Life Goes On: The Village During Pandemic

Among the population of 70 people in Kiwanosato, the majority are over seventy with the eldest celebrating her ninetieth birthday this April (2020).

Grizedale Arts should be there now (April 2020), working with the villagers to construct a dream garden and hybrid bee house and hunting out fancy mushrooms in the bamboo forest. Although we all have to hold our actions for the moment, nature in the valley keeps moving and so do the villagers. Naturally isolated for centuries the valley’s land remains active with non-stop growing, and no shadow of the pandemic as new bamboo shoots appear.

In our absence, Dream of Kiwanosato project manager and artist Motoko Fujita is keeping in touch with the village and has compiled some of their updates below:

Mrs. Yoshimura (wife of the chairperson, 75 years old)

“I went to the local shop in town to get masks and there were only two packs left. I got one pack but left the other for somebody else. After returning home, I started to cook Tempura and set it on a piece of kitchen paper. I suddenly thought: Kitchen paper….yes! why can’t I make a mask from kitchen paper!”

She recalls when she was young nothing was ‘disposable’ and masks were no exception. Soft cotton fabric masks were readily available and commonly used by Japanese school children when they took their turn in serving school lunch to everyone and then washed after use. In Japan, students are required to help out with work to maintain school life, including serving food and cleaning classrooms.

After the conversation with Mrs. Yoshimura over the phone, I made a mask using one of my mother’s cotton kimono fabric with soft linen on the back. The strings are made from recycled stocking – a gentle touch to ears. I posted this to my mother-in-law who is currently isolating at home in Ireland.


Keep that kiln a firing

Mr. Kato (a retired businessman who has led the local pottery group for 15 years)

“I was lucky to be chosen as one of the Olympic torch bearers this year. Well, it was not a bad thing to postpone something fun for a while – until next year. I will keep preparing myself ready to run.”

Mr. Kato’s pottery group Gaga Yudo (meaning ‘enjoy yourself in playing with clay’) holds an annual exhibition in Kikugawa, a town beside Kiwanosato village, every November. Grizedale Arts have collaborated with them through on various programmes hosted in the village. Artist Tom Philipson led the development of bamboo mould pottery as one of the village products, and with their support, he will return later this year to host one of our schools with fellow maker, Joe Hartley.

Keep the Bees Happy

Mr Kaneko (a retired businessman, beekeeper, grower and a young lad in the village)

“Bees need bloom in February and March. Maybe next time you come to Kiwanosato you can plant rape blossoms because they are very good for bees. I will keep updating the garden but I will not have social drinks with friends for the next few months, that is the only change!”

Grizedale Arts organised a new bee garden last October with artist and gardener Karen Guthrie who planned the challenging self-managing garden as a test case. The garden will require no weeding and has anti-deer & boar prevention incorporated with no need for traps or scaring devices.  Mr. Kaneko continues to report back regularly on how the garden is developing, with each of his reports very clear and precisely delivered. When I read his reports, I can imagine how he was when he worked as an engineer in one of the big bathroom fixtures companies in Japan.