Nyukon House

An adaptive reuse project utilizing the abandoned swimming pool at the former Akasaki elementary school in the town of Tsunagi, Kumamoto.
Drawing inspiration from the poem “Nyukon” by author Michiko Ishimure, who had connections to the area, the facilities were transformed into an art site and a biotope where guests can experience different perspectives of small living.
Nyukon House also features the work of W.Eugene and Aileen Smith – the renowned photographers known for documenting the tragic story of Minamata – helping to remind visitors of the fragility of nature.

Soul enters the Sea

Nyukon House Project

This project involves turning the facilities of the former Akasaki Elementary School and its swimming pool, which closed in March 2010, into accommodations. One element of the concept was to integrate art into the reconstruction of the school property built on the sea.

The Shiranui Sea facing the school has been exposed to the violence of large-scale industrial disasters during Japan’s high economic growth. The accommodation facility “Nyukon House”, with its special space for viewing the sea, is envisioned to utilize the former swimming pool, which served its role in nurturing the children who would shape the future of Tsunagi Town, as a representation of the inland sea. It aims to provide an experience of the fragility of nature, as well as serve as a miniature biotope space where small creatures coexist alongside guests, with water purified by the plants.

The name “Nyukon” is taken from the title of a poem by Michiko Ishimure. Inspired by her depiction of the moment when the soul enters the sea, symbolizing the beautiful world where the sea and sky merge, the idea was to emulate this through the regeneration of local resources.

Yukinori Yanagi

Project background

As part of the 20th-anniversary commemoration exhibition for the Tsunagi Art Museum, Yanagi proposed the “Shiranui Sea Art Initiative”, connecting the region from the perspective of the sea. Then began extensive research from 2019 to 2021, spanning from Tsunagi Town to Yunoko in Minamata City and the former Sogi Power Station in Isa City, Kagoshima Prefecture.
Upon researching cultural resources in the region, Yanagi realized that no places in the area exhibited the important works of Michiko Ishimure and W. Eugene Smith. This became a significant factor in the initiative.
Additionally, the former Akasaki Elementary School – once the only elementary school in Japan built on the sea – had a remarkable presence in the community. While the main school building suffered significant damage from salt corrosion and could only be viewed from the outside, the gymnasium and swimming pool were relatively intact and had potential for use. This led to ​​a project integrating art and accommodation to regenerate local resources in this area.

Director/Artist: Yukinori Yanagi
Architect:Toru Kashihara and Hiroto Takesawa of Toru Kashihara Architects + Kogakuin University Kashihara Studio

Management: Tsunagi Art Museum, YANAGI STUDIO

About Tsunagi Town

Tsunagi is a small town in the southern part of Kumamoto Prefecture, located between Minamata City to the south and Ashikita Town to the north, with a population of 4,500 people. Surrounded by low mountains, it faces the Shiranui Sea to the westz, often referred to as Japan’s Mediterranean. The sloping land facing the sea is flourishing with primary industries such as citrus farming, including Dekopon oranges, as well as fisheries for species such as Japanese anchovy, small dried sardines, hairtail, blowfish, flounder, and sea bream. On the other hand, Tsunagi also suffered from Minamata disease, caused by industrial wastewater from neighboring Minamata City. In 1984, the then mayor believed that art had a positive effect in healing the hearts of the residents and the image of the area affected by the tragedy. Thus, town development initiatives were launched with greenery and sculptures, culminating in the opening of the Tsunagi Art Museum in 2001. Since then, numerous art projects aimed at integrating with the community have been carried out, including exhibitions ranging from modern to contemporary art, as well as community art projects since 2008 and the artist-in-residence program since 2013.


Nyukon House

167-2 Fukuhama, Tsunagi, Ashikita District, Kumamoto 869-5605