Unveiling Shikoku: Japan’s Hidden Relic in The Rough Shop

Exploring The Rough Shop: A Transformative Art Installation in Rural Japan

A Hidden Gem in Kawamata Village

In the picturesque village of Kawamata, nestled on the island of Shikoku in rural Japan, lies a hidden gem that captivates visitors with its magical realism and intriguing history. The Rough Shop, a found object paradise and art installation, was brought to life by Rufus Ward and his artist wife Eri Itoi. Together, they transformed an abandoned store into a unique exhibition space that merges the past with the present. Let’s dive into the captivating story of The Rough Shop and explore the intricate details that make it truly extraordinary.

From Shop to Museum: The Birth of The Rough Shop

Originally, The Rough Shop served as a traditional store and a residence for its owner, Mr. Arakawa, until he moved away fifteen years ago. Left untouched and unattended for decades, the shop stood as a time capsule, reflecting the vibrant era of the 1980s when Kawamata thrived from the lumber trade. The moment Rufus and Eri stumbled upon this hidden treasure during their exploration of the village, they knew they had stumbled upon something special.

The couple decided to preserve the essence of the original shop by relocating its entire contents to their exhibition space within their own house. To honor the shop’s history, they named it The Rough Shop after the original owner’s name, Arakawa, which translates to “rough” or “wild river.” Their vision was to create an installation that evoked the rawness and authenticity of the original shop, while infusing it with new energy and artistic style.

A Performance Filled with Memory

Described as an installation, shop, and museum, The Rough Shop immerses visitors into a world of curated treasures and thought-provoking art. Rufus, primarily a painter, meticulously designed the exhibition space, painting rooms and creating interior layouts to set the mood. The goal was to recreate the original shop’s atmosphere – its awkwardness, strangeness, and overwhelming density of goods – and weave it together into a mesmerizing mosaic of museum, gift shop, and artwork.

As visitors step into The Rough Shop, they encounter a captivating blend of vintage items, handmade crafts, and artistic expressions. The original stock gradually disappears, with limited quantities available due to its vintage nature. To replenish the shelves, Rufus and Eri incorporate handmade artifacts from themselves and other artists, creating an exhibition within an exhibition. This unique approach adds balance, synergy, and a touch of curiosity to the entire experience.

Unveiling the Past: Exploring the Depths of The Rough Shop

Clearing out The Rough Shop proved to be a fascinating and almost surreal journey for Rufus. Immersed in a rabbit hole of forgotten treasures, he meticulously sorted through the eclectic assortment of items, each holding its own story and significance. Every discovery, no matter how small or seemingly worthless, sparked a cascade of questions and reflections. A mere cutout fragment of newspaper became a portal into Mr. Arakawa’s world – Why was it cut out? What does it mean? How does it relate to other clippings?

Day after day, Rufus found himself entangled in a web of intrigue, rummaging through belongings that once belonged to a now-deceased stranger. Existential questions swirled in his mind – What remnants would he leave behind if he suddenly disappeared? This profound experience of unearthing someone else’s life work left an indelible mark, prompting Rufus to contemplate writing a book about this extraordinary journey in the future.

With great dedication, Rufus accomplished the daunting task of sorting through The Rough Shop’s contents within just two months. As the deadline loomed, he became more focused and, at times, even reckless in his determination to clear the space. Despite the occasional hasty disc