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.

Studios located in the center of town foster a spirit of exchange between artists and also with the surrounding community.

3. Connecting Rural Japan to the Rest of the World

While most foreigners visit Japan's urban areas, the popularity of those destinations overshadow the larger rural landscape. Visitors staying in the countryside have the opportunity really know the people living there. 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.

2017 Anagama Residency

Program Outline


Residency Requirements:

Age 25 and older
Can communicate in English or Japanese
Attend meetings
Participate in Open Studio exhibition
Donate a piece of art to the residency (chosen by artist)


In 2019 the residency is divided into 4 groups, each 6 weeks long. Long-term residents develop a deeper connection to the area, the local people and produce the strongest work. Additionally, artists that arrive and work along roughly the same timeline share the same developmental arc. Therefore we select artists that can make a time commitment of a month or longer.

Costs and Scholarships

Residency is divided in 6 week-long groups. In 2019 there is a flat participation fee is 200000 yen (approx. 1550 Euro or 1800 USD) Cost and Scholarship section below explains participation fee details.

Scholarships: Shiro Oni Studio will be announcing scholarship opportunities for 2019 artists in the fall of 2018.

Studio Spaces

The program reclaims unused and abandoned buildings in the town center, remodeling them into studios.
We provide each artist with their own studio space. Since the spaces are made from remodeled buildings, the layout, lighting and size of each studio varies. Artists can choose their own space on a first come, first serve basis.

[click to download application form]

[click for 2019 schedule]

[click for expense details]

[click for studio details]


Shrio Oni Studio gives artists an opportunity to collaborate and learn outside the studio. We introduce artists to Japanese rural culture, building personal relationships that benefit both artists and area locals.

Workshops of interest are voted on as a group the first few days of the residency period. Shiro Oni Studio pays for all local workshop expenses.


Shiro Oni Studio organizes an exhibition and farewell party at the end of each group's residency. Exhibitions are a chance for residents to summarize their project in Onishi and meet up with friends met during their stay.

Artists exhibit their work at the 2-acre, 280 year-old former sake brewery in the middle of town. Images of exhibition space under "Main Building" below.


Residents stay in a 10 bedroom house. The 3-story building overlooks the surrounding mountains and is located just a few minutes walk from restaurants, the residency studios and a 24-hour convenience store. The house has wifi, a living room with a projector, Netflix and a 300+ film collection.

Shiro Oni Studio will provide a private bedroom with a Japanese-style futon, a bicycle. We've created English maps of things to do in the area, restaurant menus and local shop information. Artists are responsible for cleaning their own room and shared spaces.

[click image below for workshop details]

[click image below to see past exhibitions]

[click image below for more about accommodation]

Artist Studios and Facilities

Shiro Oni Studio is made up of 6 buildings plus the Brewery complex in the middle of the town of Onishi, all just a few minutes walk apart.

Main Building


The former Fujisaki Soubei Shouten company’s 2-acre 280-year old sake brewery.
The brewery is the main exhibition space, residency offices and a space for workshops.
The space was nicknamed 'Jyuichiya,' or 'Shop 11' in Japanese, referring to a group of eleven brewers who moved to Onishi from Shiga prefecture in the early 1700's.
There are 3 traditional storage buildings (kura) used as exhibition spaces, a warehouse, a kitchen, offices, a tearoom and wifi internet on the property.
Brewery open from 9:30 am to 6:00 pm.
(click or swipe through images on right)

Artist Studio

Shiro Oni Studio

The first studio remodeled for the residency. Several truckloads of cheap lumber, paneling and drywall were removed to reveal the original tsuchi kabe, or earth and plaster walls. The walls were then restored to their original condition using a type of plaster called Shikkui.

There are 5 studios in the Shiro Oni Studios.

Artists have 24 hour access to the studios.
(click or swipe through images on right)

Artist Studio


The name 'Kotoriya' means 'small bird shop' in Japanese. The building has had a long history over the last 80 years. Kotoriya was also used as a motorcycle shop, and a fish market.

