The most authentic salad cafe in Tokyo "CITRON"


Owner Mr. Mr. Jonathan Berguig

How long have you been in Japan and what made you to live in Tokyo?

I basically came to Japan twice. The first time when I came to Japan was 2004 working for a brokerage house from France. I stayed here for 3 years and after that, I was moved to NY. I always felt I had missed something during this stay in Tokyo. Since I was here as an expat, I was surrounded by the people who can speak English and never got out of my comfortable zone. I only interacted with the same people and never felt like a local. After staying in NY for a year and half, I moved to Singapore for 4 years. Then I decided to quit this industry since I create something on my own.

Being a vegetarian for few years, I wanted to open a vegetarian restaurant in a meat-and-fish-loving Tokyo. When I arrived in Tokyo, I realized how difficult it was to order a vegetarian dish. One of my friends pushed me to start my own restaurant where I could serve vegetarian food. I worked on the business plan, financial plan, and finding a good location for two years. Obviously when I found a place, there were many hurdles to get over. Since I am from France, many of the applications were rejected by the building owners. I originally wanted to open the place little closer to Omotesando around Minami Aoyama, but the rent was way too expensive. But here in Gaienmae, we can get larger space for cheaper rents, especially as our first floor is small. It is the good mix because people can order salad to go or eat on the second floor. This area is near the shopping district and the office area, so we ended up inviting a lot of customers. 90% of the customers are women.

There is a big difference in women and men as for the food preference. Women love vegetables and to be healthy. Men do not want to spend so much of money for lunch and they love meat or pasta. At CITRON we decided not to promote the “vegetarian” side of our concept. I think vegetarian trend is not there yet.

You could have opened your place other than Japan where target customers are already stable. Why did you decide Tokyo?

When I left in Japan, I felt like I had to come back at some point to live the real Japan. I wanted to explore more. I had little idea of what was going on when I was here as an expat, so I wanted to foot step back in Japanese culture.

It might have been easier for me to open this place in NY or Paris where salad bars are already everywhere and people are familiar with this concept. When I opened this place, I remember so many women feared seeing a big bowl of salad. They had never eaten salad as a main dish as it was mainly understood just as a side dish. 2015 was the beginning of salad cafés in Japan. We needed some time to invite stable customers and spread this trend. We also have quiche and gratin dishes on the menu. In 2015 when I opened this place, there were only two or three salad bars in Tokyo.

We were very happy because people were curious of seeing some real French people working here. Japanese people sometimes have this image of uptight atmosphere and small portion of food in typical French restaurants. Since a lot of French dishes use cream and butter, people think it is very heavy for lunch. But I want to provide the mixture of Japanese and French service. It is the high-end service and food, so it is the mixture of the both good sides.

In Paris and especially on 10th district, organic and vegetarian trend is more developed. There is also a big chain of salad bar restaurants in Paris. Living in the US, and Singapore, I saw delis which served salad as a main dish.

Therefore, I always felt like this trend will come to Tokyo at some point.

Have you been a vegetarian for your entire life?

When I got my dog six years ago, I became vegetarian as it became unclear for me to see differences between all animals. They all have four legs and do not speak. A part of my heart opened for the animals. Having a dog is special to me and it entirely changed my life. My dog Raymond, a beautiful French Bulldog comes to CITRON every Sunday and all many customers come to meet him. It is always great fun!!

I was working too much for the financial company, so now I enjoy my life way more than before spending time with my dog.

I think it is not easy to be vegetarian in Japan, but how do you understand food culture here?

Japanese people are in general not vegetarian, eating different kinds of food through culture and locations. In France, about 3 % people are vegetarian. In Japan, probably less than 1% of people are vegetarian. Japan is an island and surrounded by the sea, so everyone loves fish. I knew men love meat and fish but not vegetables. We had to come up with the great idea that people would like CITRON. Women love vegetables but they do not know how to cook or do not have a time. More than that, vegetables are expensive to buy in Tokyo and they do not have so many kinds compare to France. For example, there are similar kind of green onions like leek but it is not the same when they are cooked and tasted. Leek is unaffordable in the regular supermarket. We prepare food for the busy women who do not have time to prepare and buy many kinds of vegetables at home.

