While travelling in Kyoto, we continued exploring the idea of public space and how that activates a community. A few of us rode our rental bikes through the park up near Doshisha University to visit Social Kitchen, a community space and cafe which seeks to expand space for discussion and community building in Kyoto.
The project is run in part by Natalie's friend Sakiko, who was kind enough to sit and talk with us for a while about public space in Kyoto and Japan in general. We got to get a different perspective on the subject - for Sakiko, Japan has a large amount of public space, but very little of it of a quality suitable for the community.
With the decline of the public bath house and less frequent time spent at temples and shrines, Sakiko felt that residents of Kyoto were left with consumer-oriented public spaces, and the poorly-maintained small parks erected by the government during the early postwar boom, neither of which provide opportunities for community members to come together. She said that Kyoto is lucky, at least, in that the river still provides one of the largest and most accessible true public spaces in the city, a place that has some connection for almost every resident of Kyoto.
Our visit the Social Kitchen was really informative. Natalie is currently staying in Kyoto a little while longer, working with the staff there - she just recently made a post about it to our class blog.