OENSO is in Ueno-sakuragi next to Yanaka area in Tokyo where the people and street are filled with local color called “Shitamachi”.
OENSO is an old wooden house with a front garden with big cherry trees, a well and a traditional Japanese veranda called “Engawa”. It was built in 1919. Originally it was the house of the owner of the tofu shop behind OENSO. In the 1920-30s, a man who was a member of the Diet bought the house from the tofu shop and used the house as his office also. Many people visited the house at that time.
After that, his family lived in the house until the 2000s. Recently, the house became empty after the last member of the family left the house. For several reasons, it was difficult to rent the house to other people, so 6 years passed with the house empty. During those 6 years, the house and garden began falling into ruin, becoming a potential problem for accidents or crime.
In april 2014, 2 students of the University of Tokyo began a project to improve the house’s condition paying for the restoration instead of rent while living in the house. Many local people joined their project which started with it’s cleaning, demonstrating a great interest in the house by local people. In June 2014, 2 students began living in the house and they named it “OENSO”.
From an Empty House to A Place for Communication
The first step of OENSO was to host an artist group based in the Netherlands. With that beginning, many people visited OENSO and met together through events and workshops. We hope that the house which used to be empty can transform into a place for communication as OENSO and will remain for the next generations. That’s our goal.
The Origin of The Name”OENSO”
“O” means cherries in Japanese, which comes from the cherry trees in the front garden.
“EN” means the Japanese traditional veranda “Engawa” in OENSO and a good chance to meet people in Japanese.
“SO” means an open house for people in Japanese.
And “OEN” also means help in Japanese, which comes from the great help many people gave for OENSO.
We also wish to help the owner of the house in keeping it.