Look at the people on the corner. We just heated up the gratin a while ago which was already prepared in the morning and heated in the oven for two minutes. So, it does not take a long time to serve. It is very healthy quick meal like fast food.

If you only target on purely vegetarian people, there might not be so many customers in Tokyo. But if you promote “healthy food”, then women come for eating healthy fast French food here.

How do you come up with your recipes?

All the recipes come from my mother who used to make simple and healthy food. Quiche, lemon tarte, gratin, and all the recipes are from her. Actually, she came here to teach us when we opened this place 2015, and she met all the media and was on some articles. Our chef in house is also French, so they both share the recipes and interact. I am not a chef and never can be, but I have business skills and encourage people to eat healthy food. We change the menu every month. More than that, we change the quiche menu every two weeks, so it is a huge amount of work. We change the seasonal salad menu so that we can include seasonal vegetables through talking to the greengrocer. We do not include Japanese vegetables anymore, because people come here to eat French dish and enjoy atmosphere in Paris. Look at the Instagram pictures of our customers! They comment on, “I felt like being Paris!” “I want to go to Paris!”.

Now we are on our way to open our second place in the district of Otemachi in 2018. I think it is going to be a great location since there are big amount of people, but there are not that many healthy food places. There are also a lot of bankers working in the skyscrapers. We already deliver salad lunch to bankers from our Aoyama store. Once they try our dish, they sometimes come here to check it out. 

What do you think about the people in Japan?

What really amazed me the most is that Japanese love everything when it comes to food! In France, people have their own taste. For example, I do not like cucumber at all. But here, everything we serve make them happy. We serve two kinds of soup, and both are sold equally every day. They seem always happy with what we serve.

As for the communication, it is a little bit of cliché but 90% of the customers are always nice. Our service is high quality, but at the same time, they are nice as well. Parisians could be sometimes moody. Japanese want to enjoy food and atmosphere, and they are very nice to us even though our Japanese is not perfect. They are not judgmental. Japanese are not picky and they do not complain.

I did not speak any Japanese at all before, and I learn a lot from our customers and their expectations. It is an achievement for me to learn Japanese to interact with real local people. There is another achievement: Feeding people with non-meat meal is such a successful thing without killing any animals through CITRON. We are spreading vegetarian trend slowly in Tokyo as opening the second place.

What would you like to do for the next step?

I do not have a clear goal but I want to make sure Otemachi store will be the same quality.

Now I feel so good for everything. I just need to put an effort to do more promotion, spread the CITRON concept and have more people to come and eat here. I do everything one step at a time, and I will make sure the great opportunity to decide little by little. We need to be ready for September 2018. I am always happy to hire both French and Japanese in the house. We need real French people to create real French atmosphere not just the food itself.

I work 7 days a week now, and last time I took a day off in Tokyo was when I went to the beach last spring with some friends. I also decided to close CITRON for Christmas so that we could all spend some time with our loved ones. I used to do a lot of YOGA but I stopped now by lack of time
As a foodie, I love checking out new vegetarian places in Tokyo. I would like to take more time to help a shelter in Nigata whose work is to find new families for dogs and cats who have been abandoned. However, we have a donation box here at CITRON so that customers can also help animals!


Shikahama Nature Organization “Noraemon”

Representative Mr. Toshio Furutaka

There are children who are far away from the nature in the urban life. What made you to start your activity as an organization?

Throughout my teaching career, I strongly felt the activity of touching the nature was very important but not just looking at the surface through the video or printed word. I have joined the local nature observation group and I wanted to do something with using this experience. There is a word called “Satochi Satoyama” (undeveloped woodland near the populated area). When people get back to their hometown, people bring back agricultural products as for the souvenir. These vegetable and rice are produced in their hometown where is called “satochi satoyama”. We want people to pay attention to this area more and want them to realize this area is such an important place. In order to send this message, we opened the field in Fujiwara, Minakami-town.

At the end of each activity, all the children write their sentiments. One of the girls wrote “the wind felt so good” and this is the exact image of our organization. For the first couple of times, there are children who carry their portable games to the activity, but there are none of them to do this now. The senior children guide the new children very well. The communication between each child works better than with adults and the atmosphere becomes more comfortable.

What are the thoughts of parents?

