Bubb: Space Maker

Art imitates life. So the saying goes. It also supports life. At least that’s what artist Bubb believes, which is why he has embarked on a project to employ his creative skills to make a better life for those still suffering in parts of the tsunami-stricken areas of northern Japan.

“People are forgetful with regards to the tsunami,” notes Bubb. “The media is mostly focused on everything surrounding the Fukushima reactors. Or maybe people haven’t really forgotten about the tsunami disaster areas; it’s just that there’s no current information about the conditions there. How are the people living? It’s in that context that I started this project and hope to spread the word.”

The project, called Ibuki, is progessing under the auspices of Open Japan, an incorporated association working in the tsunami areas. Open Japan recognized a sore need—that some communities have no public space to share meals and conversation—and envisioned the transformation of old or damaged structures into cafeterias and community centers.

“I’m basically working on kûkan zukuri (space creation). I’m collaborating with other artists on the fusuma (sliding doors) and walls to make it really funky. We’re essentially making an art house.”

Bubb and his team began working on a structure in Ohara-hama not far from Ishinomaki in March of this year, after about a year and a half of planning and consultation with local residents. 100% of the funding currently comes through Open Japan and was collected as donations. The team does not qualify for federal or prefectural funding because they’re not building a new structure. Also, some might question its value. The peninsula where it is located has a very sparse population and the center will only have a capacity of 50 indoors and 100 with the outdoor gardens included.

Explains Bubb, “We want people to visit it. We want young people to come back. And we want local people to think about how they can use it. Ishinomaki residents will have a place to go on the weekends for music, workshops and the like. It’s not just a cafeteria we’re building, but a community space for the arts.”

Bubb actually has a huge following among Japanese live bands (many previously feature in this magazine). We have no doubt he will help bring exciting acts there to try to rejuvenate the area.

At present, Bubb spends most of his time based in Ishinomaki, where he lives in a simple motorhome. The lifestyle seems to suit him. He didn’t start doing art until age 35, wandering the world prior to that, studying whatever interested him. When he returned to Japan, he realized that he liked monozukuri (literally, the creation of things), like remaking furniture and building installations.

“Making your own things is great, but I also thought that making things in public spaces where people can enjoy them is even better.”

Bubb decided to pursue art as a full-time profession around age 40. He has been building installations and decorations for Fuji Rock for 13 years now, among other festivals. His current work, however, seems to be his greatest passion.

“There are some structures that remained despite the tsunami, like a kura (storehouse) that protected a home from the surging waters. I wanted to preserve those things. They are like memories. There is a value in them.”

Bubb’s lifework is giving them even more.

How can you help? Donations through Open Japan are of course welcome. Additionally, there is still a need for people with special skills, like carpenters, machinery operators and gardeners.



古民家再生IBUKIプロジェクトは、被災地で活動している一般社団法人 OPEN JAPANの下で計画を進めてきた。同法人は、被災地で切望されるもの—例えば食事ができる公共の場所や、人々が集まれる場所など—を認識し、老朽化したり、津波の被害を受けた建物をカフェやコミュニティセンターにつくり変える計画を立てた。

Bubbさんたちは石巻からそう遠くない大原浜で、地元の人たちとの1年半に及ぶ話し合いと綿密な計画を経て、今年の3月から古民家の再生を始めている。資金のすべてはOPEN JAPANに寄せられた寄付金で賄われている。新築ではないので、国や県からの助成金を受けられる対象になっていないからだ。大原浜は牡鹿半島にあるが、この半島に住む人の数はそう多くはない。また建物の収容人数は50人くらい、屋外の庭を含めても100人程度だ。そう聞くと、この再生にどれほどの価値があるのかと気にする人もいるだろう。









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