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Mr. Kyohei Sakaguchi, Prime Minister of the New Government
The essence of EDUCATE--5 years at "Ishiyama University"

Kyohei Sakaguchi is active as "Prime Minister of the New Government"

A man who has assumed the title of "Prime Minister of the New Government." An architect who has created a mobile home which has wheels and can move. Kyohei Sakaguchi (34; graduated from the Waseda University School of Science and Engineering) is a man of vigorous action and a variety of faces including writer and modern artist. He published his graduate thesis, which is entitled "0 Yen House" and features a collection of photographs showing the living quarters of Tokyo's homeless population. His recent book "Creating an Independent Nation" is a best seller. Sakaguchi has also released a movie based on his graduate thesis, as well as a self-probing documentary film entitled "How to Make a Mobile Home." Sakaguchi discussed with us his time at Waseda University.

[From the Alumni Newsletter "Northwest Wind," Vol.12 (published in September 2012)

Entering the Department of Architecture at the School of Science and Engineering, Waseda University

I first heard the word "architect" when I was in the 5th grade of elementary school. At that time, I had a lot of fun playing in my room by making a tent out of a blanket and my desk. "If it's so much fun playing that way, why don't you become an architect?" said my father. I began thinking more about becoming an architect when I was preparing to enter university. "If you want to become an architect, you must enter the University of Tokyo," said my teacher at Kumamoto High School. "Otherwise, you won't have a good career." I didn't really understand what my teacher was saying at that time. All of my classmates selected a university based on deviation values. However, this was a bad way of going about things. Everyone conformed too much to the rules of universities, and everyone was thinking "I wonder if it would be possible to somehow change this rule?" Students should simply enter a university which they like.

Therefore, I decided to investigate for myself where I should go to university. I went to Kumamoto City Central Library and read all of the architectural magazines and books that I could find. When starting from recent architects and going back in time, I discovered an edgy style of architecture from the early 1980s. The work GEN-AN looked like large drum cans had simply been rolled on their sides and seemed to have been made by hand. This design had been created by Professor Osamu Ishiyama of the Department of Architecture at the School of Science and Engineering, Waseda University. I was struck by the sudden realization that Professor Ishiyama represented the kind of architect which I wanted to become. I had fun a design which was connected with the tent that I made in my room when I was an elementary school student. Until my 2nd year of high school, I had one of the best grade point averages in my class. However, after entering my 3rd year, I became bored with learning in which the answer was already known and I stopped studying. As a result, I lacked the academic ability to pass the entrance examination for university. Still, I thought that even if I couldn't pass examinations, I would sneak into lectures given by Professor Ishiyama and I would simply knock on the door of his library.

I lacked the academic ability to pass entrance examinations, but I was lucky in that there were still openings at the Department of Architecture (School of Science and Engineering) for recommended students from designated high schools. The openings for recommended students at the Waseda University School of Science and Engineering were designated by department, and it was rare for an opening to arise in the Department of Architecture which I aspired to enter. At that time, there hadn't been an opening in the Department of Architecture for Kumamoto High School for more than 10 years. "Everyone is going to national universities, so there is an opening for recommend students in the Department of Architecture at Waseda University," said my high school teacher. Presented with the opportunity, I immediately expressed my interest in the opening. Since recommendations were determined based on grades until the 2nd year of high school, I was able to enter Waseda University without taking the entrance examination. "Why is there an opening at the Department of Architecture just when you are looking to enter the university," said my teacher. "You are too lucky!" Even so, I was completely devoted to the idea of meeting Professor Ishiyama. In that respect, my enthusiasm far exceeded the feeling of other students who were simply hoping to pass examinations. I was truly backed by a breeze of good luck, perhaps a "northwest wind."

