The Glass Virus
Jin Hongo
Report From Toyama, Japan

It was a very nice meeting in the Glass Virus at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam. I was there as a participant from Japan, and I was very excited to listen to the people from many countries. Many topics and issues we discussed there were very similar or the same one that we have now in Japan, and I am glad to make a report to Japanese glass educators.

This is supposed to be a essay about the topics in Glass Virus, but I think other participants will give better descriptions on each topic, so I will talk about the Japanese glass art education and Toyama to give some information, instead.

We have an organization of glass art educators in Japan, GEN (Glass Education Network). We gather annually to talk about the future of Japanese glass, to exchange information and to plan the new activities to support the young generations of glass artists. Originally we started GEN to introduce the Japanese glass scene at the GAS Conference in Seto, Japan in 1998. We have noticed the advantage of this organization to make the glass art more popular in Japan, and we have been keeping a good relationship with each other since then. We made several exhibitions for glass artists, and the GEN Students Exhibition has been held every year in Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum. Students from almost all the schools in GEN participate and show their work together, and this is one of the biggest glass exhibitions in Japan.

The school where I am teaching now is Toyama City Institute of Glass Art, which was established in 1991 as the first and only public educational institution specializing in glass art, in Japan. When we started TIGA we had only 3 schools where students could study glass, but now around 20 schools joined the GEN. This is a big change in the history of Japanese glass to have such number of educational institutions, departments and courses since the studio glass movements came into Japan. I think the biggest fruit of the studio glass movements in Japan is that we put the glass into art education system. And this GEN works as an organization and/or think tank similar to the Glass Virus. I have taken the topics and issues that we discussed back to Japan and I would like to talk with teachers in Japan this year. Hopefully I will make a report of it and bring it to the next Glass Virus meeting.

Now I will talk about TIGA and Toyama City. Toyama City Institute of Glass Art (TIGA) has started in [the Glass Art City, Toyama] in April 1991 as the first public educational institution specializing in glass. We have had students from all over the world who are fascinated in glass art, and they studied glass art in well-equipped circumstances to be glass artists. Now they are working in many fields, such as independent artists, as studio staff, as teachers in art schools and as designers. We have been offering two glass programs in main, to study the basics of glass and art foundation in Glass Certification Studies (G.C.S). and to research in advanced level of glass art in the Advanced Research Studies (A.R.S.). Each program is two years long.

Now we have the Visiting Scholar Program for 3 months, the Artist In Residence Program for 60 days and the Students Exchange Program for 3 months. (For further information, please visit

We think it is important to have international relationship in school, that’s why we have several ways to exchange/accept foreign students. I have noticed that the students who studied under exchange program (we have done with the Australian National University and the Academy of Arts Architecture & Design in Prague) could develop their ideas and skills a lot with their experience of studying abroad. And he/she gave a good influence to the other students, too. I am hoping that we have opportunities to extend the student exchange program with other schools.

Also we have been inviting two teachers from outside of Japan since we established the school, one to teach cold-working and one to teach hot-working. They bring a lot of international information into TIGA, and it makes a big advantage of study here. Of course there are sometimes several problems to solve because each school has different systems to study, still it is worth it to do it not only for one student but also for all TIGA students.

Toyama City, as part of the Toyama City Total Planning Project, has begun “The Support of Creation of a New Art and Culture” and has been working hard to create a supportive structure and community for glass artists to work within. This is the focus of “the Glass Art City, Toyama.” As part of this plan, the city has developed the Toyama Glass Studio that is comprised of an individual studio, a rental studio, and a studio for a rotating artist in residence. And now the Toyama City Museum of Glass Art is under development and is scheduled to be completed in 2016. Designed by internationally acclaimed architect Kengo Kuma, the museum aims to be a work of art in itself.

Toyama City is fully dedicated to the expansion and inclusion of glass art in society in Japan, and hopes to not just be a city with glass production but a city where glass makers from around the world will gather, share, and take glass art into the future. Toyama will be an international hub of glass art production.

Finally, as I said many topics and issues we discussed in Glass Virus were very similar or the same one that we have now in Japan, and I am hoping to bring them to next Glass Virus meeting from Japan.

← Back