3331 Arts Chiyoda is an independent art center based in the renovated Rensei Junior High School, a former Chiyoda City public school. Since 2010, it has served as both an artistic hub for anyone wanting to create, as well as a relaxing and open space for the community. Year after year, we hold countless programs including exhibitions, events, and workshops spanning fields beyond contemporary art from architecture and design to physical expressions and local history and culture. Also essential to our yearly activities are projects involving residents and children of the neighborhood, especially our participation in major festivals and traditions.
From the basement to the third floor, there are all kinds of exciting activities happening at every corner in art galleries, studios, and creative offices. Our facility offers places for visitors to relax, including cafes, the shop, and free areas such as the community space and family rest space which anyone can use. On a typical day at 3331, one may find scenes of local workers eating their lunch, parents playing with their children, or students working on homework.
As an international art base that welcomes the community, everyone is free to express themselves at 3331. From artists to children, people of all backgrounds gather here, where creativity takes root through artistic and cultural engagement.
10 years ago, before opening 3331 Arts Chiyoda, I wrote the statement below.
"The creativity of the city is equal to the very energy gathered from artists' expressions. Art is made not only by the artist himself, but by the creativity of the community cultivated through its history and economy. In other words, an artist is someone who holds the creativity and human power to visualize the city's unseen energy. For that reason, there needs to be an organization – as a body of integral activity – which links specialization and determination, facing challenges together with artists and fully understanding the joy of creation."
So, what kind of art center has 3331 Arts Chiyoda become? How has the above vision from 10 years ago been realized?
From a closed school nobody knew about, 3331 Arts Chiyoda has grown into a creative hub that is the most active independent art center in Japan. Today, the center welcomes more than 850,000 visitors and 1,000 events a year. From exhibitions relating to local festivals to the gathering of edgy contemporary artists during its art fair, PR events based on tourism and local culture to international academic symposiums, 3331 carries out diverse and unique creative programs daily as if it were one city itself. Our free space has become a scene in which children do their homework, groups hold serious meetings, and local workers stop to eat lunch at the shared tables, serving as a safe and relaxing place for anyone to enjoy. Moreover, in extreme cases of disaster 3331 functions as a shelter, which has been proven during the 3.11 Great East Japan Earthquake and when major typhoons have hit. The space is a 24-hour facility for both creation and disaster response.
Carrying these 10 years, the forthcoming key words for 3331 Arts Chiyoda are "open-mindedness" and "criticality". In an age where our expressions are increasingly managed and self-contained, 3331's role will be updated as an open-minded place which receives all progressive forms of thinking. Especially in our current post-coronavirus era, it is essential to shift our perspective from short-term to long-term sustainable structures in society. 3331 Arts Chiyoda will become an accepting place for all activities, while breaking ground with the spread of critical thinking. Furthermore, the center will allow the creativity of individuals to synchronize with that of the city, continuing to run as a creative engine that builds new values for tomorrow's age.
Masato Nakamura, 3331 Arts Chiyoda Supervising Director
(Artist, Professor at Tokyo University of the Arts)
We had a good story behind our center's name at the time it was decided but turning it into a symbol was quite a challenge. I tried sketching from all angles, yet nothing seemed to work. As I was running out of ideas, I continued to move my hand – then my eyes stopped at the simplicity of the parallel lines in Chinese numerals. Putting together the "3331" (in Chinese characters: 三三三一) I discovered that I could distort the shapes while still maintaining their legible balance. The "3's" add up to "9" which has the phonetic sound "ku" (same as that of "pain"), to which adding "1" becomes a single stroke to change the character into "maru" (circle), signifying peace. This was the final element that wrapped up the structure of the design. The mark that first appeared somewhat odd, now makes sense as it has been used for 3+3+3+1=10 years.
Naoki Sato, 3331 Arts Chiyoda Design Director
(Art Director, Artist, Professor at Tama Art University)
Our center’s name “3331” comes from the Edo tradition of clapping (known as “Edo Ippon Tejime”) to signify gratitude and positivity, especially during celebrations. Traditionally used when people want to share their happiness and encourage each other, it is one of the old, immaterial traditions inherited from the Edo period. When a leading voice from the group says "Iyo'o!”, everyone follows by answering with 3 sets of 3 hand claps (3-3-3). Added together, this becomes 9, whose pronunciation in Japanese is the same as the word for “pain”. A single clap (1) then finalizes the sequence as a stroke added to the Chinese character for 9, transforming it into that of “circle” signifying peace. Therefore, to this day the numbers “3331” visually evoke a rhythm that brings happiness to people.
Led by the voice of Tomisaburo Kubota, the chairman of the alumni association of Rensei Junior High School, people from the local community, artists, and 3331 staff join to perform the "Edo Ippoin Jime" all together to celebrate the grand opening of 3331 Arts Chiyoda.