Most of the parents want to join and learn the activities together with children. We do not ask parents just to send their kids to the activities. We want them to join and learn with the kids. The conversation of the parents and children will work in both directions throughout the common activity. This is not the nursery school where parents just pay some fee to leave children in the facility but this is a place both parents and children join participatory class together.

Are there any children who have changed throughout the activities?

There is a child who can take a leadership compare to before. He used to be a truant student. But he joined our activity positively. His parents took him to our organization first, but it had been changed. He can consider and understand how other children feel. Other children rely on him as well. I guess this is the place and time where he can show his feeling honestly and he can feel relaxed. There used to be the borders between each school, but there is none now.

We have a field in Fujiwara, Minakami-town, and there are many children who have different background. But they instantly get along together. The children who have difficulty expressing themselves and the truant children can get along together because the nature can be a mediator. We sit around the open hearth in the old folk house. We share very simple meal like just white rice and miso soup. We greet to the meal and enjoy the conversation. We wanted to contribute to the local area, so we tried local production for local consumption last year.

There is a child who did not come out to the ski trail for the first three years at the ski class. After the three years, he came out to the ski trail himself and enjoyed skiing. As the participants have changed and found their own place to stay, so maybe he felt safe. His personality became brighter and he can receive something with wide open mind.  He can join the activity in a positive manner.

What is it like in the actual activity?

We do rice planting, crop paddy, and make a straw festoon every year. We want children to know how the rice is cultivated since we eat rice every day. There are many of the teachers from the nursery schools and kindergartens to attend. They bring back some rice seedling and cultivate at their schools. And at the end of the year, we make a straw festoon and this activity is the most popular among the year. There were about 130 people to attend in 2016. As for the paddy field experience, farmers at Joso-city, Ibaraki cooperates us. 

We also breed some insects and fish. There are beetles in April, silk worms in May, and salmon in December. We hand out these creatures to the children in the kindergarten, nursery school, and elementary school as well as the members , and all the children seem very happy.

We visit the old folk house in April, July, and October. Last summer, there were about 30 people who stayed in there for an overnight. We had a great talk around the open hearth.

Two years ago, we climbed Mt. Fuji together with 24 members. As through accumulating these experiences of dealing the nature, stuff and member can see the next vision. We try to take in these wishes as much as possible.

Who would you like to participate in your activities?

As long as someone has a passion for the nature, I recommend to step into our world. It is not to receive something but to create together with stuff and children.

We keep in mind to experience the real nature. Let’s look, listen, and touch the real nature together with us!

What do you wish for the children who live in the future?

I would be happy to see the children who want to work in the primary industry. I want them to hold a value in the primary industry. People say it is the mature society, but the core part of the society is always “the place where people can eat meal safely as usual”. Therefore, the peaceful time of maintaining the same life every day is the most important thing. To maintain the peaceful time for a long time, people have to realize that the foundation is located in the agriculture, the forestry industry, and the fisheries industry. There is a life in the center, and all the societies are around it. This is the entire image of our world.


Welfare Select Shop “Iseya”

Representative Mr. Hiroyuki Fujishiro

I have heard that you are creating and finding jobs for the disability people. What exactly do you do in regard to that?

When companies enroll disability people, there are a lot of issues that they need to solve. I consult these companies in order to pursue the path of development regardless of enrolling disability people or not.

For example, there is a project called “Stop the Disaster of a Fall!”, which is a higher-grade proposal related to barrier-free. I have a strength in proposals from the multiple perspective like a walking stick, a wheelchair, and a mobility scooter. I try not to overlook even a small point, and all the proposals should be based on the theoretical foundation.

Could you tell me the catalyst of your business?

I have met a few disability people who exceeds some abilities over healthy people. If everyone can see the disability people without the filter of “disability”, there are some ways that companies can use their ability at the maximum extent. Then, this world will go smoother. That was the catalyst of my business.

I love to observe people, things, and money. I used to work at the customs handling drugs, guns, fake products which are all abandoned or controlled to import. I have trained my sixth sense through the surveillance, control, anti-terrorism policy, custody for the bonded district, and assessment and collection of the customs and consumption tax.

I privately conducted an undercover investigation as “Chirimen Tonya at Echigo” and “Adventure Kin-san” so that I can brush up my sixth sense. Through this activity, I have found that people only look at someone’s title or appearance. I would like to play a game with my ability not the fixed frame like a title or an appearance. Therefore, I try not to talk about the past. A boast or a heroic story talked by the people who do not have a confidence of their current status is such a frivolous activity.