Meeting with Professor Osamu Ishiyama

After entering Waseda University, I asked other students about GEN-AN. However, no one knew what I was talking about. "What's wrong with these people?" I thought. "Why did they come to Waseda University?" None of the other students could match the enthusiasm that I had developed while looking forward to entering Waseda and meeting Professor Ishiyama. I thought that going to Professor Ishiyama's laboratory to meet with him was too trite. Therefore, immediately after entering university, I snuck into a lecture for 3rd-year students. My intention was to introduce myself and make a lasting impression. I was intent on making Professor Ishiyama become interested in me. After all, my style was not to make a move until an offer had been extended. I shaved my head into a mohawk, put on a monk's robe, went almost barefoot and carried an acoustic guitar. Despite me being a 1st-year student in a class for 3rd-year students, I sat in the front row and listened earnestly. Then, at the end of the lecture, Professor Ishiyama called out to me and asked who I was. "My name is Kyohei Sakaguchi and I am a 1st-year student," I explained. "I came to meet you." Unfortunately, Professor Ishiyama became angry. "What are you thinking!" he yelled. "Stop meddling and go somewhere else." For me, things went exactly as planned. It was a wonderful first meeting.

The first class that I took from Professor Ishiyama was based on the theme "talk about the house which you lived in until now." I had lived in company housing provided by my father's employers and I didn't have any special experiences. I drew a picture of the space where my family of 5 people lived. My drawing showed precisely the way in which we spread our futons on the floor before sleeping, the position of me and my siblings when my parents were fighting, and the trajectory of items thrown at my father by my mother. Professor Ishiyama awarded my drawing the 1st place prize and gave me the opportunity to make a presentation in front of the class. It was the first "talk show" of my life. I had everyone laughing like crazy.

"What you are doing now is very important," I was told by Professor Ishiyama. "You're still young and simple, so may not understand the meaning, but you should get some information on a man named Wajiro Kon (1888-1973). The things you are doing have already been done by Wajiro Kon." Taking my Professor's advice, I checked at the Science and Engineering Library. Wajiro Kon was a Professor at the Department of Architecture, Waseda University. He drew precise sketches of normal homes and the lifestyle of their inhabitants. I immediately became very interested in his work. I remember everything the Professor Ishiyama told me: "You can learn about yourself through reference literature. Always read all reference literature thoroughly." "It's not just about hard objects. You need balance." "The best books are written by people who have already died. When still alive, the appraisal of people changes. Their opinions also change. That's why you should listen to the opinion of those who have already passed away." I took the liberty of making Professor Ishiyama my mentor and was influenced by him tremendously. During class, I always gave everything that I had. I knew that Professor Ishiyama disliked how I always had a disheveled appearance, but I continued in my ways without giving an inch.

Theme: Urban revitalization

"Urban revitalization" was the architectural design theme assigned during my 3rd year at university. Until then, all of my assignments had been to design fictional structures in fictional locations. However, the 3rd-year theme required students to actually walk through a neighborhood and select a project site. We were also asked to reuse anything which was suitable for reuse. I found this theme to be very interesting. I walked through Shibuya Ward and found a water tank on top of a ruined house along Gaien-Nishi Dori Street. I moved in a generator, set a video recorder and lived in the tank for four days. The assignment required that we submit a model and a blueprint. I submitted a 15-minute video as my model and a drawing for the blueprint. I have to admit, my work was pretty outrageous. At the review where all the models were displayed, I was the only student with a television and VCR. It was a strange sight. The participating Professors were in an uproar. I was even told that I wouldn't be able to make a living as an architect. The presentation time at the review was only 6 minutes, so I had no choice but to turn off my video partway through. This made Professor Ishiyama very angry.

"Play it all," he said. "Don't stop partway through. Who cares about the time, just show it to everyone." Professor Ishiyama also gave me the following advice: "Reforming existing structures into homes is very important. There is already an excess of buildings in Japan, and it is obvious that there is no need for more building. Construction is simply being propelled by the economy. There's no need for you to study the genealogy of modern architecture. Just keep on doing what you are doing. You will probably be able to make a living after about 10 years. But 10 years is a long time. You could starve to death before you are successful. Be careful not to starve." He gave me this advice at the same review which I had snuck into when I was a 1st year student. The theme of the assignment was also the same. I felt that all of this was fate. Since Professor Ishiyama told me to continue down my own path, I completely stopped making architectural drawings.

