Backstage Japan -
studies in hardly discovered zone of transition

Apology for a residence program off the main track

Rural Japan is a place where two worlds overlap. The energy field of a specific national civilization fades out and the one of uninhabited ‘transnational’ nature becomes stronger and stronger. It is a membrane, frontier and sphere of
weightlessness where neither word’s gravity dominates, and culturally conditioned patterns of communication begin to dissolve. Unconsciously, space opens up to a different kind of cooperation based on non verbal common denominators shared
by people of various origins and professions.

a glass and neon light free zone

the view from the house

in winter everything
is different

papermaster at work
in our studio

In urban areas, Japan keeps up its facade of order, conscious of what foreigners expect to find and ready to confirm those old clichés. However particularly there, where Japan does not feel observed, in the countryside, back stage so to speak,
it allows itself to leave the vestiges of its disorder, uncertainty, strive to gain balance in the schizophrenic desire to be innocently one with Nature, source of life, but also maintain control and recognition for being a thinking, creating and
decision making human, (leave all these traces) open and unedited.

The community of Mino is typical for similar urban-rural-nature constellations in Japan; On one hand the people try to appease in elaborate processions and rituals their protective Shinto gods, on the other hand effort not to lag behind
what they consider advanced, live up to date and cool like city folks. This state of a double bind, identification blues, uncertainty and insecurity, seems only to be a weakness- yet on the contrary the porous, not lacquered social texture allows
individuals of rural communities to be much more open minded, curious and perceptive for others who tumble around in search for points of orientation, like foreign visitors, than the self consciousness and conceit of most metropolitan

And particularly for this reason I chose to have my base of activities in Japan on this membrane, this kind of skin with sensory organs directed to both worlds, nature and civilization at the same time. I use an old country house with a functioning paper making workshop, situated in the last village at the end of a valley, at the edge of the infinite green cloth of
mountain chains, home to monkey families and gangs of boars, who once in a while venture out into mankind’s vegetable fields to find vegetarian prey. Everyone has their own way to explore a realm and assess new impressions,
still, to those who choose to visit, we offer careful guidance to catalyze encounters, without trying to dominate with a preset perspective.


As mentioned, the residence is located at the end of a pristine valley-15 minutes from a small, laid back town called Mino, and about one hour from Nagoya- and Gifucity in central eastern Japan. The district offers an arena of cultural and natural resources: Mino is one of the most famous areas for the manufacturing of handmade paper from mulberry bark, related cottage industries such as umbrella and lantern making. Several collections of Enku’s work, a 17th century sculptor who stood out through his expressionistic, non decorative style, are open to the public close by. The Unesco world heritage site, a hamlet with
about 160 giant thatched roofed houses can be reached within an hour. Pristine nature invites for hikes right behind the house, and hot-springs are available.

All recent attempts of mediocre modernization were removed to return the house to its authentic state, a frame of 250 year old timber with paper-sliding doors and wooden rain shutters, a classic example of Japanese architecture’s essential elements. The terrace in front offers an undisturbed view of mountain ranges. As in all houses of the area, the brightest room is dedicated to paper-making. A complete collection of authentic tools allows visitors to make their own paper after attending one of the introductory seminars. (see for scheduled workshops) But also for individuals not interested in crafts, the house offers an excellent base to discover the treasures of rural Japan and the opportunity to withdraw to work in silence
on personal projects. For visitors with an international driver’s license, a car is available, and fast speed telephone circuits allow you to stay on line.

Our friendship with several museums of contemporary art, especially the nearby Toyota Municipal Museum of Art, constitutes the link between traditions and the contemporary. Detailed information on the parameters of staying in this facility will be given on request.

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