• design camp
Smart Craft Studio in Hida 2017_1st WEEK  “Immersive learning experience – Tradition + Wood working + IoT + AI + Local Community”

Day 1 – Welcomed by the city mayor’s greet and local band’s dansable music

Smart Craft Studio 2017 welcomed 30 talented students who are majoring architecture, design, fashion and media technology from 4 schools in New York, Toronto, Taipei and Hong Kong and started 23 days intense design camp on May 28. The first day started with a greet by the Hida mayor, Mr. Tsuzuku. He introduced about the unique culture and history of Hida, local sake functioning as local money, the consideration for landscape by the citizen, the importance of the local festival to foster the mutual cooperation between people, and the challenges of utilizing rich broad-leaved trees and inheritance of traditional joinery technique.


At night, we had welcome party enjoying local sake and food. Our mayor stood at the counter and made a pop-up sake bar as a surprising gift. The local music band came in and everyone enjoyed dancing with the neighbors, which turned out to be a great start of the 23 days of intense camp!


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 Day 2 – Getting to know the forest and experiencing the town

The second day started with the mountain walk. By a guide of Mr. Takeda from Hida city government, the students learned about the forestry and the current situation and issue Japan is facing not having utilized the local trees.


In the afternoon, students visited the lumber mill where they saw the process of logs being cut and made into slices as well as the importance of drying process for wood to be used as products. When they saw sheets of plate of hard wood which are in variety of grain, color and texture, they all got attracted to it. When they heard that those hard wood were not used and abandoned in the forest, they seemed sensing that there is something worth doing for future. They were also surprised that the sales price of wood in the urban area costs triple as expensive as the ones sold here in Hida.

image6As a next destination, students visited the joinery museum where they could see different type of joineries invented by master craft man called as “Takumi” in the old time.  Mr. Naoi explained about the structure of the joinery but also the signature called as “Kumo” (meaning “cloud”)  the Takumi in Hida used to put on the houses they built. According to him, Takumi invented experimental types of joineries which is not actually practical but more for entertainment purpose to challenged to the future generation to see if they can disassemble. Interestingly, Hida no Takumi hides the joint part when they use for the architecture. From the perspective of designers, the beautiful joint part should rather be shed a light on. From these aspect, you can see the unique culture including humanity and the aesthetic of Hida.


At the end of the day, we walked around the Hida Furukawa town with a local guide. Students found many beautiful houses being maintained for over 100 years by the Takumi’s joinery technique and their signatures exhibited on some part of the house. The town itself is like a architectural museum where you could see detailed Takumi’s technique used for a variety of places such as column, sliding door, lattice, etc.

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Day 3 – Experiencing the wood working and see the wood from design and functional perspective

On the 3rd day of the camp, students headed to Hida Sangyo showroom to see the furniture and the factory where the furniture is produced, visited the research lab where they explore methods and technique to use softwood. Hida sangyo is trying to use the the thinned cedar wood for furniture from their social perspective. They started a laboratory to compress the cedar to use for furniture and to extract the essence to produce aroma goods.


P2700556The scientist, Mr. Tanahashi at Hida Sangyo Kitsutsuki lab. showed a variety of different shapes of wood such as square, pierced, stretchy, all of which are the outcome of  his long-run research.P2700598P2700631In the afternoon, students visited their office to learn the wood-working. Students experienced shaving wood with a Japanese plane and also made a vase with the bending wood technique. Then, they learned how to read the grain (wood pattern) from the perspective of design as well as the direction of power by Mr. Tamada, the director of the wood-working school run by Hida Sangyo. P2700669


At night, we received a presentation by Mr. Tsuda from Tsukuba university on the importance of biodiversity and genetic diversity in forests. We learned how our lives are intertwined with the forest and the woods.


Day 4 – Research on the local and introduction to Watson

The 4th day, we received a presentation by Kyle Li, Assistant Professor of Communication Design & Technology from Parsons New School of Design. He gave a lecture on design and also his point of view on technology. For some students, being exposed to the idea of AI was their first time experience but thanks to Kyle’s well-thought introductory, humor and rhythm, everyone was intrigued and amazed of the power and potential of the technology for future. 

P2700800 By starting from introducing his own story of how it was difficult to arrive in Hida all the way from Narita airport for people who do not understand the local language in the environment where there was not enough signs to guide you. After that, he had each group of students to reflect their own experience and think how your experience would have been better if there were something that could resolve the problems they faced. For example,  “What if there was AI that could translate when you faced problems with language during your journey? ”



Day 5 – Interviewing locals and introduction to Watson

On the 5th day morning, students worked together in groups to conduct interviews. Each student had a chance to interview the locals to gather information on their lives, their work and their problems and thoughts on Hida Furukawa. The goal for this interview was to discover opportunity areas and issues they could work on for their final product. The interview was the first opportunity for students to branch out to local communities. They were able to make connections with the locals. The people of Hida welcomed students very friendly and were open to questions. Some groups who interviewed the vegetable farmer received a head of lettuce each.


In the afternoon, students had a hands-on session with Kyle. By the end of the day, they were all able to set their computer up and were experimenting with Watson by talking to their microphones to see if Watson understands their commands.

34277394953_77429dbbc5_k35087662725_0800b0184f_kAfter intense daytime, tasty dinner from the local Japanese restaurant is waiting for the students.DSC05085

The lecture which took place post dinner was given by the Mr. Nakamura, the forestry division manager of Hida City. He gave us a detailed presentation on the complex situation Japanese Forestry is facing as well as the valuable timber resources Japan and Hida has for future. One of the memorable quotes by him were “Forestry means to work with nature. And nature is something humans cannot predict. However, there still needs to be calculation/planning create and increase the value and trust in Japanese forestry. ”

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Day 6 – Group Discussion on Interveiw + IoT Workshop

On the last day of the 1st week, each group received IoT workshop by Prof. Shigeru Kobayashi from IAMAS and leaned the hands-on lesson on  IoT using raspberry pie. IMG_3053In the afternoon, each team discussed their insights and discoveries on the interview which took place the day before. Each group shared their view and insights by writing their findings on a post-it. From there, they tried to create keywords which they thought might be interesting to work on as a concept. IMG_3054 IMG_3081