A Kyo-machiya townnhouse as a creative school for kids. The attraction of learning at a Terakoya-style private school.

Japanese / English

“amity_sensei” is an active YouTuber introducing creative uses of iPad. She established in 2022 the first creative school for elementary school students, “iPadmate kids” with its base at a Kyo-machiya townhouse, where she is active to let those students experience the joy of digital art. We interviewed “amity_sensei” who is currently attracting the public’s attention, concerning the reason why she had selected the Kyo-machiya townhouse for her creative school.

Profile of the Kyo-machiya townhouse

The Kyo-machiya townhouse where three rooms are lined in a row, is in the west side of Kyoto Prefectural Government. It is renovated to meet with the current needs, preserving the uniqueness of Kyo-machiya townhouse. A French person used to utilize the townhouse as a bookshop and cafe. At present, it is the base for “iPadmate kids.”

Profile of “amity_sensei”

Born in Kyoto in 1993. Started designing with iPad after having studied digital and technology art at an art school in England. Joined a foreign advertising agency in 2017 and became independent in 2019. Currently, the representative of olio Inc.

Digital art taught in a Kyo-machiya townhouse

This Kyo-machiya townhouse is in a very quiet residential area in the west side of Kyoto Prefectural Government in Kamigyo ward. It has the appearance of well-merged elements of Kyo-machiya and the newly incorporated ones. At this Kyo-machiya townhouse, a class of iPad digital art for kids is held every weekend.

Its ground floor has been renovated to the modern style, preserving the atmosphere of historical Kyo-machiya townhouse.

Before a class, children gather at a Japanese-style room on the ground floor and sit straight on their heels in front of long low-desks. It looks as if a calligraphy class might start at any moment, but things put on the desks in front of them are not Japanese paper for calligraphy but iPads. And what they hold in their hands are not writing brushes but special pencils to write on iPads.

A class proceeds effectively using cameras and monitors placed in the Japanese-style room.

The 50-minute classes held every weekend are very lively. The children, who have watched the monitor and learned how to use, start to design their own works freely. The lesson of the day was to draw their designs freely on the beetles’ shells and horns over the existing image of a beetle. Each kid could design his/her original beetle, ranging from a fairy-tale type to a stylish one. During the class, the children as well as the teachers are very lively, and it was very impressive that each child’s work was displayed over the monitor on which the teachers made good comments. She says, “iPadmate kids” is the class to enhance the creativity of each kid, but I also wish that each kid could have confidence in himself/herself after finding his/her own strong points through their creative activities.”

Designing on the image of a beetle. Those kids who do not understand well are closely followed by supporting teachers.

A creative school was opened to “expand the possibilities of kids”

After graduated from the university, “amity_sensei” worked in Tokyo for approximately five years. She worked then as a YouTuber, and gradually started to receive requests from elementary schools to teach how to use iPad. When she had classes at elementary schools, she got to know that the teachers were not familiar with iPad although the children wish to use them more. The children’s full usage of iPad might lead them to their better opportunities, but there are no adults who can teach it to them. Wishing to fill such gap, she decided to open a creative school for the local kids in Kyoto.

“amity_sensei” says, “I wished to cherish the uniqueness of Kyoto when I selected a property.”

She wished from the beginning that if she opens any classroom in Kyoto, it should be at a typical Kyo-machiya townhouse. She continued, “An iPad class in a regular reinforced concrete building will be a normal, but one at a Kyo-machiya townhouse might attract attention even from overseas. I also thought the gap between the historical appearance of a Kyo-machiya and the latest work of IT might be very interesting.” When she started to search for a spacious and good location close to the Kyoto Imperial Palace, a real-estate broker who was her acquaintance introduced the Kyo-machiya townhouse. The owner of the Kyo-machiya wished to rent it to somebody engaged in an art-related work or to a non-Japanese, and the previous tenant was a French person who ran a bookshop and cafe. Right after it had become vacant, she talked to the owner. She told the owner that she intended to open a school, iPadmate kids, and her move-in was allowed right away. Since the interiors had been already refurbished well, she was able to move in without changing anything.

The Japanese-style room on the ground floor where classes are held.

The tatami-mat classroom which may shorten the distance to the children.

When she was asked about the merits to use a Kyo-machiya townhouse as a classroom, she said, “Above all it is a specialty of Kyoto, and one could feel the warmness of wood which let him/her feel like easily going into Kyo-machiya. These are the high compatibility as a classroom for elementary school students. Because the class is held on the tatami-mat, it is, in a good sense, not like a normal school where each student is given a desk: the communication with the children is easier and the distance to the children might be shortened, and the children could easily make friends.” On the second floor, there are a filming studio as well as a waiting place for the parents. The parents could watch the activities in the classroom on the ground floor over the monitor. She says, “There are many parents who are also experiencing the iPad classes watching the monitor. The tatami-mat waiting room is well accepted by the parents who could feel relaxed there.”

The shooting studio on the second floor where the works and others are filmed.
In the waiting room next to the shooting studio, the monitor shows the activities in the classroom on the ground floor.

Most of the students of the class are mainly from Kyoto, but some are from Osaka and other distant places. There are online classes on weekdays for those kids who cannot come to Kyoto, but many of them wish to physically participate in the classes at the Kyo-machiya townhouse.

The place where future creators are nurtured

It is approximately one year since the creative school at the Kyo-machiya townhouse was opened. It has become a place where children could find their own strong points: a very small kid said, “My life has changed,” and some kids have become more sociable with confidence. In the beginning, the students completing its one-year course were scheduled to graduate from the school. However, since there were a lot of students who wish to continue, a level-up class is now scheduled to open. “amity_sensei” says, “I’m very pleased to see those students who develop their creativities freely and who gradually change themselves with confidence. Whenever I meet them, I find the growth in them.”

Sometimes students teach each other. The closeness is unique to Kyo-machiya townhouse.

She says, “If I increase bases in Kyoto, I would like to find the Kyo-machiya townhouses located in the center of the city and convert them into the spaces for cafes and art schools. I think it might be interesting to manage a business to offer creativity experiences at the Kyo-machiya townhouses, where those domestic and overseas tourists easily drop in to have any artistic experiences unique to Kyoto.” She added, “Now, I am well recognized as a YouTuber, “amity_sensei”, but my school is not yet well known. I would like to have “iPadmate kids” recognized better by more people as a school by promoting more businesses for adults and overseas.”
A Kyo-machiya townhouse and a digital work, an unexpected combination, could lead to unknown future possibilities. We are now very much looking forward the great success of future creators who originate from a Kyo-machiya townhouse.