Osaka Brand Committee
Outenin Temple
Outenin Temple
digmeout (Dig-Me-Out) Installment 1
Avant-Garde x Entertaining x Open-Air Theater → Ishinha
Etching x Pastel → Sumako Yasui
Artist x Craftsperson → Yoko Matsumoto
Jokes x Art → Gendai Bijutsu Nitouhei
Sculpture x Flexibility → Kohei Nawa
Installations x Images → Chie Matsui
World Exhibition (Banpaku) x Future Ruins → Kenji Yanobe
Drive x Noise → Rogue’s Gallery
Self-Portrait x Art History → Yasumasa Morimura
 Listen (= Sound) x View (= Art) → Yukio Fujimoto
Yodogawa x Trash x Art→Yodogawa Technique
Biolgical field
Water city
Osaka Kaleidoscope

Historic Streetscape Creates a Community Art Space

While incorporating art has become a popular theme in many community-based development projects throughout Japan, the KARAHORI-machi-art Project is one of the most successful examples of this phenomenon. Attracting large crowds each year, the project is typified by the comfortable balance struck between the art displayed and the nostalgic townscape of Osaka's traditional downtown area.

Nostalgia between modern buildings in Karahori

Karahori is located in Osaka’s Chuo Ward, it representing the area neighboring Tanimachi Rokuchome Station on the Osaka Municipal Subway. As a Japanese word, karahori, literally means "empty moat." The area’s name is derived from the fact that Karahori was originally part of Osaka Castle’s defensive moat system. The moat itself was drained and filled in 1614, as part of Winter Campaign military operations conducted during the Siege of Osaka. More recently, Karahori initially saw a period of agriculture, before it assumed a more urban profile during the Meiji and early Showa Periods. During World War Two, it was one of the few areas of central Osaka that escaped significant damage. As such, examples of Meiji and early Showa Era architecture remain; such structures include both houses and nagaya (traditional single-storey tenements). Karahori also has stone-flagged staircases along its streets, as well as a number of sloping roads. Buddhist jizo statues can also be seen in the area.

Eaves of a building used as a display space

Community-based development projects incorporating art first began to gain popularity throughout Japan in the late 1990s. Community leaders throughout the country felt that “art,” as a construct, offered potential in terms of being a catalyst by which community-based rejuvenative forces would be triggered. Artists who aspired to make their work more publicly-accessible benefitted through such community-based development projects, these projects allowing artists to both present their work in more familiar locations and also expand the range of people exposed to their art. For both persons focused on community-based development and artists, such projects represent a fountain of refreshing and productive ideas.
The main venues used in the KARAHORI-machi-art Project are the shopping streets of Karahori. With the blessing of the community, about 50 individual artists and artistic groups display work at stores and residences throughout the area. Visitors can duck into a cafe or explore backstreet alleys with a map in hand, enjoying the local streetscapes and works of art simultaneously.
Many artists who have participated in the event say they enjoyed receiving direct feedback to their work from members of the public. Some have become regular exhibitors at the event. There have been other artists who have adopted a more interactive approach to displaying their talents, resorting to activities such as drawing portraits on the street and conversing with members of the public.
Last year, despite adverse weather conditions, the two-day event attracted approximately 10,000 people to the Karahori area.

It should also be noted that staff members supporting the event vary greatly, both in terms of age and professional background. Such diversity among these people highlights how the event has come to be strongly supported by the local community.
Naoto Arima, a Karahori resident and Chairman of the KARAHORI-machi-art Project Executive Committee, answered some questions regarding the event:

(left) Portrait drawing on a shopping street in Karahori
(right) Many visitors enjoy taking pictures of the artwork

Q: Please explain the concepts that underpin the KARAHORI-machi-art Project?

Artwork whose color has been matched to the zinc colors of a building

Naoto Arima: This event has three central concepts. Firstly, we want to make art more accessible to the public. Secondly, we want people to see this area while viewing the art exhibitions. We hope this will allow them to rediscover some of the appeal that Karahori offers. Thirdly, we want to nurture relations among people. Among these three central concepts, the third one is the one we consider most important. Having relations form among people is an idea that we would also like to pass on to future generations. In this community where people once lived in nagaya, there developed a culture that taught people how to maintain a suitable distance between themselves and others, while also fostering good relations. This culture was based on the ideas of good morals, rules and manners. In today's society where many people live in rented units or huge apartment complexes, it is not unusual for people to not know anything about their neighbors. We, as a community, are gravely concerned about the future of those children who grow up in such an environment. Indeed, this is why we think it is very important to save the nagaya culture and pass it on to future generations.

Q: What about the KARAHORI-machi-art Project and how the art is shown?

Was it your aim to present the art in a more relaxed manner than could be achieved through the hosting of a formal art exhibition?
Naoto Arima: This event uses a functioning community as its exhibition space. As such, we believe it is critical to consider the community that supports the event, and strike a good balance between it and the art.
In planning this event, we try as hard as possible to find the best match in terms of the presentation spaces used by our exhibitors. The exhibitors, in turn, try their best to optimize the space allocated to them. I think this is one of the reasons why we have been so successful in attracting visitor numbers.

Q: How do you decide what artworks are selected for presentation and where they will be displayed?

A display at a local cafe

Naoto Arima: In principle, we accept almost all entries we receive for inclusion in the exhibition. With regard to display locations, in terms of using properties as presentation spaces, it took us a while to gain the understanding of local people with regard to the purpose of the event. Today, community members are very cooperative, and they gladly open up their homes and businesses. Display locations are selected not by a single curator, but rather by a group of committee members who vary widely both in terms of age and background. Each committee member works with 3 or 4 artists to find the best match between the artwork and the candidate location (for which we have obtained consent).

Q: How would you describe the relationship between the community and the art?

Young support staff offering information to visitors

Arima: I personally see art not just as “art,” but rather as something that is closely related to both design and architectural culture. In this sense, I feel we should be exposed to more art and design in our everyday lives. I would be very happy if this event gives people both a chance to come into contact with art (within the construct of a familiar townscape), and also view art as part of their everyday lives. Whatever project we work on, whether it is promoting art in a public forum or building better communities, the fastest way to gain support is not to impose our opinions on others. Instead, it is best to have people actually experience what is good and thus inspire any undiscovered interests they might possess.

"Art looks kind of fun," said an elderly couple I encountered during my walk through Karahori to view the KARAHORI-machi-art Project .
The old nagaya streetscapes of Karahori welcome visitors with a slow and relaxed atmosphere, even though these streetscapes are located in the middle of a busy city.
Placed in such surroundings, art offers those who view it new ideas. It also helps people focus their attention on things they might not consider otherwise.
Differing from museums and galleries, to which only people motivated by a certain purpose visit, the KARAHORI-machi-art Project blends art both with scenes of daily life and community landscapes. Today, Karahori represents somewhere that people are allowed to stimulate their five senses, while making discoveries exploring the essence of art.

Karahori Machi Art

Author Profile
Aoi Kisaka
Born in 1978, Aoi Kisaka was a Kobe University literature student when she began to work as a coordinator for an art-related non-profit organization in Osaka. After graduation, she continued work in the art industry in the Kansai Region, gaining experience while assisting on a number of different projects. She is currently a curator within the Art Department of the Aqua Metropolis Osaka 2009.