The teachers are cool seniors! Until a true creator classroom is established

The teachers are cool seniors Creators who drive Japanese culture and are active around the world. The importance of next-generation education discussed by four people in their 30s is also common to other fields.


The teachers are cool seniors

Musician Fumitake Ezaki, curator Yu Takagi, and architect Eri Tsugawa. While working on the front lines of their respective fields, they actively strive to develop creative talent. GAKU, run by Yuta Takeda (CEO of LOGS), is leading this movement.

The teachers are cool seniors! Until a true creator classroom is established

At Shibuya PARCO, where GAKU’s classroom is located, enthusiastic teenage students gather every day. This is a school where students can be inspired by encounters with professional creators who are a little older than them, and have experiences that can become the “starting point” for their future activities. Students can take classes for about half a year in small classes with a capacity of around 10 students, and their raw materials are refined while co-creating with professionals.

Esaki, Takagi, Tsugawa, and GAKU founder Takeda, who teach at GAKU, have seen many moments when students change through education. In this roundtable discussion, four such people came together to talk about the significance of “teaching” teenagers and the challenges faced in developing creative human resources.

Yu Takagi (hereinafter referred to as Takagi ) : First, let’s talk about why we teach. My job as a curator is not well known among young people. There are very few places where young people can encounter curation, and Tokyo University of the Arts is the only national university where you can study curation. So I wanted to create a place where curators could emerge, so I took a position where I could teach.

The teachers are cool seniors! Until a true creator classroom is established

Fumitake Esaki (hereinafter referred to as Esaki ) : Unlike curators, music is something that is familiar to us. However, there is a history of school education neglecting the joy and enjoyment expressed through music. During the Meiji Restoration, music was incorporated into public education as a basis for accepting Western culture. More than 150 years later, that policy has not changed. Now that technology is evolving and anyone can create music, I strongly believe that music education should be reimagined as an education for expression. That’s why I want to provide such an environment for my children.

Eri Tsugawa (hereinafter referred to as Tsugawa ) : In the past, I was an educational research assistant at Tokyo University of the Arts, and now I teach as a part-time lecturer at several universities including Waseda University. I have a desire to “explore” things with my children.

I am teaching a class called “(Non)Fictional Urbanism – Observation and Experimentation of Towns” which focuses on cities, and the reason I chose this theme is that cities are created after understanding their results and purposes. I wanted to see what kind of ideas would come to mind when looking at this from a child’s pure perspective. Architecture is an industry that accepts orders, but recently architects’ ability to explore and explore the possibilities of cities themselves is being tested. That’s why I want to co-create with students.

The teachers are cool seniors! Until a true creator classroom is established

Yuta Takeda (hereinafter referred to as Takeda ) : In my case, I would like to talk about why I started GAKU, but when I asked the creators how they decided on their career path, they said, “I was influenced by an encounter I had when I was in junior high and high school.” Many people said, “I received it.” In other words, it is very important for children to meet “good adults” when they are in junior high and high school.

However, modern Japanese junior high and high school students are extremely busy with their studies, club activities, and classes. Their community is limited, and although they can make friends around the same age, it is difficult to meet adults who can positively influence their lives. 

Therefore, at GAKU, we designed the design so that creators who are instructors can make frequent contact with each other in small classes of about a dozen people so that they can remember their names and be influenced by them. After about half a year of classes, students create and present their products, and receive feedback from society and instructors. When deciding on the direction of your life, it is very important to receive an evaluation from a professional in that field and to take the content seriously.

The teachers are cool seniors! Witness the “origin” of creativity

Takagi: While teaching at GAKU, you often see changes in the children. As a curator at The 5th Floor, I am in charge of a class called “CO─CURATING” whose purpose is to create special exhibitions. Last October, we held an exhibition by students at the Yurakucho Building, and it showed everyone’s true potential.

The theme of the exhibition is “Before Dawn.” After each student interpreted this theme, they decided on the works to curate. The students then send letters to the artists themselves requesting them to exhibit. That letter is already making my heart boil. One of the children approached the artist, Mr. Chiro Takahashi, and asked, “Would you like to create something like this together?” To my surprise, this idea reached Mr. Takahashi, and even though the exhibition was less than a month away, he created a new work for this special exhibition. As a result, around 300 people visited over the three days, and the event received a great response.

Ezaki: That’s amazing!

I teach a class called “Beyond the Music.” This is an attempt to deepen learning about other areas such as language, culture, history, physics, ethnicity, and technology through music. After the students finish their lecture period, they try their hand at producing and releasing music.

