Artist Residencies, Exhibitions, Projects, Activities & Events

Way of Life- Installation Process

Way of Life, this art installation was inspired by numerous Japanese Shrines that I have visited for this trip to Japan for the Artist Residency program at Studio Kura. Whether is the famous UNESCO listed or the homely neighbourhood ones, every single shrine has a story to tell; about their cultural anthropology influences and the way of Life in Japan.

Most of the shrines are lead by a lengthy stairways lined with Torī Gates from the entrance to the main shrine. Climbing through these steps clears up my mind and as I reach the tranquil & meditative main shrine nested among the greenery up in the mountain, it felt as though crossing through an invisible boundary into another ‘world’. The main shrine and the surrounding are decorated with numerous foreign motifs and iconic ornaments which sparks my curiosity enormously. These shrine visits are addictive and it has been a daily routine before I start work in the studio; it is an escapade from the stressful society & having quiet moments with myself. *some of the local shrines around the Studio Kura- Kamiari Shrine, Hakojima Shrine, Matsusue Inari Shrine, Matsusue Goro Inari Shrine &Kotake Shrine.

Was very fortunate to participate in the Making of Shimenawa 標縄 with the locals, it’s an annual event and it happens that Studio Kura director’s mother owns the Matsusue Inari shrine around the vicinity. Clarified with the priest personally regarding some of the motifs meaning which inspire me to use incorporate some of the iconic motifs into my work.

Finding the right space was crucial for this installation, thought it might pose a challenge but I found it within an hour upon reaching Studio Kura on the very first day. It’s more like a fated encounter, instinctively knew it was the right space at first sight. Was told that the Studio Kura Gallery’s mezzanine is a work space and no one has ever used it to showcase their works there due to the accessibility and the design of the space. The mezzanine has a low slanted ceiling, windowless, space size around L565 x W280 x H380cm, with a simple rustic DIY stair connecting to it and a unusual opening on one side of the wall.

To create a tranquil space, the first task is to clear out the furniture and do a major spring cleaning. It took me 2 whole days to wipe down the walls and pillars, but the most tedious job the floor. Many have been walking with their shoes on in this space for years, have to sweep and mop the floor for over 40 times with cleaning agent, literally “purifying” the space. And of course, shoes were forbidden thereafter. The spotless floor becomes my studio space, where I work with large sheets of white paper.

Photo taken by Eswari
Photo taken by Eswari.

The opening at the mezzanine is unusual but I like how the light pours in although it gets overwhelming on sunny day. Decided to work it to my advantage by creating a Japanese style “window” out of it.


Usually wasn’t able to take much of the work in progress photos when I’m in working mode. But this time, my bestie, Eswari Krishnadas, was also one of the participating artist. So here’s some rare behind the scene process.

Seems really easy to install but I was trembling, have to tiptoe to reach the highest point and one slight miss I will fall over the ledge. Photo taken by Eswari.
Photo taken by Eswari.
Photo taken by Eswari.
Endless climbing for this installation really took a toll on my knees. Photo taken by Eswari.

Set up a cosy corner in the studio countering the cold winter. A makeshift snack bar and utilizing the kerosene burner to the max.

Final presentation of Way of Life will be in another post.

©Lee Cai Jun

At Studio Kura from 30 November – 26 December 2017.

AnyEveryLittleThings, Artist Residencies, Projects, Activities & Events

Matsusue Inari Shrine- 松末稲荷神社

Matsusue Inari Shrine- 松末稲荷神社 was one of the researched shrine I did for my Artist Residency Exhibition at Studio Kura. This shrine was owned by the Studio Kura founder’s mother, Michiko san. A 5 minutes cycling distance from Studio Kura House 2. Came here twice as the first time was to join the Making of Shimenawa (sacred rope) and I was unprepared for the sudden rain and steep unpaved trail.

This was one of the more challenging shrine and an arty one. It was one of the venue for the International Art Festival: Itoshima Art Farm. The shrines and artworks are scattered at different spots in this mountain so there’s quite a lot walking and climbing, some of the route are steep and unpaved, so it’s best to gear up (although the senior locals make their way up easily, but not for me (city-born person)).

The starting trail is right next the red torī gate.
Interesting rows of enshrined stones enshrined at the foot of the mountain.
Interesting rows of enshrined stones enshrined at the foot of the mountain.

Artwork by Takeshi Ei.

Artwork by Hirakawa Nagisa.
Spot the artwork installed at this tree?
This artwork really caught me by surprise.

Link to the Map,130.1478117,16.24z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x3541c2d4f036e8e9:0x3b8ec1158d36898c!8m2!3d33.5300181!4d130.1472589?dcr=0©Lee Cai Jun

Went there on 22 December 2017

AnyEveryLittleThings, Artist Residencies, Projects, Activities & Events

Kotake Shrine- 高嶽神社

Kotake Shrine- 高嶽神社 was one of the researched shrine I did for my Artist Residency Exhibition at Studio Kura. A quiet neighbourhood shrine up at the Shiroyama mountain 城山. 8 minutes cycling distance from the Hakojima Shrine. Unlike the bright colour, grand shrine, what I like about this shrine is its exact opposite style. Greeted by a long steep slope at the entrance and followed by a lengthy stairway surrounded by dense bamboo trees is pretty meditative as I take each steps up.

Tranquil and rustic environment without anyone around is the charm of this shrine. Allowing quality ‘me’ time is what I prefer compare to crowded popular shrine.

