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 / 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.

Japan Workshop 2013 / Live from Minamisanriku

This is the Japan Design Workshop’s second year focusing on rebuilding after the earthquake and tsunami in Minamisanriku.  The staff and students have been in Japan for almost two weeks and as they enter this last week, they will be posting updates on their process as well as progress from their time in the field.  Here is the first of a series of updates.

- – -

Rin Rin Popolo

From July 31:

We met Kiyoko Yamauchi, the project collaborator and landowner, and finally talked about the location and direction of Rin Rin Popolo. 参加者の地元入り前日。プロジェクトの地元側発起人、山内きよ子さんとの再会。りんりんポポロの位置づけや作業進行の段取り等について最終的な協議をした。

We visited Takuo and Yoshiko Yamauchi, who are the neighbors, and decided on the area from where we will cut bamboo. きよ子さんのご近所、山内卓夫&よし子ご夫妻に面会。彼等の所有山から竹を切らせて頂くことになった。かえって手に余っていた竹の利用の機会に、喜んで下さった。

We then visited Kiyomi Suzuki, a leader of SanSan-Kan, and determined the area where we will cut bamboo. さんさん館のリーダー鈴木清美さんに面会。彼等の所有山から竹を切らせて頂くことになった。径10cmを越える立派な竹もある立派な竹林を紹介して頂いた。

We were introduced to Toshihiro Yamauchi, who is a leader of the Hayashigiwa district in Iriya. The local community was pleased by the project and readily accepted it. We agreed that both sides will collaborate on it. プロジェクトを行うにあたり、林際区長・山内敏裕さんのお宅にご挨拶のために訪問。プロジェクトを喜んで下さったうえに、全体の段取りに快く相談にのって頂いた。

NTTdocomo funds Visualizing Iriya project

Visualizing Iriya:「生きてくる入谷物語」

NTTdocomo タブレットを活用した被災地復興プロジェクト
a joint project with NTTdocomo & MIT Japan 3.11 Initiative 入谷の人に、会いに行こう。

南三陸町の入谷という土地が元来もつ性質、及び歴史的な価値を、地域の生活空間や自然空間等の、緑地、 または自然環境と構造物の総体としての環境を認識し、失われつつある地域独特の生活文化を呼び起こす。 入谷の中で、時間を過ごし、場を感じとり、地元の人と出会う。口から口へと伝えられてきたこの土地に まつわる伝承、民話に関してヒアリングする。ひとつの土地にまつわる話しはひとつと限らない。尋ねる 人、場所によって変化される幾つもの話しを、できる限り集めることを目指す。


部分であり、尋ね歩くよそ者との交流そのものこそが、縮小しつつあるまちに暮らす地元の方1人1人の活 気を起こす。プロジェクトの仮定、引いていは実用化時点での、本プロジェクトの地元に対する貢献の成果 として、今後長く役立のではないかと思う。

上で得られるアウトプットに合わせて、タブレットというデジタルデバイスを利用し、訪問者の入谷体験に どのような面白みを提供できるか。入谷を訪れた人々を、ファンとならしめ、再び訪れる理由を起こすもの は何か。

タブレットというポータブルデバイスだからこそ、情報を提供する地元側と受ける側との個別、Face to Face の出会いの機会を作ることが可能ではないか。受け入れられる範囲での人の現在地のマッピング、訪問者が そうした語り部を担う地元の人を、訪れられるシステムつくりを提案する。その他にも、タブレット利用の 可能性として、QR コード等の利用による現地に足を運ばなければ得られない情報の提供、過去の体験談や 地域住民の体験談のデータベース化、GPS システムと連動した人々の現在地情報の提供等、また、Twitter や Facebook と連動した、訪問後のユーザーの体験のシェアシステムを想定する。

以上を、復興支援活動に端を発し、実用化に向ける本プロジェクトの地元へ還元されうる効果とする。人と 人を結ぶ尋ね歩きのスタイルを可能にすることで、入谷の人を元気にできる。

Visualizing Iriya
Based on a map depicted entirely in text the original names of places in the mountain valley village of Iriya, Minamisanriku, this project will bring to life its unique historical relationships to past folklore including past tsunamis. Iriya lies at the foot of Tatsugane-yama (El.512m) inland from Shizugawa Bay and occupies an important place both in morphological and ethnological evolution within the greater Tohoku history. Much of this information has been lost however to the present generation of residents. The goals of this project is to utilize digital mapping techniques and the use of NTTdocomo tablet devices in the hands of local people to enliven its power of place amidst the gloom in the aftermath of 3.11.

MIT Japan 3.11 Initiative Team member Eric, in Minamisanriku, uses an NTT docomo Tablet to aid in their field work.


Taking notes and documentation with the tablet during a group meeting
MIT team members meet with local Japanese students in Iriya.
The MIT team spends some quality time with villagers in Iriya.


MIT Architecture graduate student Tyler with the NTT docomo Tablet back on campus.


The little garden pavilione at Baba-Nakayama temporary housing 2012/04/28-2012/05/06

Garden Pavilione at Baba-Nakayama 

Temporary Housing site in Minamisanriku.
Constructed: Golden Week May 2012 by Dream Team_3





















Community center “seed” grows in Utatsu

What happens when the community of Heisei no mori joins forces with 3/11 Initiative students, professionals, and professors?  A seed is born!  The above photo shows the first steps towards a community center in Utatsu.  It is the hope that creating a covered outdoor space before winter snows fall will encourage the informal gatherings and brainstorms that have already taken place in the rebuilding.

More updates on the project will be provided as it progresses.