[Life That Creates]

      Making is a major part of SHOBU`s support for persons with developmental, mental and physical difficulties

What are the powers intrinsic to human beings?

[1. Making]

Life is making; a shift from receiving to creating.

Since 1973 Shobu Gakuen`s activities have been centered on Studio Shobu. Doing away with programs that provided work subcontracted from outside sources, we focused on creating an environment in which our clients can express themselves through woodwork, ceramics, dyeing, weaving, embroidery, paper making, gardening, baking and other crafts. We have made it our goal to shift from a culture of receiving, being given things, to creating and providing, bringing into being a distinctive form of social welfare that is rooted in the local community.

[2. Innocent talents]

People who have learned techniques and methods for expressing themselves use their knowledge and experience to create with efficiency and foreword planning. Others, because of their developmental difficulties, can communicate only through limited, idiosyncratic means of expression. Often words fail them; they communicate largely through characteristic actions. The scope of what they communicate is narrow and simple. Focused on what is important to them, they are able to achieve a consummate realism and individualism.

Full of admiration for their actions and the works they create, we are fascinated by how the action of making is the end in itself; the real joy is felt in the moment and not the end result.

We observe their fixation on reality, and sense that the wellspring of their ideas is a truly peaceful, innocent, pure, beautiful, unsullied, intrinsically human place. In this respect, their work is similar to the `improvisational` work found in many fields – music, dance, contemporary art. Their actions are like falling leaves, defiant, undistorted, unforced.

Providing support is at the heart of our program at Shobu. To us the essence of this support is to recognize the pure, innate abilities that these human beings possess and to foster their unique understanding of the world. We provide an eco-system that supports a living environment within the larger society, at the same time as communicating the necessity of this type of innocent creative expression within contemporary society.

[3. Think from abilities]

We believe that it is important to think about people with developmental difficulties not in terms of "training in what they cannot do" but instead "expanding and developing what they can do".

Focusing on what each individual can do is vitally important, yet thus far many working in the social welfare field have focused on what they cannot do; inabilities, not abilities. The result of this is training and support for students’ inabilities is often at the center of care giving efforts.

It is true that such care is necessary for people with disabilities to live; yet we think about daily activities within our facility in terms of developing capabilities and independence as well. We believe we must focus on what people are good at, particularly when it comes to creative or expressive activities. By tossing aside our preconceived ideas and instead engaging in a new kind of common sense, a new kind of immediate action, then abilities can rise to the fore.

By entering into their world, it is possible to discover the joy and fascination of unmediated expression. The form and sense of beauty born form creative thinking and action can expand a persons potential infinitely. The problem of providing support for persons with developmental difficulties does not lie in them, but in the care providers themselves.



Otto is a percussion group playing a wide range of different musical instruments. Their powerful sessions produce sound untrammeled by a regular beat. Their music is free and uplifting and delightfully liberated. Orabu, a vocal group ("Orabu" means  "yell" in Kagoshima dialect), is a tumultuous chorus that accompany Otto. Together they create a superb collaborative experience.

(Otto: A delightful irregular sound)

In music as we know it, being off the beat or out of tune is usually not desirable. Why is having everything in step necessary to beauty? The world before our eyes has other, invisible possibilities that lead to further beauty, to beauty that has the ability to surprise us and redefine our notion of what is considered beautiful.

Every human being is different thus beautiful in their own way; we know and appreciate these differences. But the ability, the desire, to be uniform is cultivated by those without disabilities and then taken to excess, to a point where true beauty is removed as everything slips into sameness. This is far removed from the liberation and exploration achieved by those with disabilities.

Our members persistently protect their quality of non-uniformity to great effect. We have looked for a way to find a good balance in the music. The critical point is creating enjoyable sounds, not forcing performers’ out of step music into the limelight. Their sounds, with their pure slippages and their ability to collaborate, have opened our eyes to new possibilities of coordination within our specialized field of social welfare support.

[nui project]

The nui project is a project of outstanding originality that grew out of our textiles workshop. Astonishing creative work generated by the simple action of repetitive stitching illustrates beautifully the notion of art through action. Each piece reveals the essence of the participant’s own distinctive style as they utilize the materials that allow for "happy accidents".



From the [nui project] in action

[Here nui project participants take the accidental qualities of the materials and the forms that emerge as they stitch, and embrace that which arrives at their fingertips. They do not prioritize preconceived concepts over the materials they use.

With no overall structure and no goal beyond the now, the work may seem unplanned or uncoordinated. Yet it’s through this spontaneity they are able to create free from any stylistic restraints.

Blissfully ignoring concepts of traditional embroidery they stitch on, creating patterns within a narrow and repetitive range. As these narrow compositions journey on at the hand of the artist, changes occur and transformations are generated and accelerated in a dynamic, never ending metamorphosis.

Arising from this process are artworks possessing the kind of beauty reminiscent of that found in the natural world.

The very act of stitching, as directed by the artist’s sensibility and preference, manifests action that challenges the possibilities of the materials. That is, perhaps, because the wielder of the needle finds more joy in the creating process, the time and action involved in in it, than in the finished piece.

In the studio the artists are able to focus on only the area defined by the needle and thread, working free from outside influences]

[plants and animals]



We have been growing flowers and vegetables since Shobu Gakuen opened in 1973. Along with cultivating organic vegetables, we also have numerous fruit trees and edible plants all of which provide the produce used in our cooking workshops. Shobu is also currently home to two delightful sheep and a very friendly donkey!