Link to the Map,130.1590832,19.49z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x3541c2b89f6a3397:0xb1db55cab970b5d7!8m2!3d33.5412946!4d130.159286?dcr=0

©Lee Cai Jun

Went there on 12 December 2017

AnyEveryLittleThings, Artist Residencies, Projects, Activities & Events

Hakojima Shrine 箱島神社

Hakojima Shrine 箱島神社 was one of the researched shrine I did for my Artist Residency Exhibition at Studio Kura. It is located on a small island offshore along the Karatsu Highway. A short 8-10 mins cycling distance from Studio Kura House 2, but it’s quite a scary ride on the highway especially when cycling next to fast moving vehicles and I have to constantly ride really close to the fenced ledge.

The entrance to the island is next to a residence house, it’s a sandy pave that leads to the beach. Usually the locals stroll along the beach occasionally, otherwise, there’s hardly any people around.

The steps heading the main shrine are quite narrow and steep.
White Torī gate instead of the usual red ones. The island resembles a small Japanese garden with odd shaped huge rocks and pine trees. Right at the far end is where the small shrine is located.

Link to the Map:,130.1545531,19.23z/data=!4m19!1m13!4m12!1m3!2m2!1d130.1516219!2d33.5325117!1m6!1m2!1s0x3541c2c820c1ab7b:0xbeb39adeb1302aad!2sHakojima+Shrine,+86+Nij%C5%8D-Hamakubo,+Nij%C5%8Dhamakubo,+Itoshima-shi,+Fukuoka-ken+819-1614,+Japan!2m2!1d130.1539825!2d33.5430608!3e2!3m4!1s0x3541c2c820c1ab7b:0xbeb39adeb1302aad!8m2!3d33.5430608!4d130.1539825?dcr=0

©Lee Cai Jun

Went there on 12 December 2017

AnyEveryLittleThings, Artist Residencies, Projects, Activities & Events

Kamiari Shrine- Sacred Stone 神在神社ー神石

Kamiari Shrine- Sacred Stone(神在神社ー神石) was one of the researched shrine I did for my Artist Residency Exhibition at Studio Kura. It was around 25 minutes leisure cycling distance from Studio Kura’s House 2 or a 15 minutes walk from Ikisan station (一貴山駅).

Main Shrine area is located in the residence area at the corner of the road.  Unlike the usual wooden red torī gate, this shrine has a stone torī. Next to the main shrine on the right there’s a smaller version where they enshrined a stone in it.

From the left side of the main shrine, there is road that leads to the Sacred Stone (3-5 minutes walk) with a signage indicating in Japanese Kanji (神石). At the end of the road you will reach a solar power plant and then continue to walk along the dirt path until you reach a junction, follow the signage and take the left path. Midway through, there is an “entrance” or more like an opening with steps. It’s hardly noticeable and I’m actually quite uncertain about it, as there wasn’t a single soul around, and it’d definitely off the designated dirt pave and heading into the thick and wild forest. But curiosity overruled, and there I found a most unexpected surprise!

road heading to the solar power plant
turning left following the signage
Spot the side opening entrance?

Was speechless and mesmerized by the tranquil sight. A massive Stone nested comfortably among the quiet dense bamboo grove.

The bamboos surrounding the stone was cleared, leaving a large opening above the stone creating a natural spotlight that lights up the Sacred Stone. The stone was leaning against a tree, like its being careful held in place. Do watch your step, as there many bumps on the ground, those are the bamboo remains after being chopped away to clear up the ground.

Instruction when praying. (Tried my best to translate the Japanese). 1) Bow before the sacred stone. 2) Open out both hands widely and breath in deeply through the nose and hold your breath for 10 seconds. Than breath out slowly from the mouth. This is to receive power from the stone. 3) Repeat no.2 three times. 4) Received the power from the sacred stone and bring it back with you, 5) Dear prayers, wish you best of health. Please remember to bow before the Sacred Stone before leaving the place. *any better translation is always welcome.*

Link to the map:,+Kamiari,+Itoshima-shi,+Fukuoka-ken+819-1123,+Japan/@33.5338554,130.1741809,18z/data=!4m14!4m13!1m5!1m1!1s0x3541c2ed0ab6b4b7:0x5ab1bc316a618bd1!2m2!1d130.1746775!2d33.5328062!1m5!1m1!1s0x3541c2ed3a24ea1b:0x2ea05f69da7e3bcd!2m2!1d130.1743469!2d33.534544!3e2?dcr=0

©Lee Cai Jun

Went there on 17 December 2017

AnyEveryLittleThings, Artist Residencies, Projects, Activities & Events

Matsusue Goro Inari Shrine-松末五郎稲荷神社

Matsusue Goro Inari Shrine-松末五郎稲荷神社 was one of the researched shrine I did for my Artist Residency Exhibition at Studio Kura. This was the closest shrine to where I’m staying, located between Studio Kura Studio 1 and House 2, starting from either place, it takes about 3-5 minutes on foot. The shrine starting point is quite weird as it felt like walking into a local resident’s backyard and from there, take a flight of stairs which lead to various Shrines of different designs and sizes.

In front of this shrine, there’s a huge open space where you can view the town and sometimes they hold events here.

There’s a nice bamboo route.

Link to the Map.,+Itoshima-shi,+Fukuoka-ken+819-1613,+Japan/@33.533542,130.1527808,19z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x3541c2d032b1d75b:0x9871408a3cf55dd5!8m2!3d33.5335107!4d130.1529793?dcr=0

©Lee Cai Jun

Went there on 20 Decemeber 2017