glimpse of the final picture of what we’re trying to build. 現場で実際に竹を基礎として配置してみて具合を試しています。その過程で今まさに作ろうとしているものの片鱗が見えたときは、完成への純粋なわくわく感が止まりませんでした。

A bit about today’s contributor:
Takaharu is a freshman at the University of Tokyo. Shortly after being born in Iwate, his father’s job took his family to Shizuoka, Gunma, Los Angeles and Tokyo, and for the last nine years, he has lived in Yokohama-city, Kanagawa. He used to play tennis in both junior and senior high schools and now has started playing basketball in college.  He is also really into listening to music, which has mentally supported him all the time.


Read more about this year’s program participants here.