Shiba-no-ie (Minato-ku)

Atmospheric and relaxing free public space, local interaction and socialising, easily accessible events, child-friendly

3-26-10 Shiba, Minato-ku, 105-0014

Closest station: Shiba-koen, Akabanebashi

Opening times: Tuesday and Thursday 11am-4pm, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday 12 – 5pm. Closed Sunday and Monday.

www.shibanoie.net

Shiba-no-ie is a unique and relaxing open space for the local and wider community. Much like SHIBAURA HOUSE, the main difference here is the space; this is a small and cosy old house. Shiba-no-ie can feel like a second home, where you can make many new friends from all kinds of backgrounds. The informal and warm surroundings greatly influence the open and laid-back feel and helps foster a friendly atmosphere in which to interact with those around you. There may be regulars who only pass by or stay for some time, and first-time visitors. The open windows to the street allow the staff and passersby to get to know one another, or to invite people inside. The buildings homely architecture is intimately tied to its success.

All kinds of people pass through Shiba-no-ie. In one afternoon there, I joined a free origami class given by two elderly locals, some schoolchildren played games on the comfy sofas, a local office worker used the communal table to eat lunch and chat with me, the young children of the staff played freely, a group of visitors curious about the space stopped by for some drinks, a young man searching for a new job decided to pass the day there, and various other people added to the house (including myself). Memorably, a 90-year-old neighbour, who lived nearby his whole life, took a rest on the window seat outside to look through the free items box which is usually outside for the public. Kato-san (the main English speaking staff member) told me how this man passes by every day but has never yet entered inside, their friendly relationship is cultivated on the ledge of the original frame windows.

Aside from the cultivation of informal relationships, as a free public space Shiba-no-ie holds many events every week which you can easily join. They may be taking place in a corner as the building functions simultaneously with many other activities. Events could be craft-based, music, food, or other types. There are simple drinks and snacks for a small fee which you can help yourself to. Or you can bring your own lunch and drinks. Maybe you could share these with the people there, as offered to me when I visited. All these small things create informal ways to connect with the locals and make new relationships. You can enjoy feeling a more personal, egalitarian side of the city around you.

To enter Shiba-no-ie you only need to write your name and the time of your entry on a simple clipboard near the entrance, then you can stay for free as long as you wish. On Friday, there is a focus on children’s play – so if you have children you can bring them here to have fun with local children.

 

The website is only in Japanese so I recommend you visit in person and if you would like to know what will be happening soon, you can ask one of the members of staff who can communicate with you in English if you cannot speak Japanese.

Shiba-no-ie is supported by Minato Ward government and the nearby Keio University. For that reason, many events taking place there are supported by Keio University. The website includes a (very) long list of the supporters and staff of Shiba-no-ie who come from all kinds of backgrounds, including many elderly locals. This is a good example of the nurturing community aspect of this building and project. I highly recommend you visit to see for yourself the charm of Shiba-no-ie.

 

Also nearby

Gokinjo Innovation Lab Shimbashi

Similarly supported by Minato Ward government and Keio University, not so far from Shiba-no-ie, is a community space for local residents called Gokinjo Innovation Lab Shimbashi. This lab holds many courses, talks and events aimed at connecting local people to the development of the area, imagining and problem-solving together. Open during weekdays the space is for public use but most information is in Japanese. Without Japanese this space is less accessible than Shiba-no-ie but there is a cafe and they have many events which you could take part in if you would like to, if you can make some simple communication.