I feel like there is not much of relationship between disability people and healthy people. How do you hope to change this relationship in the future?

I think there are issues on disability people as well. When healthy people talk to disability people, it will not last long if there are not variety of topics. Then, healthy people start finding a topic to talk about. It would end up talking about the reason of disability which is not the one disability people want to touch.

Disability people need to train their strength on showing not the title of “disability” but their ability. 

On the other hand, people in the overseas often ask “May I help you?” in order to open up the conversation towards the future. As for this aspect, it would be great if healthy people and media could change their attitude.

You play an active role in the pictogram art. What would be possible in the world of pictogram art?

Pictogram is usually composed with just one picture, but I combine with more than two pictures to make a stop motion or moving image of storyboard. I work with a designer, Ms. Kei Ishikura to create original pictogram.

Pictogram art makes it possible to send a message to anyone without language barrier. Since it is a visual message, hearing-impaired people, dyslexia people, and intellectual disable people can understand. The actual moving image is updated as YouTube video on the above-mentioned HP, so please check it out. If there is narration in the video, it would work for the visually impaired people. But we intentionally did not include any narration or sound.

There are two feasible worlds together with pictogram art.

The first one is creating a wide variety method for utilization of art because of replacing pictogram to illustration and also inserting music, narration, and captions.

The second one is applying pictogram art to Pepper and digital signage related to the guide sign for the foreign tourists and Tokyo OlympicParalympics.

I wanted to use the bathroom at the airport in the overseas before and asked some people where it is located. But they did not understand what I said even though I spoke English and other language. In this situation, we can set up the pictogram art guide for the bathroom so that tourists do not have ask anyone. We can apply the same for the derivation in case of evacuation, rule, and manner in general.

Therefore, pictogram art is useful for not only the people from overseas but also for the disability people, children, and elderly people.

What would you like to start new in the year of 2017?

I would love to put more effort on sports. For me, work, art, and sports are the three important elements shaping myself. There are many things that I would like to focus on around me, and I am doing my best every day.

 Please send the audience last message.

Since you (interviewer Ms. Kadowaki) is the professional executive coach, your questions were spectacular compare to other medias. I think they were spectacular questions and spectacular responses.

People say it is the age of diversity, but people usually have a very narrow outlook on things because of the articles and videos came out with labels and unsubstantial contents.

I hope everyone would try to look at possibilities and abilities without putting on labels of women, disability people, and foreigners but not the spectacle. 


Artist Mr. Shun Ogue

I met one of the young artists who exhibited his paintings in the art gallery named “kokonoka”.  His mild and gentle character is shown on his paintings through shapes and colors. I interviewed this young artist, Mr. Ogue.

Can you tell me the background story majoring in oil painting at Tokyo University of the Art?

Both of my parents worked for the field related to design and I was strongly influenced by them. I loved drawing when I was a child, and I have joined the drawing class since I was in the kindergarten. Later, I joined the LEGO class and made an electric motor car. This class taught me engineering knowledge. Since I grew up actually touching a lot of different things with my hands but not going to the museums just to see the arts, the person who influenced me the most was Mr. Wakuwaku by NHK.

When I was at the art prep school before attending the undergrad, they taught me a sense of creating a space realistically. This sense did not match to my sense exactly. I learned oil painting later, and there was something that fits into my sense because of its liberal texture and subject matter. It is not drawing a thing but making an expression of picture plane, so it is a lot closer to the sense of communication with a painting.


It seems like there are many pieces incorporating music and space into your arts. Where do you get this influence?

As for music, I was not able to find music that I would love to repeat in my brain before. Therefore, I started composing myself. For me, music and art are connected on the bottom line, and I love making something myself.
As for the color, more I draw, it becomes more white.  I guess white must be my favorite color. As for the shape, I want to draw the other side of things. That is why outline is fading out lately.
I am not good at the relationships maintained only on the surface. When I am seeing the core, I feel like alive. Even though there are no shapes but there is something that I can recognize. This sense is a part of the feelings, and I think it is very important when I draw.

