05 March 2010

Becoming a nogyaru


(via OurWorld 2.0, the United Nations University)


Wow - what a fitting intersection of my studio project, my love for food and blogs, and my skepticism for pop culture! Through the eclectic Food Section blog, I learned a new term that I didn't know had significance beyond Paris Hilton. The word is:
Nogyaru ("farm gals") : a combination of nogyo (agriculture) and gyaru (gals).
And it actually has a semi-serious side - after first glance. Apparently in Japan, there's been a trend started by Shiho Fujita, a 19 year old pop star, that tries to bridge the gap between cosmopolitan young women and awareness of agricultural issues. Although this movement seems to be getting quite a bit of media attention because of the star qualities attached to it (and the novelty as well), I'm trying to see past the potential superficiality of this trendy gesture and figure out how this twist of innovation might actually alleviate the real problems of an aging farming population and the loss of agricultural knowledge and value in the rice growing areas of Japan.

This problem is actually part of my studio project, which is looking at revitalizing the satoyama landscape in the Shiga Prefecture, northeast of Kyoto. Our intervention (aka intended solution) and the studio brief is to design a bathhouse as a community center for 14 villages in the Tane valley that might begin to address these larger issues faced by the region, but symptomatic of a wider problem in Japanese culture and economy. I'm still doing research and trying to craft my approach, although one idea is related to developing polyculture farming that can act as an educational and resource sharing opportunity for villagers and visitors alike.

Although studio still operates in the theoretical realm (as in, our design solutions aren't linked with any direct, real world project), when we go to Japan over Spring Break, we'll have the opportunity to meet with the local officials and villagers to present our ideas and get a feel for the environment first hand. Can't wait!

And maybe I should try to capitalize on the fashionista side of farming for my concept... but blast it, someone else more famous than me already took the idea :\ . There go my 15 seconds of fame.