As the number of classes increases, not only does the output change clearly, but I also feel that each individual’s inner self is liberated. Also, in the GAKU classroom, I can meet friends who are interested in music production, so it seems like we can inspire each other. It gives me an opportunity to take a new step, thinking, “Next time, let’s create something like this together.”

Tsugawa: At GAKU, instructors and students are relatively close in age and have a level relationship, so the instructors themselves often learn from the children. I try to be funny around teenagers. When talking about cities, I choose my words accordingly in my day job, but at GAKU, my priority is “how to talk about it to make it interesting,” so I sometimes make new discoveries with the words I say. That’s why I feel it’s worth taking classes even if I’m busy. Takagi: I am certainly one of the students.

The presence of a “senior” who is a little older is the key

Esaki: When I think again about what is needed to develop creative human resources, I think it is important to have someone who is not a student or a teacher, but someone who is in the in-between layer.

Takeda: I think it’s very important. The word “sou” in creation has the meaning of “beginning,” but it is also the “sou” of a band-aid. When you start something by yourself, you get hurt if it doesn’t go well. Along the way, he realized that what he was creating was far from his ideals. How do you deal with the wounds caused at such times? The issue of mental health in teenage creation is our challenge.

At GAKU, staff serve as mentors and support each child individually. I strongly believe that this is something that the management side must address.

Esaki: Previously, I was involved in a project where American university students taught classes to Japanese high school students. At that time, university students called themselves “senpai” rather than teachers. As I watched this, I realized that learning from teachers in class is completely different from learning from seniors.

If you strengthen the layer of seniors, any instructors who sit on top of them will become better. Even if a super master comes to teach, there should be a senior between him and the student. Although you may feel intimidated by the masters, you can continue to create things while receiving help from your seniors. In my classes, I sometimes invite guest lecturers with long careers, and I hope that I can take on the role of a senior instructor.

Takagi: In the field of school education, there are no adults who act as seniors. At art museums, activities called docents and mediators that connect art and audiences (such as explaining the contents of special exhibitions to visitors) are increasing, but schools do not have such functions. This is necessary for developing creative human resources. I once again thought that I too would be a good senior.

I come from a rural area of ​​Kyoto, but there were no cultural facilities nearby. Therefore, I never had the opportunity to learn about creation in the first place. I wish there was a GAKU in every prefecture at convenience stores.

Takeda: That’s right. I once had the opportunity to talk to fashion designers, and many of them said things like, “I became a designer because I was influenced by a cool guy who worked at a local second-hand clothing store.” So, it may not be just the creators who are active on the front lines that have an impact on children. If people with local influence started opening temple schools like GAKU all over the country, the landscape of Japan would change tremendously. Creators are the cultural capital that supports Japan’s growth. 

Takagi: I hope GAKU becomes a model case for creative Terakoya. 

Ezaki: I also want to do a local tour. People who were born and raised in Tokyo have had the opportunity to see top international artists since they were children. But people like me, who are from rural areas, spend money and time to come to Tokyo and finally see foreign artists. Of course I’m impressed. However, I had no one in my hometown to share that excitement with. Even now, as technology advances, I believe there are still feelings that can only be shared in real life. Therefore, I would like to develop creative human resources locally for the “self of that time” who may be in the region. 

Takagi: In the future, I would also like to open an art museum and make it a place where I can meet “good seniors” and all kinds of people.

Tsugawa: Of course you want to increase the number of creators, but don’t you think the number of recipients is also small?

Takeda: The recipient is also important. For example, in the case of works of art, economic value is created only when museums and collectors put a price on the work created by the artist. Just creating a work does not add value. Cultural projects are nurtured by the creativity of the recipients.

Takagi: My class teaches how to convey the value of a work, so in a sense it’s a class for the “recipient.” Curators must take responsibility for their own “likes.” In the “Lesson on Being Responsible for Your Loves”, students take into account not only art history but also their own personal history, and are asked to understand why they like a certain work.

Takeda: It’s important, isn’t it? Japanese people want to ask the artist themselves about the meaning of their work, but once they do that, the work has no value beyond what the artist created. When a number of viewers emerge who can attach value to the work based on their own standards, the work becomes valuable once it leaves the hands of the artist.

Tsugawa: I want the students who are on the receiving end of creative work to be able to express their own words independently without being timid. It becomes interesting when the quality of the students’ output becomes imprinted in their specialized fields.

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