There are 5 studios in the Kotoriya.

The building is a 30 second walk away from a 7-11.
Artists have 24 hour access to the studios.
(click or swipe through images on right)



All artists have access to the woodshop during residency working hours (9 am to 5 pm). The key must be returned to the office before 5.
The shop has a table saw, sliding compound miter saw and a drill press. There are also hand drills, a planer, band saw, sanders, circular saw, a grinder, a biscuit joiner and lathe.
A complete list of residency tools and equipment will be sent to residents before arrival.

(click or swipe through images on right)



Ceramic artists can fire either the kerosene kiln at the studios or take part in on one of the scheduled anagama firings.

The anagama is on a nearby mountain. Artists move and cut wood, load the kiln, and stay in a cabin on the mountain during the firing. Shiro Oni Studio director Kjell Hahn has a decade of experience firing anagama kilns.

Ceramic artists using the kerosene kiln must be able to fire themselves.

We have 4 electric wheels, 10 banding wheels and a pug mill.

Materials can be ordered through a catalog at cost.
(click or swipe through images on right)

Community Building and Artist Studio


The main structure, Kinuya, connects Onishi to its past as part of the silk road. In the early twentieth century most area farmers were involved in silk production. For decades, the 100 year-old building served as a collection point for local silk on its way to be processed in factories.

In the second half of the twentieth century the market for Japanese silk moved overseas and the town of Onishi began to lose its cultural identity. Much of the Onishi population moved to larger cities, as did the original Kinuya owners.

Shiro Oni Studio uses the building as a gathering place and central hub to the surrounding buildings. We use Kinuya as an exhibition space, a cafe during festivals and a place for concerts, workshops and parties.

Writers, musicians, or conceptual artists working in 'clean' media can use the rooms upstairs as a studio.
(click or swipe through images on right)

Shiro Oni Studio Workshops

During each residency period we organize workshops based on artists' interests.


Workshops give artists an opportunity to collaborate and learn outside the studio. Shrio Oni Studio organizes and pays for material expenses for workshops we organize. We introduce artists to Japanese rural culture, building personal relationships between artists and area locals.
For each group of visiting artists, we will plan 5 to 6 workshops.
(click or swipe through images on right)

Workshops are based on each group's interests.
Some of the previous workshops we have organized in the past:
Japanese Tea Ceremony
Visit Area Artist Studios
Zen Meditation
Local Crafts
Straw Rope Making
The Equestrian Society
Hiking / Sports Club
Onishi Summer Music Festival

2019 Shiro Oni Studio Schedule

4 groups of 8-10 artists will stay in Onishi in 2019. Artists will exhibit their work at the end of their stay.


SPRING GROUP: 4/24 - 6/4

The spring session is a quiet time of year in Onishi. Artists will have time to concentrate on their work and discover the Japanese countryside. Shiro Oni Studio staff will organize workshops based on artists' interests.
From April 27 to May 6 there are several national holidays in Japan, commonly referred to as Golden Week. In Onishi, friends will be firing our anagama kiln and artists are invited to visit the firing.

Exhibition: 6/1- 6/2

The residency will culminate with a group exhibition on the last weekend. The main exhibition space will be at the former Fujisaki Brewery (a 2 acre complex of buildings in the middle of town).

On June 1 there will be a farewell party for the visiting artists at the Kinuya building.



The town of Onishi holds a summer music festival every July (on the 13th and 14th in 2019). The Festival is one of the most exciting times of year, with former residents coming from around the country to participate. While not required, artists in group 2 are encouraged to participate in the nightly taiko drum practices at the local community center and to help pull the shrine during the festival.

Click here for a link to video of the 2015 Onishi music festival. Our shrine has the "あ” symbol.

