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Dear Kibo / Dear Andrew

My Dear Kibo

We have been sent together to Kyoto in a rather official capacity at the Villa Kujoyama in order to reflect -through architecture- on the understandings and misunderstandings between our cultures. The aim is to produce links and networks which will enrich our mutual practice of the discipline, and to spread new understandings in our respective contexts. It's an immodest aim.

There's a problem with this: as we have often said, we are both sort of freaks, very individual creators who can hardly be described as representative of our cultures -in my case a hybrid Franco-British one (being of Anglo stock and upbringing but French professional experience of two decades, in your case a hybrid urban-rural, having grown up in Tokyo and moved during adulthood to the Noto peninsula where you lead an exemplary life as a citizen-farmer-architect.

In my case I am totally outside of the architectural mainstream, designing -essentially- very carefully crafted theatres using techniques (advanced CLT, natural ventilation) which are pioneering in France. In your case -following the terrible earthquake of 2007 in Noto- you have become the living repository for ancient and ongoing craft traditions which were the only conceivable answer to renovating the wounded heritage of your adopted region. In so doing you keep animated a network of very individual craftsmen, the like of which does not exist in Europe.

We have as a common point our simultaneous presence at the University of Pennsylvania in the mid 1990s; although we never met, we have a shared frame of reference and mutual friends.

So we are freaks. But we could not -I would venture- have existed outside of our respective cultures. We are therefore typical freaks. I normally work very hard, not thinking too much about what I'm doing. This residency requires that we ask each other certain questions which probably remain latent.

So I ask you: how do you situate yourself with respect to this question of typicity: what parts of you are inalienable from your context and upbringing, and what parts are pure, barrel-strength Kibo?

Dear Andrew

Thank you for introduction, which explained well about our current status in this program, in our own culture and in our own architectural circumstance.

Since you are English, studied in the US, and have practiced in France, I believe that you are very sensitive about difference of culture & people in different countries, regions and tribes.

In my case, raised in Tokyo, studying and working in Philadelphia, then moving into a rural village in Noto, Japan, I can understand the difference and even feel the subtle difference, not only between countries but also regions in Japan.

It is also true that we can share the feeling that something is very French, or something very Japanese. On the other hand, it is difficult to distinguish one character of who you/me are from your/my personality or from your/my background.

I think that there too many factors exist with complexed connection and it is impossible and nonsense to answer correctly this profound problem. Let many thoughtful researchers of anthropology, sociology, culture and other related field do further deeper analysis.

What I am interested in, especially in the very short encounter in Kyoto, is not to answer a general cross-cultural theory, but to show one individual encounter which can show the difference/co-existing/reconciliation of various cultures/backgrounds in a concrete way.

On another mission I am trying to do here is to bring many Japanese people/culture into the Villa Kujoyama. Of course, many artists who have stayed here had many opportunities to have cross-cultural activities. However, I think there is much more room to open this Villa to be exposed/opened to Japanese community/culture. From my understanding, that is why this program started to accept Japanese artists and I am one of the first.

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