Painting is liberal as if it is like a creature.  Unlike other creation medium, you can stop looking at the paintings only a second. I like this freedom. Depending on the person who looks at the painting, the explication will be changed freely. The artists entrust the explication to the audience. Therefore, I draw paintings which can listen to the voice from audience. I am more conscious of having an ear on the paintings but not having a mouth so that we can make a dialogue with audience.

Sometimes I realize the following feeling after finishing my piece. “This was what I wanted to draw.” I talk to the paintings on the process and put more layers of color. I get an inspiration from the trivial things I find in the common instances happening in my daily life.  A moment of betrayal in a positive sense makes me realize that something like this could be possible. That is why I have a side that I want to be betrayed by the paintings.  When I can draw something beyond my imagination but not the fixed image, I feel the piece is completed. If I know the completion before I start drawing, I would not draw anymore.

Many people say, “You are growing up remaining in child”. There might be childish part in my piece in a good sense. I of course get older, but I try to draw a painting related to each moment and each time of my life.

What is the most impressive exhibition so far?

It was the exhibition held in the art place “kokonoka” in October, 2016. It was the very first solo exhibition without other artists’ pieces. I had a craving for competing with others on my own collection alone once.  The exhibition ended up absorbing the voices from the location and my pieces naturally but not just laying out the pieces. Since I had exercised my ingenuity, I got a lot of great responses from the audience.
Throughout this exhibition, I became to allow myself a lot more compare to before. There is much more space for play while I talk to the paintings even though I am still obsessed with subject matters and others. The people around told me, “Your pieces have been changing”. It is very interesting to see the changes of my pieces along with the growth as an artist.

What area would you like to participate activity in the future?

I would like to expand my knowledge, so attending the graduate school is one of my options. I also want to dig into a notion of a new perspective other than painting field. For example, the same painting on the black wall and the white wall looks completely different. The same nuance will be applied to myself. I want to know how I look like if I would situate in the different environment.
I am interested in what words I would speak up in this different environment. I like to make a thing, so I also like to project with a playful spirit and enough freedom. The project itself will be changed, and it will be fun to see the change.
We are going to hold the exhibition named “munimuni” together with same grade students from the school in January. I will be able to learn something that I do not own from other students, and that is my favorite part. I want to be related to the activities of making things along with my flexible style and all kinds of perspectives.

How would you like to influence on through your pieces?

I would like to give ideas to people in the different situation and scenery. When you see the things from the different perspective, the world seems different even in the usual day or familiar-looking sites. It would be great if the audience feel the same way.
When you are restricted by the words, it tends to be obsessed with the common practice. But if you can get rid of the constraints and change your angle, you can find a new and interesting aspect.  I would like to find this new aspect with the audience.
For this reason, I want to value on the world which I can see in the paintings.

photos are taken by Jun Suzuki


Nishio Glass Mirror Co., Ltd.

Representative Director Mr. Tomoyuki Nishio

There is a company which processes glass for the luxury brand shops and department stores located in the main street of Ginza, Tokyo. I came to interview Mr. Nishio who leads a group of proficient workmen.

I have read that you started your journey in 1932 as a mirror manufacturing plant, and the business has been expanded into the processing and handling the glass and mirrors for shops and other commercial facilities. Would you tell me how has the glass and mirror industry changed as the time goes by?

Next year is our 85th anniversary and I am the third generation. The primary director, my grandfather, is originally from Mie prefecture. He went for a training in glass the plant located in Asakusa when he was 12. The mirror in the plant was very dirty and he was disappointed about it especially after seeing beautiful Fuji mountain. He wanted to make more beautiful mirror, and this feeling was the beginning of our journey. He learned about mirror manufacturing through the books and started a small plant with four members in 1932. At that time, mirror was a symbol of luxury, and he just wanted to make something beautiful so that he can please his clients.

There was a regulation against the luxury goods around the time of Manchurian Incident. He could not avoid discontinuing his business for two years when the world war started. He came back to Tokyo after the end of war and found a pile of glass where there used to be a plant. He felt certain that it was his home, and it led him to restart his plant again.

However, a life of commoner was far from mirror, so he sold mirrors to the occupation troops. He got some chocolate instead of money and gave them to the children in the neighborhood.

My grandfather taught a technique of mirror manufacturing to my father from his early age. My father was not sure about my grandfather’s policy which was limiting only mirror manufacturing while Japan’s economy had bloomed.

