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    In Echigo-Tsumari, how to use art to break the boundaries of "Satoyama"?

    In Japan, "Satoyama" is a term that often appears in local revitalization projects.
    What is "Lishan"? As the name suggests, it refers to the place where the mountain is located. But different from the uninhabited deep mountainous areas, Lishan is usually adjacent to human gathering places, where there are unspoiled natural mountains and rivers, and there are endless village cultures. However, after the period of rapid economic growth in Japan, with the continuous outflow of the population, the Satoyama area has experienced many problems such as abandoned cultivated land, aging, and the decline of community strength.
    Recently, the Echigo-Tsumari Art Festival kicked off in 2022, making people interested in the topic of "Rejuvenating the Countryside with Art" again. Since its establishment in 2000, the art festival has gone through more than 20 spring and autumn.
    How much change has it brought to the "Lishan area", what kind of "Lishan" value has been unearthed, and can it activate the "Lishan" community?
    Why pay attention to "Lishan"?
    The main stage of the Echigo-Tsumari Earth Art Festival is located in the central part of Niigata Prefecture, in the Echigo-Tsumari area represented by Tokamachi City and Tsunan Town. "Echigo-Tsumari" is not actually a place name that exists on the map. In the past, "Tsumari" referred to the basin area surrounded by mountains on all sides of the upper Shinano River, and "Echigo" was the ancient name for Niigata Prefecture.
    Affected by the northwest monsoon, the warm current of the Sea of Japan and the mountains, Echigo-Tsumari is one of the few areas with heavy snowfall in Japan. One-third of the year is spent in the snow season, and the snow accumulation exceeds 2 meters all year round. However, compared with the southwestern part of Niigata Prefecture, there are few ski resorts and tourism resources here. The economy mainly depends on agriculture, and it has many grain fields. It is one of the best "rice factories" in Japan. View of the terraced rice fields in Tokamachi City. 

    View of the terraced rice fields in Tokamachi City.

    It is also one of the few areas with heavy snowfall in Japan. Tokamachi city official website map

    It is also one of the few areas with heavy snowfall in Japan. Tokamachi city official website map

    With the development of the times, like many "Satoyama areas", the problems of population loss and aging are becoming more and more serious. To give an example, the total area of Echigo-Tsumari area is 760 square kilometers, which is equivalent to the total area of Tokyo’s 23 wards (627 square kilometers). However, even in its heyday, the population of Tokamachi City was only 100,000 (1950). The peak population was 22,000 (1955). In the 1990s, the Echigo-Tsumari area had a population of nearly 80,000, but now there are only 63,000, and more than 200 villages have disappeared. Like many "Satoyama areas", the Echigo-Tsumari area is facing increasing problems of population loss and aging. Echigo-Tsumari Earth Art Festival official website map

    Like many "Satoyama areas", the Echigo-Tsumari area is facing increasing problems of population loss and aging. Echigo-Tsumari Earth Art Festival official website map

    In 1994, the Governor of Niigata Prefecture, Seio Hirayama, proposed the " NEW Niigata Sato Creation Plan ", which planned Tokamachi City, Tsunan Town, Kawanishi Town, Matsushiro Town, Matsunoyama Town, and Nakasato Village (1 city, 4 towns and 1 village) into the "Tokamachi Wide Area". Circle” to carry out independent regional revitalization operations. In 1996, the idea of building a "Tsumari Township Art Circle" was proposed, including the idea of holding an "art festival". In 1997, the "Echigo-Tsumari Art Executive Committee" was established. Commissioned by Seio Hirayama, art curator Furo Kitagawa, born in Takada City, Niigata Prefecture, served as the director. Therefore, in 2000, the "Echigo-Tsumari Earth Art Festival Triennale" was opened as a pillar activity of the regional revitalization project.
    Of course, focusing on the "Satoyama" is not just about the existence of social issues that need to be solved urgently. "Satoyama" also has a certain charm. In Tokamachi City, the Shinano River, known as "the longest in Japan", runs through the city. The coast is surrounded by mountains. To the west of Chongjin Gorge, there is Matsunoyama Hot Spring, one of the three major medicinal soups in Japan. On the terraced fields, relics of the Jomon period were also discovered, and national treasure-level cultural relics such as "flame-shaped pottery" were unearthed. Village scenery of Matsushiro Town, Tokamachi City. 

    Village scenery of Matsushiro Town, Tokamachi City.

