A computer-generated model of the Kisawa guesthouse designed by students
A computer-generated model of the Kisawa guesthouse designed by students

The Kisawa no Wa Project started when a group of SIT architecture students said yes to a request from Mr. Hitoshi Kuwataka, a resident of the town of Naka, Tokushima Prefecture and member of the Naka Community Building Committee. Mr. Kuwataka learned of the student group through their work on a similar remodeling project in Higashiizu, Shizuoka Prefecture in 2014.

The student volunteers began their project in Naka with a site visit to the house in December 2014, staying in the town for about 22 days as they worked side by side with local residents. Among the locals who worked with the students were carpenters and plasterers who were rich sources of valuable advice.

The project is expected to be completed in April 2016. The finished house will serve as a community guesthouse where local elders host workshops for visitors who wish to learn about traditional local arts and crafts.

The guesthouse was designed for young people to be easily able to mingle and immerse themselves with local community and lifestyles
The guesthouse was designed for young people to be easily able to mingle and immerse themselves with local community and lifestyles

SIT Meets Sugi no Ko Gakkou, a community school

A Sugi no Ko teaches students how to make ashinaka, the traditional woven-straw sandals, at a workshop. For some of the architecture students, Kisawa became a home away from home.
A Sugi no Ko teaches students how to make ashinaka, the traditional woven-straw sandals, at a workshop. For some of the architecture students, Kisawa became a home away from home

Kisawa is a small, isolated village where 97% of the land is covered by forests. The village, whose residents over the age of 65 dominate 58% of the overall population, is 1.5 hours away by car from Tokushima City. In 2014 the only elementary school in Kisawa was closed.

Mr. Kuwataka, a resident in Kisawa, was alarmed by the dire situation the village has been facing. To regenerate the community, he gathered local elderly women, aged 73 on average, and opened a community school named Sugi no Ko Gakkou where the women teach each other hobbies and crafts.

The success of Sugi no Ko Gakkou inspired Kuwataka to plan a guesthouse for out-of-town visitors where they can meet the elderly ladies and learn local crafts during their stays.
His ideas and determination touched SIT students’ hearts and they offered to help make his wish come true.

Building with the Community

The students visited Kisawa to discuss their construction plan with locals. They have started the building phase of the remodeling plan with the help of local carpenters and plasterers. The students designed the guesthouse and built parts of it themselves, learning traditional construction methods along the way.

The students designed a kitchen island with a traditional kamado stove as the centerpiece for the communal kitchen
The students designed a kitchen island with a traditional kamado stove as the centerpiece for the communal kitchen
Learning to build wooden pails for Goemon-buro, the traditional bath heated from the bottom
Learning to build wooden pails for Goemon-buro, the traditional bath heated from the bottom
Visiting a local lumber mill
Visiting a local lumber mill

Future Developments

Not only its lush greenery, Kisawa’s waterfalls and limestone caves attract outdoor lovers
Not only its lush greenery, Kisawa’s waterfalls and limestone caves attract outdoor lovers

Once finished, the guesthouse will be serve as a classroom for cooking workshops by Sugi no Ko members and a gateway to trekking tours to Kisawa’s many limestone caves and waterfalls for outside visitors.
Through working and building mutual trust with Kisawa residents, the SIT students have pledged to continue their work with nearby areas to find solutions for an increasing number of unoccupied homes in aging communities.

Kisawa no Wa Project at Shibaura Festival

The members of Kisawa no Wa Project will exhibit their works at Shibaura Festival from November 6~8, 2015.

Dates: November 6~8, 2015
Hours: 10:00~18:00
Directions:
Walk 7 minutes from Exits 1c or 3, Toyosu Station on Yurakucho Line
Walk 9 minutes from Toyosu Station on Yurikamome Line
Walk 15 minutes from Exit 2, Ecchujima Station on JR Keiyo Line

The exterior of the 146-year-old house before renovation. A tall weeping cherry tree grows in the yard and the rural surroundings offer spectacular seasonal views
The exterior of the 146-year-old house before renovation. A tall weeping cherry tree grows in the yard and the rural surroundings offer spectacular seasonal views
The students added the Engawa (an open corridor) to serve as a lounge-like area for interactions between visitors and locals.
The students added the Engawa (an open corridor) to serve as a lounge-like area for visitors and locals.
Hospitality has been part of Kisawa's cultural identity for a long time. The students were treated to Sugi no Kos' delicious homemade meals