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The Japanese city of Higashikawa, in cooperation with the renowned architect Kengo Kuma, is organising an international wooden chair design competition, which invites students up to the age of 30 to participate. The aim of the competition is to popularise the concept of Kagu — mindfulness, connection with the environment, sustainability.

Stories Editorial January 14, 2021

Higashikawa is located on the island of Hokkaido and is known in Japan as the town of photography. Higashikawa is also a twin city of Rūjiena in Latvia. Although Higashikawa is small, there is an active furniture industry that uses local resources and implements various creative programs. One of them is Your Chair, which aims to create a sense of belonging for children — after graduating primary school, students are gifted the same wooden chairs which they sat on in school. At the end of 2020, a new initiative was launched in Higashikawa — the Kagu design competition.


In order to promote the use of local resources, create a pleasant environment and involve young people in the development of new design concepts, Higashikawa has started a collaboration with architect Kengo Kuma, who is deeply interested in the use of architecture and design in rural areas. Kengo Kuma advocates the development of regional communities through architecture and local resources and the education of the new generation.


The aim of the competition is to create designs that embody the concept of Kagu — a mindful lifestyle for young people who will take on future responsibilities. Kagu aims to forge closer ties between people and the environment. We use a wide variety of objects on a daily basis, but we are not always aware of the context in which they are made. We often handle objects without care and treat them poorly, without giving them time and attention. The essence of Kagu is the opposite — sustainability, care and awareness.


The theme of the Kagu competition is the design of a wooden chair. Submitted works may not have been previously published, but may be shown at graduation displays or as class work. The competition is open to pupils and students under the age of 30 studying in Japan or any other country. It is also possible for groups of participants to participate in the competition. Each participant may participate in only one group and submit only one application. Participation in the competition is free.


  • one Grand Prix — the Kengo Kuma award 500 000 JPY (3950 EUR),
  • three Excellence Awards 100 000 JPY (790 EUR),
  • six Honourable Mentions.


  • Chairman — Kengo Kuma, architect, professor at the University of Tokyo,
  • Toshiko Mori, architect, professor at Harvard Graduate School of Design,
  • Masahiro Harada, architect, associate professor at Shibaura Institute of Technology,
  • Teppei Fujiwara, architect, associate professor at Yokohama National University,
  • Katsuhiko Hibino, artist, Professor at Tokyo University of the Arts,
  • Asao Tokolo, designer, Visiting Professor at Tokyo Zokei University,
  • Noritsugu Oda, chair researcher, design advisor to the town of Higashikawa,
  • Hiroshi Nakamura, architect, architectural design office NAP,
  • Eisuke Tachikawa, design strategist, design studio Nosigner.

The jury will select 10 finalists from the submitted works, the authors of which will be asked to make a 1:5 scale model of the chair and present it in person in Higashikawa.Immediately afterwards, a final decision will be made and the winners will be announced.The trip and accommodation of the finalists of the competition to Higashikawa will be paid for. The winning works can later be commercialised.

Competition timeline:

  • registration for the competition by 27 February 2021,
  • submission of works by 31 March 2021,
  • first selection round in April 2021,
  • second selection round in mid-May 2021,
  • award ceremony in Higashikawa on June 26, 2021.

More information about the competition and the application form are available on its website. Additional questions can be sent to