Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Art of Regeneration - Japanese Style

An interesting Japanese approach to resolving the problem of empty property was reported in last week’s Japan Times . The unlikely saviour is public art in the countryside. A few hours north of Tokyo lies the rural region of Echigo-Tsumari. It is according to the Japan Times a beautiful but "rugged, isolated, aging and economically stagnant place." It has for the past few years been the host to the world’s largest outdoor art exhibition: the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial.

"The most interesting initiative of this year's triennial is the "House-Museum Project," or "Akiya Project" in Japanese, which literally translates as "Empty House Project," for which more than 40 vacant homes and school buildings have been renovated and converted into art spaces. The basic idea has been that organizers and artists work hand in hand with local communities to identify vacant homes and schools, which, due to the depopulation of the region are in great abundance, do extensive renovation work and place within them site-specific works of art. Efforts are then made to sell or rent the houses to outsiders who might have an interest in owning a second home in the region."

This year the organisers of the event expect a quarter of a million visitors. A boost to an economically stagnant region in itself, but with the added possibility that some visitors will invest in the empty buildings and help bring them back to life.

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