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Katsushika Hokusai art museum to launch shared office in central Japan

The shared office space is seen in the Hokusai Museum in Obuse, Nagano Prefecture, on Jan. 26, 2021. (Mainichi/Yuichi Nishigori)

OBUSE, Nagano -- An art museum in this central Japan town that archives works by famous artist Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) will open a portion of its space as a shared office on Jan. 30.

    "A shared office set up by an art museum may be unprecedented," said a Hokusai Museum representative calling for users, adding, "There's an environment where people can unleash their creativity in Obuse, where Hokusai chose to live."

    The museum opened in 1976 to introduce the works of Hokusai in Obuse, where he stayed toward the end of his life. It used to attract around 140,000 visitors annually, but the number has drastically declined to 30% to 40% of that figure after Typhoon Hagibis hit the region in October 2019 and amid the new coronavirus pandemic.

    Since then, the museum had been seeking a new business format, and employees noticed that "workations," which combines work and vacation, had been introduced in Obuse. Kohei Shiozawa, 33, who manages the coworking space "House Hokusai" near Gansho-in temple, which is famous for a ceiling painting by Hokusai, proposed the idea of a shared office, saying, "People can see Hokusai's famous paintings during a work break, which will spark their imagination. It could be a new model to utilize art museums."

    Some 70 square meters in the library space on the second floor was renovated to secure a workspace for 10 people. The museum has also strengthened measures to prevent coronavirus infections by ventilating thoroughly and installing an air purifier that has an antiseptic property. The space can be reserved through the facility's website at (in Japanese). The fee is 2,000 yen (about $19) per three hours, and users can also see artworks in the museum.

    Curator Miyuki Arai, 31, said, "We want the general public, not only those involved in art, to see Hokusai's works and experience a new work style in an extraordinary space."

    (Japanese original by Yuichi Nishigori, Nagano Bureau)

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