Graduate school seminar at Hokuryūko (Nagano)

Every year around the end of June, Bunka Gakuen University organizes a graduate school seminar for all the graduate students in the university. The seminar usually lasts for three days, and while aimed at providing the students in their graduate year with the opportunity to present their research in progress, it also aims to deepen the bonds between all the students through providing a space for cultural and academic exchange.

The weekend-long stay is also colored by several workshops, organised by the students themselves. These workshops make the weekend at Hokuryūkan a bit less academic and formal, and provides the students with an opportunity to explore Japan in a setting that is different from Tokyo.

For the second years, the seminar acts as a space to share the results of their thesis research with the other students in the graduate school. The academic exchange is aimed to encourage the students to re-evaluate their own research while listening to the presentations of their peers.

Of course, all work and no play make Jack a dull boy, and therefore there is plenty of time provided in the evenings to relax and have fun with the students’ peers. The beautiful environment and the onsen (hot water springs) of the resort create the ideal atmosphere to relax while enjoying Nagano’s remarkable natural beauty.

In the 2019 edition of the Hokuryū seminar, the GFC students also organized several workshops linked to their research, next to presenting their thesis topics. There were workshops in photography, sketching and hip-hop dance, in which all the GFC students participated together.

Due to the COVID19 pandemic, the Graduate school seminars of 2020, 2021 and 2022 were cancelled. We hope to be able to participate in the seminar again next year.

Ginza Motoji

Every year, we visit the bespoke kimono store Motoji in Ginza as a part of the class Japanese Art & Design. Motoji is famous for making kimono out of silk farmed in Japan only, working together with craftsmen and tailors based in and around the city of Tokyo and all over Japan. They emphasize the idea of transparency in their kimono making, through listing each participant in the research, weaving, and dyeing process, to bring the craftsmen closer to the customers.

During our visits, Keita Motoji, the son of the founder of the store, gives a small lecture on the origins of the store, their goals and their image. This is followed by an introduction to kimono making methods practiced in Japan (both dyeing and weaving methods). While explaining the several techniques, Keita shows the students examples of the corresponding fabrics that they sold or held at the store. After the lecture, students visit Motoji’s Oshima Tsumugi weave specialty store to see a live example of how Oshima Tsumugi is woven.

In 2018 we visited the store for the first time. Due to the pandemic, we organised virtual visits to the store for the students in 2020 and 2021, and this year, in 2022, we were able to organise real-life visits to the store again.

Bunka fashion research lab for textiles

On June 2022, we visited the Bunka fashion textile resource center with the first years students for the first time, to have a look at how they conduct textile research. This research facility aims to preserve traditional methods of weaving and to initiate new generations in these methods. On the other hand, they aim to pursue the development of new weaving methods. Furthermore, the facility keeps an archive of multiple historical and contemporary textile samples, and has also conducted multiple collaborations with graduate designers from BFGU. The facility’s goal is to create a new world(view) through the development of textiles. In order to conduct this research, the facility has assembled a set of automated weaving machines, and during our visit, we were guided around the facility to observe these machines in action.

We have been visiting the resource center yearly since 2018, and some of our GFC students were even able to develop textile collaborations that they integrated in their final collections. We hope that we will be able to develop many more collaborations in the future!

Teijin and Nuno, together with ENSAD students

On October 29th, 2018, ten students from ENSAD Paris visited our GFC course. The day was filled with activities for both the ENSAD and GFC students. In the morning, we organised a presentation session in which the first year GFC students and the visitors from ENSAD presented their own research, and explained what they were working on at the moment. After the presentations, prof. Isabelle Rodier, who accompanied the ENSAD students, gave a short presentation on the textile design course in ENSAD and presented some graduate work.

After the presentation session, we visited the showroom of Japan’s leading fiber specialist company Teijin, in which we were introduced to their major activities in fiber development. After our visit to Teijin, we visited the studio of Nuno, a company working on the development of creative textiles in Japan. Nuno has recently been involved in the exhibition Koinobori Now held at the National Arts Center Tokyo in April 2018. Prof. Reiko Sudo, a leading textile designer and key person behind the group presented to us the concept of Nuno and some recent projects that were taken on by the group.

Noguchi Indigo atelier

On July 19, 2017, we visited the Indigo atelier of the Noguchi family, a 7th generation family of Indigo dyers. The atelier has a longstanding tradition: the vats of indigo used at the atelier were put in just after the big earthquake in 1923, and suffered no damage in March 2011. The Noguchi family has been living in the house, dyeing fabric for almost 180 years. They used to have their stencils done by someone else, but a couple generations back the business started shrinking and they started doing it themselves.

We visited the atelier with the first year students, who were asked to bring some of their own fabric or threads that they wanted to have dyed. The students were free to use whatever technique they wanted in dyeing their fabric, this was done through using several shibori methods.

Our course has been visiting the private atelier over a few years thanks to the help of dr. Daphne Mohajer va Pesaran.

On July 6, 2018, we visited the atelier again together with designer and lecturer at Central St. Martins Elisa Palomino, who wanted to experiment with the dyeing of stencils on fish skin, as part of her research. Again, the first year students were invited to participate in the indigo dyeing at the atelier after witnessing Elisa’s fish skins dyeing process.

We are hoping that this tradition may continue into the future!

Some no Komichi

Some no Komichi is a bi-annual event celebrating the dyeing and making of kimono. The event takes place in Tokyo’s Nakai district, an area with a longstanding history in kimono making, and is held usually around February (and sometimes in November too, as a smaller version of the February edition). During the event, the whole area becomes a gallery, and all the participating studios make noren textiles and display them on the street, so visitors can admire their works and their techniques. Sometimes there are English guided tours of the outdoor galleries and river gallery. Nakai is an area that is usually closed to people who don’t have an appointment, so the festival is a rare opportunity to see all the different textile dyeing and printing techniques.

The number of ateliers participating in the events is stunning, this map shows an overview of the participating ateliers in the 2018 February edition. There are studios in Nakai specializing in different techniques such as: Okinawan Bingata, Edo Komon, Tie-dye (Shibori-zome), Natural plant dyes (Kusaki-zome), Stencil dyeing (Kata-zome), and hand painting called Yuzen (Yuzen-zome).

From 2016 to 2018, a kimono fashion show was organized, in which kimono designed by students and teachers at our university were shown by models recruited from within the university. The show presented a great opportunity to see kimono work made at our university up close, a rare occasion!

During the Transboundary Fashion Seminar 4.2 we visited Some no Komichi under the guidance of Sheila Cliffe, who has been a co-organizer of the event for many years. If you are in town during the event, please don’t hesitate to visit and have a look at the wonderful heritage on display!