Exhibition: 7/27 - 7/28

The residency will culminate with a group exhibition on the last weekend. The main exhibition space will be at the former Fujisaki Brewery (a 2 acre complex of buildings in the middle of town).

On July 27 there will be a farewell party for the visiting artists at the Kinuya building.



2019 will mark the 6th annual Kanna Fall Art Festival. The Kanna Fall Art Festival brings together Shiro Oni Studio artists with craftsman and artists from the Kanna area. In 2016 the week-long festival had work from 40 artists from 20 countries on display as well as musical performances at the former Fujisaki sake brewery and at the Shiro Oni artist studios. Guests enjoyed live music, food, drink, interactive art, the Japanese tea ceremony, an independent film showing and outdoor activities including tree climbing and two-person log sawing.

Exhibition: 9/20- 9/22

The residency will culminate with our largest event of the year, a week-long group exhibition. The main exhibition space will be at the former Fujisaki Brewery (a 2 acre complex of buildings in the middle of town). Artists may also show their work in their studios, the Kinuya building or at Onishi's civic center.
On September 22 there will be a farewell party for the visiting artists.


ANAGAMA FIRING: 10/9 - 11/19

The final group of 2019 will fire Chiaki Horikoshi's "Chiakigama" wood-fired anagama kiln. It takes several days to load an anagama, meticulously packing wadding between every adjoining surface. The kiln then requires 4 days of 24 hour stoking, burning through several cords of wood.
The kiln is located across the river from Onishi on a nearby mountain in Kamiizumi town, Saitama prefecture. The kiln is 10 minutes from the nearest building, in the middle of a cedar forest.
During the firing artists will stay in a small cabin next to the kiln.

Exhibition: 11/16 - 11/17

The residency will culminate with a group exhibition on the last weekend. The main exhibition space will be at the former Fujisaki Brewery (a 2 acre complex of buildings in the middle of town).
On November 16 there will be a farewell party for the visiting artists.

Costs and Scholarships

Since the residency is divided into groups, artists are charged a flat participation fee for each section.
There is no weekly or daily charge.
Shiro Oni Studio Covers: artist support (3 bilingual staff members to help with anything from research to figuring out which foods are vegan at the supermarket), workshop expenses, a private bedroom, studio space, all building utilities, a bicycle, access to the wood shop tools and equipment, and flyer printing expenses.
Artists Cover: Travel expenses, food costs.
Artwork materials: artists are responsible for their own materials. There is an storage room of free artist supplies from previous artists - with things like paper, ink, tape and paint. Also, we can also gather bamboo from area forests and have some left over lumber



In 2019 Shiro Oni Studio will select two artists to participate in the Illinois Wesleyan University artist in residency program. One residency in the fall 2019, and one in the spring of 2020 are available, each 6 weeks long.

Provided: Living accommodations, studio space, a $2,000 USD stipend and an exhibition organized at the end of the residency period.

Click the link for further residency details.


About Shiro Oni Studio

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.’ In fact, the town owes its name to the stone trade. Onishi means 'Ogre Stone' in Japanese, and the colorful stones are everywhere. Sanbaseki, often larger than a car, can be seen piled in parking lots and along roads throughout town. In 2015 artist in residency Mariko Kuwahara made a short film interviewing retired stone sellers in town. The film gives valuable insight into the town's history and people. Click here to see Mariko's film Blue Stone.

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.

Meaning of 'Shiro Oni'

“Shiro Oni’ literally translated means, “white ogre.” Oni are common in Japanese folklore, depicted more as misunderstood outsiders than something to fear. Different color Oni have distinct personalities and characteristics and the stories about them bear a similarity to greek mythology. As there is no traditional “white oni,” “Shiro Oni” has an ambiguity built into it, allowing the term to incorporate a broad range of ideas. Its a symbol of the unknown, but also a symbol that is free to define itself.

Founding of Shiro Oni

American artist Kjell Hahn founded the residency in 2013. In 4 years the residency has hosted over 100 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.