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“NeoFolk” - an upcycling brand from Tsubetsu-Cho Aioi

津別町相生「NeoFolk」の「クマヤキ」インフォメーションカード▲This is a card with information about “Kumayaki,” a famous local dessert of Michi No Eki Aioi. NeoFolk created the card. 

Volunteers who are eager to make Tsubetsu-Cho Aioi, where is known for the local dessert “Kumayaki,” established an upcycling brand “NeoFolk” to make the area more famous and more lively!

What happens with things that were thrown away usually? 


Table of Contents

- What is “NeoFolk”?
- The NeoFolk way: “Do what we thought it’s fun”
- The NeoFolk way: “Creations of gatherers” 
- “Local Design” from Tsubetsu-Cho Aioi
- The new style of a grave: “A photo frame for a portrait of a deceased person”
- Interview to Tsubetsu-Cho vitalization cooperator
- Onishi’s way to express his love towards the local community


What is “NeoFolk”?

“NeoFolk” is an upcycling brand established in 2016. 
There are three members: 
Director and artist: Shigenari Onishi (A illustrator and a sculptor)
Graphic design and art: Shun Suto (Tsubetsu-Cho vitalization cooperator)
Crafts and art: Yumino Ogihara (Tsubetsu-Cho vitalization cooperator)

津別町相生「あいおいアートコミュニティクラブ(A2C2)」▲NeoFolk’s activities are based in “Aioi Art Community Club (A2C2).” This is a public facility of Tsubetsu-Cho and people can use it as a space for workshops and co-working.  

The three major activities of “NeoFolk” are: Do what they thought it’s fun, creations of gatherers, and local design.
I will introduce a mysterious festival, surprising upcycling creation, and local design from Tsubetsu-Cho. 


The NeoFolk way: “Do what we thought it’s fun”

One of the interesting things thought by “NeoFolk” is “Aioi Genjin (Primitive human) Festival.” 
Many people would wonder if there were Aioi primitive human existed. This festival’s objective is to turn participants into “Aioi Genjin (primitive human)” and experience something unusual from daily lives. 

津別町相生「NeoFolk」の「相生原人祭」▲Aioi Genjin (primitive human) Festival in 2017 (The picture is provided by NeoFolk) 

They created costumes with materials they picked up from forests in Tsubetsu-Cho Aioi. People wear the costumes to become “Aioi Genjin (primitive human) and dance. Isn’t it sound weird? 
However, it might be a surprisingly fresh and exciting experience to see things from a different point of view. Don’t you think it’s interesting if you think like that? 
This is not an annual festival, but why don’t you participate in the festival when it happens? 


The NeoFolk way: “Creations of gatherers” 

“NeoFolk” creates unique and fashionable upcycling products. 
Upcycling turns garbages into a material or products that of a higher value. What is the difference between recycling? 

津別町相生「あいおいアートコミュニティクラブ(A2C2)」のポスト▲The post of “Aioi Art Community Club (A2C2)” is one of their upcycling products. 

For example, using an old towel as a dust cloth is “recycling.” Turning it into a functional cleaning tool that people would not realize it’s made of a towel is one example of upcycling. 

Another example is making decoration goods by mixing wastes. Something like these is called upcycling. 

津別町相生「NeoFolk」が集めた廃棄物▲Wastes collected by NeoFolk. 

A pile of garbages may seem to a mountain of treasures to certain people. 

And activities to gather wastes and create something to surprise people is NeoFolk’s “creation of gatherers.” 

津別町相生「NeoFolk」のアップサイクル作品▲This pen case is an upcycling product using a basket ball used in a middle school. Ogihara made the piece.

津別町相生「NeoFolk」の「ネオフォーク流 壁かけ」▲Onishi’s work is “NeoFolk style wall-hanging decors.” He made collages of natural objects, driftage, and wastes in eastern Hokkaido. 

The concept is to allow people to bring memories of visiting Tsubetsu-Cho Aioi. These pieces seem to be stocking atmosphere of the place together with materials. 

津別町相生「NeoFolk」の「ネオフォーク流 壁かけ」▲A honycomb in a plastic bottle! There are many other unexpected things such as wheat, beans, a feather, etc. 

津別町相生「NeoFolk」アップサイクル作品▲Onishi also made these chairs and table as upcycling products. 

He turned natural style chairs used in a kindergarden into stylish and nostalgic chairs. 
The table top is made with cardboard boxes he picked up from a supermarket. 

Materials used to art pieces are things that exist anywhere. However, they don’t consider them as garbages and gather them to include in their life. This might be a style that goes beyond ecology. 


“Local Design” from Tsubetsu-Cho Aioi

Have you heard of “Kuyamayaki” that we already introduced in Hokkaido Likers?
This is a local dessert sold in “Michi No Eki Aioi.” The cute visual and delicious flavor made it famous all over Japan, and it has become one of the most famous local specialty of Tsubetsu-Cho Aioi. 

津別町相生「NeoFolk」のローカルデザイン「クマヤキフォトパネル」▲NeoFolk created the “Kuyamayaki” comic foreground. 

Onishi designed “Kumayaki,” and now related products became popular. NeoFolk is in charge of Kumayaki T-Shirts, towels, masking tapes, etc. 

津別町相生「NeoFolk」のローカルデザイン「クマヤキマスキングテープ」▲Masking tapes are perfect for a small present. 

