The Skills Academy in Japan

Skills Academy “Wood”: spring workshop in Okutama forest, Tokyo (Japan), 2022 © Akihiro Itagaki
Skills Academy “Wood”: spring workshop in Hinohara forest © Shiori Ikeno
Japan, a nation that honours its foremost craftspeople as “living national treasures”, was an obvious choice for extending the scope of the Skills Academy. Based on collective thinking, the sharing of knowledge and broad experimentation, the Academy programme combines the transmission of skills and prospective research, rising to the challenge of sustainably using our resources. Following the same principle as its French counterpart, each Japanese edition of the Academy develops around a universal material, beginning with wood in 2021.

Reiko Setsuda, curator of Le Forum exhibition space in Tokyo, was instrumental in transposing the Skills Academy to Japan, where it draws on the experiences of earlier editions in France, notably the publication of a reference work at the end of each Academy.

The Japanese version of Savoir & Faire – Le Bois was published by Kodansha Sensho Metier in 2021. This book brings together a selection of texts on wood translated from the French edition along with new essays by eleven Japanese authors. The publication was launched alongside the inaugural edition of the Skills Academy in Japan. The Academy was initially oriented towards young people, offering a contrast with the pedagogical approach used in Japanese schools. It was subsequently opened up to other age groups, providing an intergenerational dimension that is rare in Japan.

The programme took place over two seasons. In the spring of 2022, the first workshop, over several sessions, invited participants to engage with wood from a number of angles – sculptural or musical properties, multisensory approaches, the tradition of bonsai, etc. – and included in-situ sessions in forests. The programme reflected the essential role of wood in Japan’s everyday life and art of living.

In the autumn of 2022, a second workshop invited participants to work with wood at the Geidai University of Arts in Tokyo. Two round tables open to the public at the Institut Français in Tokyo provided French and Japanese designers with an opportunity to compare their practices in design and the use of wood in music. This double thematic framework produced fruitful and pertinent exchanges that confirmed the rich seam of knowledge that can emerge from a comparative Franco-Japanese perspective.

The teams of the Skills Academy are currently preparing a Japanese edition of the book Savoir & Faire – La Terre with publisher Iwanami Shoten, which will be launched ahead of a second edition of the Skills Academy in Japan in 2024, centred on the universal material of clay.

In 2021, the publication in Japanese of “Savoir & Faire – Le Bois” coincided with the launch of the Skills Academy in Japan.
The programme took place over two seasons in 2022, in spring and in autumn, combining workshops and round table discussions.
In 2023, the publication of the Japanese edition of “Savoir & Faire – La Terre” presages the second instalment of the Skills Academy in Japan, dedicated to clay, in 2024.

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