Joining Setagaya Village

"Creating an Independent Nation," published by Kodansha Publishing in May 2012. The book contains Sakaguchi's thoughts as Prime Minister of the New Government. For example: "There is no need to destroy anything. Instead, you must doubt the foundations of common sense and change the way in which you behave. Change your perspective. And continue to think for yourself."

My graduate thesis was a photographic collection of the living quarters of Tokyo's homeless population. I took a survey while walking around Tama River, Sumida River and Shinjuku Ward. "The living quarters of homeless people hold no special meaning," said Professor Ishiyama, who was initially uninterested in my project. However, his attitude changed when I showed him how one homeless person was living along Sumida River. This homeless person had constructed a small home and installed a solar panel on the roof in order to generate energy and operate home appliances. "This is amazing!" he said. "There may be something worth investigating here." I affixed color copies of the living quarters to Kent paper and typed captions using a word processor. I then cut out the captions and affixed them under the photographs. The result was my graduate thesis entitled "Tokyo House" (later published as "0 Yen House"). The required word count for the thesis was satisfied by the text in captions of this handmade photographic collection. My thesis was giving the highest grade among all submissions. I felt that Professor Ishiyama discovered my new possibilities.

I wasn't interested in search for employment and I wanted to enter graduate school. However, I didn't have the necessary funds. So, I waited by the elevator which Professor Ishiyama normally used and forced my way on. "I don't have any money, but I want to sneak into graduate school," I said, giving a direct explanation of my predicament. "Are you crazy?!" said an angry Professor Ishiyama. On the day of entrance examinations for graduate school, I had the following thought before going to sleep: "I created the photographic collection and I made a film. Even if I can't become an architect, I could try publishing or modern art." I was awoken by a telephone call from the laboratory. "What are you doing?" he asked. "Why didn't you take the entrance examination?!" "You told me that it was impossible, so I decided not to take the exam," I explained. "You are really crazy," said Professor Ishiyama. I was immediately summoned to the university laboratory.

I was asked what I would do after finishing university. "I am going to work independently to change society," I answered. "I will publish my graduate thesis. Don't worry." This made Professor Ishiyama furious. "I let you join Setagaya Village (Professor Ishiyama's private laboratory). I immediately accepted the offer. Starting from the next day, I worked as a volunteer at Setagaya Village. I was unable to draw a blueprint or create a model. However, for some reason, I was always brought along to important meetings or contract negotiations and was shown how to earn money. "I will train alone and suffer for 10 years," I thought. One year later, I left Setagaya Village. "Take care of yourself," was the parting message given to me by Professor Ishiyama.

Every single thing the Professor Ishiyama said and did was a complete revelation to me. Even today, he is still the most intimidating person to me. I am constantly aware of Professor Ishiyama's presence as someone who always watches over me. He has never seen fit to engage in proper communication with me. He doesn't even talk to me. Even now, he still asks me "Who are you?" "What are you talking about?" I answer. "Didn't you recently write a review for my book?" However, Professor Ishiyama has always taught me through his attitude. He has never praised me in any way. Professor Ishiyama taught me the skills necessary to survive--almost as if I had learned how to shoot an arrow or use a knife. For me, it was as if I studied at "Osamu Ishiyama University" and not Waseda University. In Latin, the word "educate" doesn't contain the meaning of "cultivate." Instead, it means to "guide to the outside." Before I met Professor Ishiyama, there was a part of me that was fearful and hesitant. However, he pulled this part of me to the outside, where a wonderful and interesting world was waiting.

Scene from the film "How to Make a Mobile Home"

Related link

0 Yen House

Movie: "How to Make a Mobile Home"

Osamu Ishiyama Laboratory

Kyohei Sakaguchi

In 2011, graduated from the Department of Construction at the School of Science and Engineering, Waseda University. Married in 2006 and has one child.
His recent writing "Creating an Independent Nation (Kodansha Gendai-Shinsho Publishing)," describes how he assumed the title of "Prime Minister of the New Government" based on his idea that people disatisfied with the current government should be bold enough to make their own independent nation.
He has disclosed his cellular phone number as a direct "lifeline telephone" to the Prime Minister (090-8106-4666; *Not taking calls from August 8th to October 3rd, 2012). Also uses Twitter (@zhtsss).