Moreover, the major glass companies established agencies at the small mirror plants in the town. My father agreed for the agency contract, but my grandfather had hard time understanding the changes of the times. In conclusion, we sealed the agency deal in 1969. Therefore, our business has transformed from manufacturing mirrors to processing mirrors. Before seeing this transformation, my grandfather passed away when he was 57.

My father succeeded a business when he was 24 and the economy was growing rapidly since next year was Tokyo Olympic. During the bubble period, ornamentation was basked in the limelight.

People said, “The glass industry field will never be out of business.” I strongly remember that our plant kept bright light until the next morning.

My father passed away in 1992 because of cancer. He was in the hospital for 9 years but this company remained because of the strong trust relationship with clients. Before he passed away, we had a time to talk just two of us. I told him, “Do not worry about anything since I will succeed your business.” Then he held my hand strongly and nodded even though he was in the condition of gorked.

It was after the bubble economy burst, and glass industry was shrunk drastically. My mother asked me to work on the value-added field which is reading drawing sheet so that it will be advantage for sales. On the other hand, most of the employees told me to start learning at the factory floor. Therefore, I did both of them. In the workmen’s world, they did not accept me smoothly. I was not able to drink alcohol because of stress. The only thing that save me was the friends whom I met at the drawing school I went after work. I went out for a drink with them often without thinking about the hard situation in the company.  I spent most of time for work since no one in the plant did not help me. My family and friends had hard time understanding my situation. The only person who became a major ally was my mother.

Since I had lived in the grim world, there was a feeling that I could not trust people somewhere in my heart. I have to let this feeling go now. Since I had not been accepted by other people, I had trouble accepting other people. I had been struggling about these issues, but recently, I finally overcame when I talked to an organizational development consultant. He admitted what I had been through for a long time. This incident concluded my entire laboriousness.  Now I can see myself objectively because both of the consultant and employees pointed out the issues of me. I try not to deny myself but admit who I am including the ugly side.

What would you like to place your hope on the next generation while making things become prevalent these days?

I think it is important to be devolved into what you are doing. Your job has to be something exciting and delivering happiness to the clients. When your idea and a sensation bond are combined together, it becomes a great spiral.

I try to tell the sensation of work to the workmen. Therefore, I take them to the shops of clients to show the actual scene. I think it is important to show workmen how their products are used and what are the clients’ reaction. I would like to inherit our traditional technique and fundamental essence so that the delivering happiness to the clients will be descended at the high level. 


What are the techniques that you are proud of and unique?

There are two aspects.

One is cutting the edge of glass in 45 degree and bond two pieces without including any air bubbles.

Another one is processing mirrors for the usage of severe condition in outdoors especially in the environmental field like a solar-electric power generation.

Mirrors are used for a various purpose, so the possibility is expanded widely depending on the field.

I guess you get some difficult and impossible orders from clients sometimes, but how do you handle with those orders?

There is no easy job for us. We propose our idea even though it seems like a totally impossible order so that we can guide to the possible solution. Moreover, we need to complete everything within a budget. Therefore, we have to maintain a great communication with our clients.

We always intend to show our challenging figure. Since we keep challenging something new, it is possible for us to grow and also makes clients want to ask us.

Compare to other ordinary companies, it seems more difficult to train workmen. What do you feel about this?

I do nod, respond, and ask questions more than usual. The conversation with the workmen is composed with 60% of their talk in order to make them speak more. These process makes it possible for workmen to talk genuinely rather than dancing around. I ask many questions from the different angles in order to reach a core of the issue. The conversation should not end just once but a continuous approach is necessary.

As for the workmen, they are not good at expressing themselves. So, I always ask an awful lot of questions. For example, they cannot write their visions on the paper, but they do have feelings. When we made our company philosophy, we held study sessions with all the staff. They wrote out the reason why they wanted to work at this company in the time frame of past, current, and future. These reasons were categorized into the two different groups. The first one was the work which they could proud of. The second one was the skill they could get through Nishio. We combined two reasons together and made one philosophy. “This company should be the place where is held esteem by our family and clients. We solve any difficult orders by our won skill.”

We bring up this philosophy whenever we make sure our current stand point compare to the goal. Whether our way of working is not slipped off from the goal?

