Ms Karen Guthrie from Graizedale Arts returned.

ESSAYPosted : September 30, 2015

Ms Karen Guthrie, one of the members of Seven Samurai project curated by Grizedale Arts for ETAT2006 visited Echigo-Tsumari this summer for the first time in nine years and stayed in Toge village from 1 to 8 September 2015.

During ETAT2006, the team stayed in the village for over a month and proposed business plans spanning from craft, food to tourism for revitalising the village. The project gave an opportunity for the villagers to think about the future of the community and the progress of the project was made available on-line.

Photo during ETAT2006

After the ETAT2006 was over, another participating artist, Junko Maruyama who also presented her artwork in the village and five villagers accepted an invitation to visit UK by Grizedale Arts. They presented traditional ways to grow rice in the terraced rice field, shared information on distinctive food culture such as sansai and preserved food. Grizedale Arts has been growing vegetables and fruits in the field that was cultivated by Toge villagers. What most surprised us was a chef who participated a cooking class then is now running the best restaurant in the UK and serving sansai which he learnt from Toge villagers.

Ms Guthrie brought “toge cuisine”- inspired by the original recipe of Toge cooking with some twists. She wanted to re-establish the connection with Toge villagers in the year of the festival and continue to weave alternative culture. She also wants to learn again recipe of fermented food such as miso and pickles and her visit was arranged by Junko Maruyama who presented her artwork in the village for ETAT2015.

When arriving to the village and celebrated reunioon, they had a tea over home-cooked food. After exchanging Q&A on koji (malted rice), they have agreed to try making koi. Local women were first reluctant to pursue as koji is supposed to be made in winter but they decided to respond to passionate request by Ms Guthrine.

On the fist day, they steamed rice and blended the koji in the heated environment at the temperature of human body. Stir and check the progress on the second day and it was done by the third day. They enjoyed sharing tea over home-cooked pickles and there was no enough time to enjoy conversation.

Ms Guthrie also joined the village’s autumn festival and there were archive of the project and exchange between Grizedale Arts and Toge village. Local villagers also had opportunity to connect with Ms Guthrie’s colleagues by skype. She also cooked for us and shared how what she learnt in the Toge village contributes to the current projects and activities.


“I learnt most from the local people calling one another - which they do so as nothing special. It is the most pleasant place in the world. Grizedale Arts has been nurturing what was born from exchange with Toge village. Ms Guthrie thanked local villagers.

They managed to make koji, share meals and go out together during her stay.

It has been nine years since the project launched during ETAT2006. The communication between Graizedale Arts and Toge village has been continued with diverse supports.

Click ≫here to check out Seven Samurai.

Click ≫here to find out about Grizedale Arts.

by Akiko Tobita, Staff member of Echigo-Tsumari Art Field

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Staff member of the Echigo-Tsumari Art Field.

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