Shibaura House (Minato-ku)

Open public space, events focused on local community and the arts, unique architecture, international events, child-friendly

3-15-4 Shibaura, Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan, 108-0023

Closest station: Tamachi 

Opening times: every weekday 11am-5pm (open for events outside these hours)

shibaurahouse.jp/en / facebook.com/SHIBAURAHOUSE

SHIBAURA HOUSE is one of the few non-governmental spaces in Tokyo offering an open public space for free use. The ground and second floors of the architecturally famous building are open to passersby. Chairs and tables, a kid’s play space, a library (mostly design-related books) and a refreshment area welcome curious people. The self-serve coffee is ¥100, you can help yourself. You can stay as long as you like during open hours for studying, reading, creating, socialising, relaxing, eating lunch, etc. The space feels very wide, open to the light (the air too when the weather is good) and welcoming.

Weekly and monthly special events throughout the year include cooking classes, kid’s playtime groups, English classes, discussions and more. The events usually have a small fee but are open to everybody. They often have an international connection, sometimes with support from the Dutch Embassy in Minato-ku. Recently, a Dutch potter (with funding from the Embassy) was invited to see pottery in Kyushu and give a tea ceremony party for the public inspired by the trip at SHIBAURA HOUSE. Discussions also sometimes take place with an international theme, such as the recent international New Media projects panel discussion in Japanese and English (supported by Waseda University).

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(photos courtesy of SHIBAURA HOUSE)

All the events are publicised online and through social media, but mostly in Japanese. However, if you send a message or email in English someone will be able to respond to you. Most of the staff can communicate in English. So you could also ask when you visit for things you can get involved in. If you have children, a lot of the events cater to them. That includes craft events such as the monthly kids’ woodcraft event (¥500 per child). These events are especially popular with the local housewives.

On the second floor is a small outdoor garden which looks down on the busy street below. This space has a good view of the many locals and workers passing by. This garden (and the rest of the building) sometimes hosts growing and harvesting events throughout the year. Last year, HELLO GARDEN (from Nishi-Chiba) tended the herbs and vegetables for use in SHIBAURA HOUSE cooking events. A public dinner last summer (with the floor-to-ceiling glass doors open to the street) offered the various herbs for you to pick and make your own herb cocktail. SHIBAURA HOUSE is considering using the currently unused open rooftop space for local growing activities in the future.

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The rest of the building is occupied by a design print company. This partly funds the building. More funding comes from the rental of the building’s larger event spaces. Those spaces are also used for community events. The top floor atrium and its wide night views of the surrounding area were used in an amateur dance collective. Six months of workshops led by a professional, from a casting call open to the public lead to a final performance. The dancers included an 11-year old neighbour and a Buddhist monk (Dance Port Shibaura). Events like this highlight the open and inclusive aspect of SHIBAURA HOUSE’s activities. Many of them focus on art and culture in some form. Sometimes the PauseDraw group meets at SHIBAURA HOUSE for their monthly collective drawing event.

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One main idea behind SHIBAURA HOUSE is that the openness and welcoming atmosphere of the building allows for interaction between the local residents and passing workers or visitors. Shibaura is home to many new high-rise family apartment blocks, but at the same time thousands of commuting office workers. One elderly long-term Shibaura resident, who lives directly behind SHIBAURA HOUSE, can often be seen using the space or joining the events (even an izakaya and karaoke trip with the staff).

The building itself is a famous architectural landmark, incorporating the transparency and openness of the idea of SHIBAURA HOUSE into the architecture. There are private floors, but you can visit them if you’d like. You just need to first sign in and wear a pass. These floors include the rental spaces. Two prices are charged for these rental spaces; a higher price for commercial rentals and a much lower price for community groups, NPO’s and private events such as birthdays or weddings. SHIBAURA HOUSE offers this lower price for easier community access.

Weekly Event (current 2016)

Every Thursday and Friday lunchtime

Twice a week the local housewives of the area cook and sell meals together in the public space. You can stop by to eat a home cooked style lunch on those days. The local cooks are supported in this recent project by a professional chef who helps them to organise the menu.

For more information about SHIBAURA HOUSE please check the well designed and detailed English section of their webpage www.shibaurahouse.jp/en (the whole range of events are not visible in the English page, please message or ask them or more information). If you live locally or nearby SHIBAURA HOUSE could be your new second home.

Or watch this video, “How to use SHIBAURA HOUSE”, presented in English by Charlie