Naramachi,A Super Curious Town

In the summer of 2017, there was a festival where Naramachi, a town which still retains its old historic town atmosphere, was adorned and lit with paper lanterns. The town decided to hold an art exhibition with paper lanterns as a motif at the street corner in an area where the festival was being held. The planning was carried out by “team Chochin” led by project producer Atsushi Yamamoto, and I was in charge of the concept design for each area.

The location was not the typical street corner, but an area of major tourist attraction where world heritage sites such as Gangoji Temple and Sarusawa Pond are found, and places that make up the Nanto Hakkei (The Eight Views of Nara) can also be found here. As a result of negotiation dealing with regulations, the art exhibition was realized at four locations including a surprise display.

The concept of “Chochin (超cho: super 珍chin: curious)” is having participants discover sceneries that are extremely unique, and brightening the place like paper lanterns (chochin), a witty word play using homonyms. I wanted to promote to the world that Nara is not only about Buddhist statues and deer, but the fact that this town is full of lovable stories.






1.“Super Curious Pond” in Sarusawa Pond (realized)

On the south side overlooking the five-storied pagoda of Kohfukuji Temple is Sarusawa Pond constructed in 749 A.D. Here, I came up with an artwork where paper lanterns emitting faint light to float and sway in the water together with the insects, birds, turtles and carps living in the pond. The hint for this work came from a religious ritual called Houjoue at Kohfukuji Temple where captive animals are released into the wild to admonish against the taking of life. Paper lanterns are gently released into the pond. Instead of flashy electric lights, old flickering candle lights in traditional lanterns were recreated. Flashy festivals could be found elsewhere, but here in Nara, I felt that an event where we can engage ourselves in savoring the passing of time and the land in serenity. I aimed to create a new scenery while looking back at the history and stories of Naramachi.

『超珍な池』in 猿沢池 (実現)



2.“Super Curious Forest” at the remains of Shotoin at Gangoji Temple (realized)

This garden full of cherry blossoms and other trees, was a part of the vast land of Gangoji Temple during the 8th century (the Nara period). Today, only the Kokuzodo remains, but the priest who showed understanding for this project gave us permission to exhibit the works in the forest surrounded by darkness at night.

Here, I devised a space where the fairy Chochin-kun appears every night. Chochin-kun is a fairy produced by team Chochin that flies around illuminating the town’s super-rare things with paper lanterns, and this time Chochin-kun will fly through the forest. The visitors who encounter the installation will no doubt experience something very rare in this backyard area of Naramachi. Although it was highly regarded as a happening art which became a secrete photo-op spot, on the second day of the exhibition, there was a complaint lodged against this work, calling it “A nightmarish scene,” for the installation to be discontinued.

『超珍な森』 in 元興寺小塔院跡 (実現)




3. “Super Curious Dance” in Gangoji Temple (realized)

Within the grounds of Gangoji Temple, a world heritage site, paper lanterns that dance in the wind were installed. In the premises there are 32 stone Buddha statues and monuments called the old Kainozuka Fudodo . These are items collected here at Gangoji Temple from different places in Naramachi due to unavoidable circumstances such as land developments. Around these statues and stones, the same number of 32 paper lanterns dance. The lanterns quietly dance in the wind, in honor of each stone Buddha that had once stood throughout Naramachi. It was created in hopes that this project will contribute to preserving the culture and sceneries of this land and encourage people who visit to contemplate about the history of this area.

『超珍な舞』in 元興寺 (実現)


4. “Super Curious Street Stall” in an anonymous alley (realized)

Wood wheels spin in an alley at night, making a clattering noise, and the red paper lanterns sway. This work was inspired by lights and large two-wheeled wagons in Naramachi used in the old times. The sound and light from the past are revived by a running street stall. The performance art was created from the idea of having a drink at a stall lit by a red paper lantern, and then walking around Naramachi again. An ordinary bicycle (commonly known as Mamachari) from Suzuki’s house was used and is entrusted with a super-rare message that unusual conversations and sceneries can be generated from everyday items.

『超珍な屋台』 in どこかの路地 (実現)


Artwork / Fumitaka Suzuki(Yagyug Douguten)


5. “Super Curious Human Being” in a vacant land in Naramachi (unrealized)

The townhouses in Nara have narrow frontages facing the road but are very long in depth. When one walks through the earthen floor area past the entrance to the back side through a long hallway and an inner court, a quiet greenery area appears that is completely different from the front road. Paper lanterns are gathered there, emerging as a giant. Once every year the super-rare giant appears as the deity watching over Naramachi with its height taller than the roofs.

『超珍な人間』 in 奈良町の空地 (実現せず)



6. “Super Curious Deer” in Nara Park Clock Tower (Unrealized)

Although Nara is famous for deer and the large Buddha, there is also a clock tower that is sober in appearance and not attractive enough to be a tourist attraction. Deer are considered to be a messenger of God in Nara. I wanted to make this clock tower respected and celebrated as the symbol of entrance to Naramachi, therefore decided to make this clock tower become a deer adorned with paper lanterns. The reflection of the deer on Sarusawa Pond was supposed to be disseminated to the world as a new feature of Nara.

『超珍な鹿』 in 奈良公園時計台 (実現せず)


Project / Chochin Art in Naramachi
Date / August, 2017
Location / Nara-shi,Nara,Japan

Direction / Team Chochin
(Atsushi Yamamoto, Masanori Tagawa, Tatsuya Sakamoto, Takuji Sugiyama, Fumitaka Suzuki)

Planning / Fumitaka Suzuki (Yagyug Douguten)

© Photo & CG image / Yagyug Douguten

/ yagyug.jp