A Journey through the Japanese Countryside

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Throughout my study abroad program in Japan I was very lucky to take a 2 day trip to Kamogawa, Chiba. It’s about a 2 hour drive from Roppongi but the change from a booming metropolis to the lush greenery is an experience I think everyone should see at least once in their life.

Since my chosen program (Pratt in Japan) focuses on revitalization of declining communities, Kamogawa was our main point of reference. The charming community there was so welcoming and excited to share how they have worked with companies like MUJI to create communal spaces. Within each facility, the one that fascinated me the most was the Nanaura Clinic.

This clinic was made out of the abandoned Nanaura Elementary School. The unique architecture of this building allowed for Dr. Tanaka to create light renovations to make a more sterile space for medical practices. In addition to this, she could add more facilities (like a rehabilitation space) to further support her aging locals. I had the opportunity to ask her questions and experience the space itself. Dr. Tanaka’s passion for this space is what captivated me during this tour. She has so many future aspirations for the space and is actively searching for her own successor to continue nursing this local community space. She has thought through every expansion in terms of accessibility, practicality, economic cost, and the overall warmth of the space for locals to interact in.

Japan has such a unique view of community support that I hope to implement into my own design practice going forward. Since the nation is facing an aging population, many of the older generations are looking for ways to preserve their culture, crafts, traditions, and community for the young. This philosophy in itself is the reason I was so drawn to going through with this study abroad experience. The chance to talk with locals and see their care for how their culture will be carried to the future is such a fascinating concept that does not exist in the US. The preservations of their lifetimes and experiences is something I will continue to implement and consider when creating my own illustrative pieces. Pieces that are a way to immortalize all the people I have been able to learn from.