    "Flame-shaped pottery" of the Jomon period unearthed locally is a cultural relic of the national treasure level of Japan. Wikipedia map

    "Flame-shaped pottery" of the Jomon period unearthed locally is a cultural relic of the national treasure level of Japan. Wikipedia graph

    Therefore, what people need to do is to rediscover the value of "Lishan", a bridge to communicate with the outside world, and a medium to speak for "Lishan". So, Echigo wife has a choice - art. Poster for the 2022 Echigo-Tsumari Earth Art Festival. Echigo-Tsumari Earth Art Festival official website map

    Poster for the 2022 Echigo-Tsumari Earth Art Festival. Echigo-Tsumari Earth Art Festival official website map

    How does Dadi Art Festival speak for "Lishan"?
    Why "art"? Art Festival director Kitagawa Fulang once said in an interview, "Art is originally a 'technology' used to express the severe issues and contradictions of the era in the relationship between nature, civilized society and human beings." Therefore, it is quite appropriate to use modern art to express the limitations of cities, the global environment, and the disappearance of local cultures in globalization.
    This sentence is of course addressed to the artist. For ordinary people, Furang Beichuan believes that the charm of art is "interesting", which can better show the culture of the region and bring "pride" to the residents, which is more important than anything else, and only with it can the residents be inspired A love of home and the dynamism of rebuilding it.
    Therefore, when selecting works, whether the works can be integrated with the local natural scenery, whether the local customs and customs can be experienced through the works of art, and whether the space experience is in place, has become the key.
    For example, in 2000, Russian artist Ilya Kabakov and his wife saw villagers working in the cold wind when they visited Echigo's wife, so they created the work "Paddy Field" with labor as the theme. In the work, the installation with poems stands on the deserted terraced fields, as if growing from the fields, and the colorful sculptures also vividly depict the image of the local people's industrious farming. "Paddy Field" has been widely disseminated on the Internet and has also become a landmark work of the "Echigo-Tsumari Earth Art Festival". "Paddy Field" by Russian artist Ilya Kabakov and his wife Echigo-Tsumari Earth Art Festival official website

    "Paddy Field" by Russian artist Ilya Kabakov and his wife Echigo-Tsumari Land Art Festival official website map

    In 2006, Akiko Uchikai's installation "For Those Lost Windows" was equally impressive. She stood a simple white window frame on the top of the mountain. Behind the fluttering white curtains was the stunning scenery of Satoyama. The beautiful scenery stayed in front of her eyes and changed with the change of time and season. natural time. Akiko Uchikai's installation work "For those lost windows" Echigo-Tsumari Earth Art Festival official website map

    Uchikai Akiko's installation "For those lost windows" Echigo-Tsumari Earth Art Festival official website map

    And "The Last Classroom" by Christian Boltanski. In the abandoned Tokamachi Municipal Sanada Elementary School auditorium, dim light bulbs hang from the ceiling, swaying slowly under the blowing of electric fans, and the dreamy light and shadow are reflected on the walls. The artist also collected the heartbeats of the villagers, and collected many school-related souvenirs from the villagers, such as certificates of merit, newspapers, graduation photos, and toys, and stacked them in this place full of memories. The Last Classroom by Christian Boltanski. Echigo-Tsumari Earth Art Festival official website map

    The Last Classroom by Christian Boltanski. Echigo-Tsumari Earth Art Festival official website map

    In 2009, during the opening of the 4th Echigo-Tsumari Land Art, the "Bowl & Tajima Seizo's Picture Book Art Museum", which was renovated from the Sanada Elementary School Building, also officially opened (the museum is located in a museum called "Bowl". village, hence the name). Hachi & Seizo Tajima's Picture Book Museum official website map

    In 2009, during the opening of the 4th Echigo-Tsumari Land Art, the "Bowl & Tajima Seizo's Picture Book Art Museum", which was renovated from the Sanada Elementary School Building, also officially opened (the museum is located in a museum called "Bowl". village, hence the name). The official website of the Picture Book Museum of Bowl & Seizo Tajima

    Although the first Dadi Art Festival opened amid doubts and objections, the 148 works from 32 countries and regions finally attracted 162,000 visitors, and made a good profit without extensive publicity. As word-of-mouth spreads widely in the art world and social media, the number of tourists increases year by year and penetrates more people.
    In an interview with the media, Beichuan Furang said that it doesn't matter whether you can read or understand art . "Like music, even if you don't fully understand it, there are people who like it and don't like it. It's the same with art. You don't need to think about the esoteric issue of understanding or not. Wouldn't it be nice to be happy?" Indeed, among the hundreds of thousands of tourists who come to the art festival every year, the proportion of artists is no more than 10%. Most of them are young men and women in their twenties and thirties, as well as family tourists. mentality. Yayoi Kusama's work "Flower Blossoms Tsumari" near the "Nong Stage"

