Shiro Oni Studio: Artist in Residency Program

Our program introduces artists to the Japanese countryside. We offer private studios, opportunities to work with the surrounding community, workshops, exhibition spaces, comfortable accommodations, and a central location that allows guests to get around town without the need of a car.

1. Individual Work

Away from the congested urban life of Japan and surrounded by mountains in the small town of Onishi (ogre stone) in Gunma prefecture, artists can work free from outside distractions. Shiro Oni Studio’s first priority is to provide each artist with individual studio space to focus on their work.

2. Exchange of Ideas

Shiro Oni Studio was founded with the belief that while artists produce much of their work individually, the development of ideas going into that work benefits from a strong social network.

3. Connecting Rural Japan to the Rest of the World

The town of Onishi is typical of the larger economic and population aeging problems Japan faces. Artists staying at Shiro Oni studio will be bringing diversity and cultural exchange to an area of Japan too often overlooked.

Town History / Residency Founding

Onishi Town History

The town of Onishi (population 5,800) was once an important collection point along the silk road.  The sericulture (silk) farmers from the surrounding mountains would come to the valley town and sell their raw silk to merchants.  Shiro Oni Studio’s Kinuya building was central in this trade and sold silk on its way north for almost a century.  With the modernization of Japan’s economy, labor-intensive sericulture faded, and silk is no longer produced.

While the silk trade has moved overseas, another industry of the town still continues. Onishi quarries red and green gardening stones called ‘Sanbaseki,’ after the river they come from, ‘Sanbagawa.’ The stones, often larger than a car, can be seen in parking lots and along roads throughout town.

Today, with the loss of population and industry in the mountainous countryside, the same geography that once channeled traders through the area cuts Onishi off from the outside world. Many of the buildings in the center of town have already been demolished, and the remaining structures are often used for storage or simply abandoned. Shiro Oni Studio ultimately aims to help reverse this by bringing outgoing, community-minded artists to the area.

Residency Founding

American artist Kjell Hahn founded the residency in 2013. In 6 years the residency has hosted over 180 artists from 30 countries and has been featured in publications such as Vogue magazine, Soto Koto magazine, NHK television and Asahi, Jomo and Yomiuri newspapers.
The art residency works with NPO Art Net Kinuya bringing together artists, Tokyoites, and Onishi locals with the goal finding new purposes for underused, historically important buildings in the area surrounding Onishi