A path along the banks of Kitakami River

隈研吾 (建築家)
Kengo Kuma (Architect)






I have associated with Kitakami River for 20 years. The trigger was the designing of the Noh Theatre in Tome, Tome-City near the upper river. Tome is a tranquil, small town, yet the culture of Noh has been passed down uninterruptedly since the period of Date Clan (since about seventeenth century). The youth are learning the Noh enthusiastically in the Noh circle and continuing to perform even today.
Furthermore, in this town remains the ordinary primary school that was built in 1888, the 21st year of Meiji era. This was a very fine construction, reportedly a work of Kesen carpenters. Although Kesen carpenters are a group of craftsmen that are reputed with their fine skills and represent Japan, we suffered a substantial damage from the Great East Japan Earthquake to the extent that we were worried about their existence. However, the building itself was not damaged at all and maintains the beautiful proportion and the warm feel of material.
Go downstream on the Kitakami River, and you will reach Ishinomaki, from which the Kitakami Canal diverges. It was in 1997 when they designed the Kitakami Canal Water Exchange Center, the Canal Museum, at the watershed. The construction was buried in the river banks and they designed it as a “hidden construction.”
I tried to make phone calls to carpenters in Tome and Ishinomaki immediately after the massive quakes on March 11th. However, I could not reach anyone and spent several days feeling nervous. No later than the information that they managed to be all right, I visited the site. The sullen beauty of the Kitakami River was just as before. The significance of the road along the river banks between Tome and Ishinomaki grew increasingly greater to me.
The buildings in Tome and Ishinomaki are so important that I would like to call them a turning point in my life. I learned the power of craftsmen’s skills and the solemnity of the nature itself. After all, these two things seem like one thing. In short, it is the power of Tohoku district, Japan’s northeast. Why does such a power exist in Tohoku? It seems to me that the fine pleats of its landform have something to do with the power. The valley that Kitakami River makes is one of the pleats. The pleats protected the craftsmen and the scenery.
The encounter with the power of Tohoku in Tome and Ishinomaki changed my architecture. The power of the pleats changed me.

隈研吾 (建築家)


Kengo Kuma (Architect)

He organized Kengo Kuma Associates after working as a visiting researcher at Columbia University. After lecturing as a professor at Keio University, Kuma currently teaches as a professor at Tokyo University. He suggested an architecture that opens a new relationship among nature, technology and people. His masterpieces include “Forest Stage – Tome Traditional Arts Folklore Museum,” “Nakagawa-machi Bato Hiroshige Museum of Art,” “Stone Plaza,” “Water/Glass,” “Suntory Museum of Art,” and “Nezu Museum.”