    Yayoi Kusama's work "Flower Blossoms Tsumari" near the "Nong Stage"

    The arrival of a large number of tourists has also restored the self-esteem of the region, and the countryside that was once regarded as "inefficient" has been re-evaluated by the outside world. "In the past, everyone wanted to give up, thinking it was not worth living in such a place, and was left behind by the times and the city. But people who came to the festival said, 'This is a wonderful place.'" Tokamachi Mayor Sekiguchi Kafumi express. During the festival, local villagers act as volunteers to receive domestic and foreign tourists. Echigo-Tsumari Earth Art Festival official website map

    During the festival, local villagers act as volunteers to receive domestic and foreign tourists. Echigo-Tsumari Earth Art Festival official website map

    The acceptance of art festivals by local villagers has also increased significantly. According to 2018 data, 91.8% of respondents felt "good" to have art works in the village. Among the specific reasons, 60.7% said that "the increase in tourists is helpful for regional revitalization". Villagers took the initiative to join the volunteer team, and even farmers who had given up farming were encouraged to re-enter the rice fields.
    "Many people who came to Echigo-Tsumu thought, 'It's great to be able to talk to the locals'. On the other hand, the local residents also provide tourists with delicious water, tomatoes and watermelons... ....Meet all kinds of people, broaden their horizons and experience, and for human beings, this is the origin of economic activity and has greater value than money." Kitagawa Fulang said. Visitors can taste unique local cuisine here. Echigo-Tsumari Earth Art Festival official website map

    Visitors can taste unique local cuisine here. Echigo-Tsumari Earth Art Festival official website map

    What are the visible changes in the past two decades?
    Returning to the most crucial question, what visible changes did the Dadi Art Festival bring to "Lishan"?
    Every year, after the Echigo-Tsumari Dadi Art Festival, the Tokamachi City Government will publish a "report" on its official website, detailing the effectiveness of the art festival. Three important indicators are "increase in the exchange population". , "Dissemination of Regional Information" and "Regional Revitalization".
    In terms of exchange population, the number of visitors to each Echigo-Tsumari Dadi Art Festival has basically maintained a steady increase of 10% to 20%. The special one was the third session in 2006, with 348,997 visitors, an increase of 70% compared to the previous session. It is worth mentioning that, shortly after the end of the second Dadi Art Festival in 2004, a major earthquake occurred in the Niigata Chuetsu region in October, and in winter, there was a record heavy snow. Many of the art festival's exhibits, homes, and even the villagers' rice fields were severely damaged that year.
    Against this background, the whole country of Japan has given great attention and assistance to the reconstruction of the Echigo-Tsumari disaster area, including participating artists, staff and the "Kohebi" volunteer team of the art festival. In 2006, the 3rd Dadi Art Festival put forward the "Empty House Project" with the theme of "Renaissance", inviting artists to create works based on the disaster-stricken empty houses. The project also received responses from nearly 100 local villages. , mobilized 300,000 people. In 2006, the 3rd Dadi Art Festival proposed the "Empty House Project", inviting artists to create works based on the disaster-stricken empty houses. Echigo-Tsumari Earth Art Festival official website map

    In 2006, the 3rd Dadi Art Festival proposed the "Empty House Project", inviting artists to create works based on the disaster-stricken empty houses. Echigo-Tsumari Earth Art Festival official website map

    In terms of funding, the budget, which had fallen due to local financial constraints, was fortunately funded by companies in the metropolitan area. At the same time, the Echigo-Tsumari Earth Art Festival has also been reported by more domestic and foreign media, and its popularity has been greatly improved. According to data from the Tokamachi city government, more than half of the visitors from outside the prefecture were from the Kanto region, and nearly 30% were young people aged 20 to 29, mostly women.
    In terms of regional revitalization, the 50-day Echigo-Tsumari Dadi Art Festival has created economic benefits of about 5.6 billion yen for the entire Niigata Prefecture , including not only tourism consumption, but also investment in construction. The organizer conducted a questionnaire survey on vendors in Jinnan Town, one of the venues, and found that the most obvious increase in revenue was in the accommodation industry such as hotels and hotels. Subsequently, the executive committee of the art festival, which was only planned to hold three times, received an application from the Tsunancho Ryokan Association (hotel business association), hoping that the art festival could continue. 2000 James Turrell's "House of Light" is a work that can provide a tourist accommodation experience. Echigo-Tsumari Earth Art Festival official website map

    2000 James Turrell's "House of Light" is a work that can provide a tourist accommodation experience. Echigo-Tsumari Earth Art Festival official website map