What new thing would you like to try next?

We would like focus on human resources development in order to expand our business to the overseas more. We would like to be the one where the number of young workmen is the highest. We should be able to think flexibly in order to make this possible.

We accept the plant visit from outside as a part of this process. In 2018, we would like to accept 100 people for the visit. We want the visitors to see our company rather than the glass itself. There are 13 junior high schools every year to visit us, so it will be great if they can learn and be interested in what we do through workmen’s work style. I think it is dangerous to hold the feelings of “I know everything” since SNS is very popular now. Our world is based on the five senses, I want children to experience something they can remember later. We got a phone call the other day from one of the students who visited us 10 years ago, and she asked us some questions regarding the glass. We feel very happy about what we have done.


Art Gallery Space “kokonoka”

There is a student community which uses a renovated old folk house for the art exhibition space in Kitasenju, Tokyo. While utilization of the old folk house becomes a fad, what feeling do the students related to this project have? What effect does this art space have as through the exhibition of art?

Why did you decide to run “kokonoka”?

There were three to four members at the beginning and one of the renovation associations invited them to run a gallery. They sent messages through LINE to the art students in different schools and gathered 13 students in total.

We started preparing for the opening in April. We had to pay our running fee from individual budgets at the beginning, but now, there are enough fund from the people who want to exhibit arts in “kokonoka”. This old folk house has 75 years of history, and we try to take advantage of old house architecture for the art exhibition space.

Most of the galleries are very expensive in Tokyo and students have a hard time using them. We would like to rent a space with a reasonable price for the students so that they can exhibit art or hold some events. We also want to create a close connection with local people. Therefore, we introduced the local culture of Kitasenju after taking all the photos of public baths by ourselves.

Each member has different skill like leaderships, organization, design, repairmen of the space. We take advantage of these strong points each other. We gathered some money through crowd-funding and we used them for installing an air conditioner.

Since none of us have an experience as a member of society, we are learning by mistakes when it comes to the business operation. It was more than hard to live in the two worlds, school and “kokonoka”. However, we are very happy to take this opportunity for every single aspect. For example, when a problem happened, we have to think how to take in different opinions, how to respond to the clients so that the society will accept us, and how to take a responsibility as a business person. We are all learning something new every day through “kokonoka”.

Now all 13 of us are representatives of the group so that we can keep a flat relationship. We try to chat something rather than “kokonoka” in order to have a friendship mind as through knowing our private information.


How do you understand a location of Kitasenju?

This is a very friendly area and people are not like the typical tight Tokyo type. For example, we greet casually often with our neighborhood and there is a warm feeling. On the other hand, it is a waste to leave the vacancy in the old folk houses. We wish there are more people who want to use these houses like us.

How do you understand an existence of art while there is a variety of art in Japan these days?

There is a lot of art which is hard to understand in the colleges, and there are only a few people who work on a realistic painting. The people in public have a hard time understanding this field, and we also feel “As expected, they pass through our art”. Most of the audience do not pay attention to abstract art, and go to see graphic art which is much easier to understand.

We just want them to feel even a little of something, “This is kind of cool” or “This must be suitable for my room”.

It would be great if there are more people relatively interested in art. There are a lot of music TV programs which are very casual and close to our life, but there are not so many of art TV programs in Japan. There are plenty of artists who are doing something interesting.


What feedback do you get from the audience who came to “kokonoka”?

People said, “I did not know there is an art exhibition space here at all”, “I will come to visit here again”, “I just dropped by after work”.

There are people live around here and also the audience who came all the way from other prefectures to see the certain theme of art or meet the artists.


What would you like to try next?

We are searching the next generation staff for running this space for a long time. It would be best if we can establish a framework which involves sophomore students mainly in the project. Current stuff need to prepare for job search and graduation exhibition soon. We wish there were more students from the general colleges as well. We would also want to exhibit our own art collections here.

Even after running this space, we would love to keep in touch with each member. We will be able to contact any members based on the trust relationship built here when there is an issue in the future. We would like to learn from other member’s strong point and add an essence to our own skill. We are very happy to work together under the clear goal beyond the limited school circle.


Please send the last message to the audience.

Just come to drop by to see our space when you are around Kitasenju. We look forward to seeing everyone!