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kyodo 20_30: Reaching beyond Invisible Borders through Creative Collaboration

Date: 12.14.2020

Wanted: Participants to join kyodo 20_30, an initiative bringing together a diverse group of young people to collaborate on creative projects.

Based in Kyodo, a neighborhood in Tokyo’s Setagaya City, this initiative brings together ten young people between the ages of 20 and 30 to participate as core members or “players,” who will meet every two weeks through the end of February 2021. Although the spots for players have all been filled at this time, anyone who cannot commit to participation on a regular basis or who does not fit the age demographic can still be involved as a “supporter.” If this sounds like you or someone you know, then be sure to check out the website for Beyond Invisible Borders, the arts program supporting kyodo 20_30!

Left to right: Yuuri Mikami, Masayuki Kobayashi, and Yasuhito Yano from Beyond Invisible Borders at Kyodo Atelier.

I met recently with three of the organizers of kyodo 20_30 at the Kyodo Atelier, a studio in a leafy residential neighborhood that serves as the main base for the project.

“The name kyodo 20_30 is a combination of the name of this area and the target age range of the players, who are the main focus of the project. Young people aged between 20 and 30 will be taking their places as leaders in society in ten years’ time, in various ways and various areas,” explains Yasuhito Yano, the project director for the Beyond Invisible Borders program. Yano comes from a background in theater.

“The team will be meeting twice a month till the end of February next year. Meetings got underway in October, but it certainly isn’t too late to join! Anyone is welcome to join us in a more casual capacity—dropping in when they can—as a supporter. There are no age restrictions for supporters,” Yano says.

 

Diverse Backgrounds and Open Minds

Some of the participants at the first project meeting for kyodo 20_30.

Do participants in kyodo 20_30 need to have an artistic or creative background? “Not at all!” says Yano. “Of course, we believe it will appeal to such people, but no previous experience is necessary for participation. The most important thing is a sense of curiosity and being open to new ideas—and a willingness to work with others to create something interesting.”

The ten young people who have joined kyodo 20_30  as players include university students and working people. Some of the team have international roots, and new applications from non-Japanese to participate as supporter are very welcome . While it is ideal for participants to understand spoken Japanese, the organizers can provide language support in English, Chinese, and French. Japanese writing ability is not required.

kyodo 20_30 participants exploring the Kyodo neighborhood together.

kyodo 20_30 is supported by the Beyond Invisible Borders program, which in turn comes under Tokyo Artpoint Project. Tokyo Artpoint Project works with local communities and citizens to foster an environment where everyone can be actively involved in artistic and cultural endeavors, expanding and disseminating the appeal of Tokyo. Tokyo Artpoint Project is administered jointly by the Tokyo Metropolitan Foundation for History and Culture and Arts Council Tokyo.

Masayuki Kobayashi, a professional photographer and exhibition designer, serves as the program’s executive director. He hopes that kyodo 20_30 will become a platform for deepening discussion and understanding through a variety of creations, with participants reflecting on ways to “transcend invisible borders” in the wider community.

“The participants are still in the very early stages of talking and getting to know each other, so we don’t yet know what the end results will be. However, the plan is to have an event to showcase the results on February 27 and 28 here at the Kyodo Atelier,” explains Kobayashi.

“It sounds a bit grandiose, but we are calling this event ‘Kyodo Expo’. We have high hopes!” Yano chimes in with a grin. “We’re very much looking forward to seeing what comes out of this.”

 

Helping Hands

It’s all about sharing different points of view: kyodo 20_30 participants taking part in ice-breaker activities at Kyodo Atelier.

Along with the ten players, kyodo 20_30 includes eight people known as “collaborators,” who will serve as mentors and advisers to the players during the project. They have a wide variety of backgrounds and include individuals with Chinese and Japanese-Brazilian roots. The collaborators are mostly in their thirties, so just a little bit further along the road than the players in their life journeys. Acting, picture-book illustration, modern art, graphic design, and even philosophy research are some of the creative fields they represent.

Yuuri Mikami, a freelance graphic designer, is in charge of communications for the Beyond Invisible Borders program.  “When it comes to the collaborators, each one has their own reasons for participating. Some have studied or worked abroad, for example, while others have been involved in projects with international connections,” she explains. “However, they all have an interest in the overall theme of ‘transcending invisible borders’ and they are excited to be involved.”

“Collaborators will help to shape and facilitate whatever creative projects the players want to work on—but always in a spirit of collaboration. Everyone will be learning from each other, regardless of age or experience,” adds Yano.

 

Communication Is the Key

Creativity comes in many forms: one of the kyodo 20_30 players.

Like just about everything else this year, kyodo 20_30 has been affected by COVID-19. The original plans were to have up to thirty players involved in the project, but the group was subsequently downsized to ten.

“When we were discussing our options in the wake of COVID-19, I suggested that we could switch to doing things virtually this year with online meetings,” says Kobayashi. “However, Yasuhito was determined that everyone should have the chance to meet in person, even if the project had to be scaled back.”

“Yes, the whole idea of the project is to break down barriers, form connections, and communicate with people with different backgrounds and points of view. Communication is limited when you have to do things virtually,” says Yano.

Naturally, in line with government guidelines, everyone is taking precautions to protect against the spread of COVID-19, including mask wearing and social distancing during all activities.

“I think that what we have learned from COVID-19 is that people are worried or frightened about what they can’t see. And now that we can’t meet face-to-face, connections are being lost,” Yano points out. In Japan, for example, there have been incidents of people who travel to other prefectures being met with a hostile reaction from local residents, who are worried about the spread of COVID-19.

Yano is a native of Nagoya but moved to Tokyo to start a career in theater after completing his education. After being based mainly in Tokyo for a decade, Yano found his perspective broadening when his work started taking him to Asia and Europe, as well as through interaction with international theater professionals. “When I was back in Tokyo, even though I was in Japan’s largest city, I couldn’t see it as being  very globalized. It seemed everyone was inward looking,” he recalls.

“There are already many people with international roots here in Japan, and that number will continue to increase. Even though we are starting out small with kyodo 20_30 this year, I believe we can create something worthwhile that helps people think outside the box,” he says.

According to Yano, funding is secured for the project to run for the next three years, but he hopes that kyodo 20_30 can continue until the year 2030 rolls around. “Perhaps we will see some of the players from this year returning as collaborators by 2030, helping to mentor the next generation. Wouldn’t that be something?” he muses.

For more information on Beyond Invisible Borders and kyodo 20_30, or to apply to become a  supporter, go to www.tokyokokkyo.tokyo/?lang=en.

Please note that while all details were correct at the time of writing, the official website has the most up-to-date information.

 

This article was written Louise George Kittaka.

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