Posted by: Japan Hoppers編集部 ユジン(Yoojin) 27 Sep 2017

“Heart Carving Class” in Bibai, a town influenced by coal mining and sculpture

“Heart Carving Class” in Bibai, a town influenced by coal mining and sculpture © yoojin

Bibai once flourished through coal mining, the traces remaining in the sculpture museum

The city of Bibai, about one hour by car from Shin-Chitose Airport, was once a coal mining town with plentiful coal resources. This time, we introduce the sculpture museum “Kan Yasuda Sculpture Art Museum Arte Piazza Bibai” in Bibai and the “Heart Carving Class” we can experience there.

Until the Arte Piazza Bibai was born

The world-renowned sculptor Kan Yasuda opened Arte Piazza Bibai together with the city of Bibai in 1992. When Kan, a native of Bibai, was looking for a studio in Japan, he encountered the former Sakae Elementary school gymnasium and the sight of children attending a small preschool. This preschool was using the building of an elementary which had been closed because of the population decline due to the closing of the coal mine. The population of Bibai was roughly 90,000 at the peak of coal mining but now it has declined to roughly 20,000. Seeing the shadow of the coal mine nearby, Kan had the idea to “make a wide space to open the hearts of the children” and opened Arte Piazza Bibai with five of his own sculptures. With the opening of Arte Piazza Bibai, the building which had not been used for many years got a new life and the voices of children could be heard again.

What is “Heart Carving Class”

A workshop called “Heart Carving Class” is held at Arte Piazza Bibai every month. This is a project where each participant looks within themselves and sculpts the shape of their own heart from a natural stone.

The class is held at the café/ studio building in Arte Piazza Bibai. For materials, you can choose from the Italian white marble used in Kan’s works or Hokkaido soft stone. After choosing your stone and hearing a simple lecture on the tools, only the carving is left to do. In the quiet environment surrounded by greenery, you can feel the close proximity of Kan’s sculptures while looking at your stone and it is a special time.

All the participants besides me had joined before, including a veteran who had already carved ten “hearts,” a participant from Canada who joined a year ago and will be able to join again next year, and so on. There were people who pursue the shape as it was originally designed and people who had tried many times and had expressed it in various forms so it was wonderful that each participant could do it their own way.

Lunch made with local Bibai ingredients, too

At 12 o’clock, you can eat a lunch prepared by farmers using local ingredients (prior reservations required). Bibai’s famous tori meshi (chicken rice) is on today’s menu. There were also side dishes made with fresh vegetables like sweet corn and the lunch portion and taste were both very satisfying. Naturally, white marble is used for the chopstick rests.

You can come and go to the class freely so let's go for a walk for inspiration

The class runs from 10 am to 4 pm. Each participant can decide freely how to spend the time. Because you can come and go freely during the class, you can even go for a walk. I also decided to take a stroll through Arte Piazza Bibai for a change of pace after lunch. Kan’s works dot the premises so you may get inspiration while walking.

Besides, Arte Piazza Bibai does not have an admission fee, and there are donation boxes where the visitor can give voluntarily. There is a donation box at the entrance of the gallery on the 2nd floor of Sakae Preschool and the entrance to the art space (school gym of the former Sakae Elementary School) so please do not miss it.

【相響/ Sokyo】

【胸いっぱいの呼吸(いき)を/ Mune Ippai no Ikio】

【真無/ Mamu】

【妙夢 風 相響/ Myomu Kaze Sokyo】

Pushed by Kan’s work, I also worked hard to carve the stone but it seems that it will take a while for the whole shape to be completed ... but I would like to polish it without giving up and complete it. Those who end the class without completing like me can also leave their stones in the workshop. It feels like making a promise with the stone that you will visit Bibai again.

It seems that Kan Yasuda instructs the class about once a year so by all means join the “Heart Carving Class” and please enjoy Arte Piazza Bibai.

About the “Heart Carving Class”

Hours First Saturday and Sunday of the month 10:00am~4:00pm
Place Studio Arte (072-0831 Hokkaido, Bibai, Ochiaicho, Sakaemachi)
Reservations 0126-63-3137 by phone
Fees Fees, including stone, for first time participants are as follows

Classification White Marble Soft Stone
Regular ¥15,000 ¥10,000
High School/ College Students ¥10,000 ¥6,000
Middle School or Younger ¥9,000 ¥5,000

Japan Hoppers編集部 ユジン / Yoojin

Japan Hoppers編集部 ユジン / Yoojin

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