    In 2018, although the domestic tourism market in Japan was slightly affected by the extreme heat, this year's Echigo-Tsumari Earth Art Festival has expanded on a large scale in the Asian market, and especially invited a large number of Chinese artists to join in the exhibition. The "China House" project is therefore also a well-known session among Chinese domestic audiences. The number of tourists reached 548,000, of which overseas tourists accounted for 8.7% (1.8% in the previous session). The entire art festival has brought about 6.5 billion yen in economic benefits to the prefecture.
    This year, in response to the impact of the epidemic, extending the exhibition schedule is undoubtedly one of the important measures to make up for the loss. In 2018, during the 7th Echigo-Tsumari Earth Art Festival, the work "Tunnel of Light" designed by Chinese architect Ma Yansong and his firm in the Chongjin Gorge Tunnel became the topic of the year. The work attracted more than 80,000 visitors. The work uses stainless steel to reflect the natural beauty of the valley on the water surface of the tunnel floor, forming a dreamy and beautiful reflection. Echigo-Tsumari Earth Art Festival official website map

    In 2018, during the 7th Echigo-Tsumari Earth Art Festival, the work "Tunnel of Light" designed by Chinese architect Ma Yansong and his firm in the Chongjin Gorge Tunnel became the topic of the year. The work attracted more than 80,000 visitors. The work uses stainless steel to reflect the natural beauty of the valley on the water surface of the tunnel floor, forming a dreamy and beautiful reflection. Echigo-Tsumari Earth Art Festival official website map

    In addition to the intuitive economic benefits, one important change for the Echigo-Tsumari area is undoubtedly the increase in long-term migrants.
    In 2019, about 61 people moved to live in Tokamachi, Niigata Prefecture. In 2020, that number has grown to 150. Due to the epidemic, more and more urbanites have become interested in moving to suburbs and rural areas rich in nature, coupled with the popularity of telecommuting. In 2021, the immigrant population will grow to 166.
    On the other hand, from 2009, Tokamachi City took the lead in introducing the " regional revitalization cooperation team " project. The so-called "regional revitalization cooperation team" means that the local government appoints urban citizens who have the desire to emigrate as " regional revitalization cooperation members ", and through participation in local agriculture, fishery, festivals and other activities, "run-in" to integrate into the local community. After the term ends, it is possible to settle in the area.
    Since its implementation, Tokamachi City has appointed a total of 82 "regional revitalization cooperation members". Not only is there a large number of applicants, but the post-retirement settlement rate is around 70%, much higher than the national average.
    In addition, Tokamachi has also launched a business to renovate vacant houses into shared houses , and at low rents, it is offered to those who wish to move in for a "trial stay", in addition to participating in agricultural experiences, tours of Satoyama, and more. "Regional revitalization cooperation members" can participate in local activities such as agriculture, fishery, festivals, etc., to "run-in" to integrate into the local community. Echigo-Tsumari Earth Art Festival official website map

    "Regional revitalization cooperation members" can participate in local activities such as agriculture, fishery, festivals, etc., to "run-in" to integrate into the local community. Echigo-Tsumari Earth Art Festival official website map

    Of course, change is not only happening in the Echigo-Tsumari area. Shiga Prefecture, Ishikawa Prefecture, Yamagata Prefecture, Kagawa Prefecture, Ibaraki Prefecture, etc. have also imitated and launched more than ten art festivals, large and small, most of which are held once every three years or once every two years. Take Ogi Island, one of the venues of the "Setouchi International Arts Festival", for example. The island has a population of less than 200 people, but since the festival was held in 2010, more than 40 migrants have been added. The island's primary and secondary schools and conservation The island has also been reopened; Shodoshima has an average of 225 immigrants per year after 2013; Naoshima’s annual population reduction rate of more than 2% has improved to about 1%, and there is a trend of stopping the decline.
    For more than 20 years, the "Earth Art Festival Effect" has spread all over Japan and even went overseas. The population of Ogijima has grown since the Setouchi International Arts Festival was held. wikipedia graph

    The population of Ogijima has grown since the Setouchi International Arts Festival was held. Wikipedia graph

    Looking back at the beginning of the Earth Art Festival, hundreds of art works were scattered on a vast area of 760 square kilometers. People often sweated through the fields to see a few works, running for hours or even days. This decentralized exhibition method is one of the most criticized places for art festivals.
    And this can also be seen that the real intention of the earth art festival - art is only a medium for connecting people to people and villages to villages. We should give more time to the landscape and local customs here to deepen the relationship between people and the earth. tacit agreement.

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