You can purchase Kumayaki goods at “Michi No Eki Aioi” or “Shige-Chan Land. ”

津別町相生「NeoFolk」のローカルデザイン小冊子「ワンダーランドAioi」▲A pamphlet about “Michi No Eki Aioi” is called “Wonderland Aioi.” The first issue comes with a sticker of Kumayaki, and it’s 100 yen. 

They put a lot of work in the editorial design of “Wonderland Aioi.” The pamphlet introduces the history of Aioi and Michi No Eki Aioi and staffs of Michi No Eki Aioi. 

津別町相生「NeoFolk」のサウンドトラック「WONDERLAND AIOI -ORIGNAL SOUND TRACK Vol.1 」▲The objective of activities by NeoFolk is to make the area more famous by the power of design. They also produced a CD to express attractions of Tsubetsu-Cho Aioi by music. (The picture is provided by NeoFolk)

One day, they all agreed that music leaves strong impressions to people. Then NeoFolk established a music label “NEO FOLK LABEL.” 
And the first CD “WONDERLAND AIOI -ORIGNAL SOUND TRACK Vol.1” includes slow and relaxing music inspired by atmospheres of Tsubetsu-Cho Aioi. 

The new style of a grave: “A photo frame for a portrait of a deceased person”

We often hear that the style of graves has changed in the past few years from the news, etc. 

“NeoFolk” created a photo frame for a portrait of a deceased person to fit with current needs about graves. 
“NeoFolk” practices “creation of gatherers,” so the photo frame is also made with natural objects, driftage, and wastes in eastern Hokkaido. 

津別町相生「NeoFolk」の「卓上遺影碑」▲“A photo frame for a portrait of a deceased person” with a picture put in a ceramic tile. 

The photo frame has a small space to put ashes of the deceased. 
Unlike traditional family Buddhist altar, people can put the photo frame as a part of interior decors and put things the deceased like around the picture. The product is based on a built-to-order style. 

Contact to NeoFolk from their official website or Facebook page if you are interested in the photo frame or other upcycling products and the music label “NEO FOLK LABEL.” 

Interview to Tsubetsu-Cho vitalization cooperator

Two Tsubetsu-Cho vitalization cooperators are active in NeoFolk. 
Ogihara, who involves in craft and art is taking maternity leave, so I asked Suto who involves in graphic design and art about his life in suburbs and NeoFolk. 

津別町相生「NeoFolk」周辺▲Tsubetsu-Cho Aioi, where “Aioi Art Community Club (A2C2)” is surrounded by the environment like this. 

Suto moved to Tsubetsu-Cho Aioi from Kushiro-Cho, but he was born in a more rural area compared to Tsubetsu-Cho Aioi. 
Tsubetsu-Cho Aioi is not a convenient area as it takes about 20 mins to the closest convenience stores. However, he told me that he does not feel inconvenience as there is a Michi No eki. 

津別町相生「NeoFolk」アップサイクル作品▲These are upcycling products made by Suto. He turned trophies into beautiful lamps. 

I asked how he thinks about NeoFolk. “One of the attractions of NeoFolk is that it has multiple roles. I can involve in prints, web, arts, music, creation, and it is also a place to express who I am.” It seems like NeoFolk is somewhere comfortable to Suto. 
And he told me that he wants to make NeoFolk more and more attractive. 


Onishi’s way to express his love towards the local community

Onishi, also called Shige-Chan, is the director and artist of NeoFolk. 
He moved his basis of work from Tokyo to his hometown Tsubetsu-Cho in 1996. He established a private museum “Shige-Chan Land” in 2001.

津別町相生「NeoFolk」大西重成さん▲Smoking tobacco looks very good on him. 

Onishi is involved in vitalizing with Tsubetsu-Cho now, but he did not imagine to work with the town. 
It took a long time to understand each other: thoughts of a unique artist and town hall were totally different. 
“When I talked with a town worker about Tsubetsu-Cho vitalization cooperator, who later becomes a member of NeoFolk, they did not understand what I say,” Onishi said with laughs. 

津別町相生「NeoFolk」制作「津別町ふるさと納税カタログ」▲The catalog of Tsubetsu-Cho’s Furusato Nozei (tax reduction given to tax payers who donate to local municipalities) 

As “Kumayaki” got popular, the relationship between Onishi and town hall has changed. Now, NeoFolk designs the catalog of Tsubetsu-Cho’s Furusato Nozei. 
Onishi says: “I never thought that I would have feelings of love towards my local community until I got this old.” 
“I want to pass down the next generation that there was a town like this, people lived, and there was a history.” Onishi thought like that and created a pamphlet about the history of former Japanese National Railways Aioi Line, “Memories of Aioi Railway."

津別町相生「NeoFolk」制作「相生鉄道の記憶」▲Tsubetsu-Cho and NeoFolk collaborated to create this pamphlet “Memories of Aioi Railway.”

Onishi’s way to express his love towards the local community to pass down the history with the power of design. 
“I have many things I want to try; most of them are my fantasy.” It seems like Onishi has endless ideas. 

Related Links

- NeoFolk
- NeoFolk Facebook
- Aioi Genjin Festival Facebook
  • “NeoFolk” - an upcycling brand from Tsubetsu-Cho Aioi

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Fumie Sato