If you head towards Okayama castle from Okayama station, moving along Momotaro Odori road you will reach your destination – the old Uchisange elementary school. As a result of a merger with other local elementary schools due to Japan’s declining birthrate, Uchisange elementary school closed its doors in 2001.
For a limited period of time, activities aimed at vitalizing the region are being held both at the old Uchisange elementary school and Shiyama Park right next to it.
The project is called the ‘Haiko Challenge’! (‘The Abolished School Challenge’.)
Collectively known as the “Okayama Culture Zone”, the old Uchisange elementary school and Ishiyama Park are part of an area connected with a library, an art museum, and other facilities.
The old Uchisange elementary school is now (temporarily) home to a cafe, a photo studio, an advertising company, a craftsman’s workshop, and a support group for raising children, among others – all unique entities.
The school has been opened up as a co-working space, and free creators among others are taking advantage of it.
Many events such as live performances and theatre, workshops and art exhibitions, film screenings and many others are organized in the area.
The other day there was a live performance by Shutoku Mukai, one of the members of a rock band called ZAZENBOYS.
In Ishiyama Park, among other attractions, there is a play area for children that uses only natural materials, the Mangetsu Bar (‘Full moon Bar’) where you can enjoy a glass while admiring the view of the moon and Okayama castle, a community market that can be enjoyed by people of all ages with the slogan “Park Market of Kouraku’s forest and river”.
In December, the theme is “Santa comes to the forest.” We of course plan to visit that as well.
“Haikou Challenge!” is a limited time event that is currently set to run until December 25th, 2014. Any continuation of activities at the old Uchisange elementary school shall apparently be considered based on the results of this time’s activities.
Looking forward to new possibilities born from this experiment at a closed school? How about taking a few steps away from Okayama castle and Kouraku-en to visit the city’s “haiko”?
Okayama City Telecommunications Policy Division
Address: 1 Chome-1-1 Daiku, Kita-ku, Okayama city, Okayama prefecture
Email：firstname.lastname@example.org (Haiko Challenge Working Group/Committee)
Photographs provided by : lille, inc
Setouchi Finder Photo-writer: Asami Asai/ Katsutoshi Asai (KokohoreJapan)
Katsutoshi Asai Producer and member of the Setouchi Regional Revitalization Association. Born in Yokohama in 1974, Katsutoshi is married and has a young son. Although he started his career with an advertising agency, he went to join the Tower Records team. Katsutoshi was involved with brand management, sales campaigns, collaboration work, and live events. Through his career, he experienced being the Sales Promotion Manager, and the Manager of the Live Entertainment Department. However, in 2012, Katsuyoshi retired from Tower Records and moved to Seto city, Okayama prefecture - a place where he had no prior friends, connections or relatives. Soon after moving, he joined the Setouchi Regional Revitalization Association, and in July 2013 founded Kokohore Japan and began a number of projects to re-task old traditional buildings, invent new specialty products, and work on regional branding. Website: Kokohore Japan http://kkhr.jp/ Asami Asai Editor & Writer I mainly write about social news, music, and lifestyles. I was born and raised in Tokyo, but in 2012 I decided on a whim to move to Setouchi City, Okayama Prefecture. I contribute to magazines such as Liniere, Inakagurashi no Hon, and ku:nel. I publish books for my 'interesting' friends, too, and direct and write for programs at FM Okayama. Everyday I write about people and things for both readers and listeners. Website: Kokohore Japan http://kkhr.jp/
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