Dagashi snacks found everywhere in the store. The many children visiting are seriously wondering which one to buy. What’s a little bit different from the usual is in-store money called Tyrol in a gacha capsule toy machine beside the entrance. Only children under the age of 18 can roll the gacha for 100 yen a time. One to three Tyrol bills are in a gacha capsule. They can buy 100 yen worth of dagashi snacks with one Tyrol bill, or exchange it for a 300-yen juice or 500-yen special curry.
In November 2022, Laila Cassim, a designer and art director visited the store called Magical Dagashiya Tyrol-Do in Ikoma City, Nara. The store won this year’s Good Design Grand Award a few days ago. Cassim says as a Focused Issues Director who considers and recommends new possibilities for design through the Good Design Award screening process,
“When we want to make society better, I think it’s important to think first about people and the environment around us. I think Tyrol-Do really embodies the ‘Design for the people that are within 10 feet of you’ theme I put forward in Focused Issues. So I’m here today.”
Takashi Yoshidada, one of the founders of the place, has been involved in the education and welfare of children through art for many years as the chairperson of a school called atelier e.f.t. Cassim has also expanded the possibilities of design in welfare through a variety of projects, including SHIBUYA FONT.
What emerges from their dialogue is the importance of moving beyond the concept of “people who support and people who are supported” and building relationships between people. We will look back on the past of Magical Dagashiya Tyrol-Do to find out what design can do.
Get rid of “bugs” in welfare
CassimI have become interested in Tyrol-Do because I think it’s similar in origin to SHIBUYA FONT, a project working with disabled people, which I have been involved in in recent years.
At an art college in the UK, I learned a technique of designing based on thorough on-site research. But at a design workshop I attended after graduation, I was told by a hearing-impaired person that she wanted to go to an art college, but she didn’t think she was qualified to go. I realized how the environment could affect people’s way of thinking. At that time, I came to believe that not only research but also continuously working with people on site is important to create change. Since then, I have continued to visit welfare facilities and have worked with various people to find solutions. SHIBUYA FONT is one of them.
Tyrol-Do was launched by people who were familiar with the situation of welfare and children in order to solve the problems at hand. Listening to other judges, I felt there were many links.
YoshidadaThank you. But I never thought it would win the Good Design Grand Award. I thought, “who would look at this small initiative.”
It has already received attention since the second screening. I often heard about it from members of Unit 19: Initiative and Activity for Region, who conducted the screening. When you won the grand award, I pumped my fist in the air (laugh).
The store opened in August 2021 ...... One year has passed. What was your first motivation?
YoshidadaIn the same city, Ms. Masayo Mizoguchi, one of the founders of Tyrol-Do, ran a children’s cafeteria called Tawawa Shokudo (a place where meals are offered to children for free or at a low price). However, the community center that was used for the place became unusable owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. School lunches were suspended owing to the closing of all schools. Meals were not available to children who were entitled to free school meals.
CassimSchool lunch is the only meal of the day for some children. Also in the UK, they are called “breakfast/dinner refugees.”
YoshidadaResponding to a call by Ms. Yoshiko Ishida, who runs a welfare center in Ikoma, I got together with her friend, Mr. Daisuke Sakamoto, who is a designer. We looked for a place in a hurry to open a children’s cafeteria and found this place in front of Ikoma Station.
However, for a long time I also thought that the children’s cafeteria was an important initiative, but I had mixed emotions. I felt that the desire to do something for children sometimes could impose kindness.
CassimDo you mean the sense of mission of those who support can make those who are supported feel heavy?
YoshidadaYes. I think they try to do a lot of things right, but they tend to say “Are you okay?” But it can sometimes hurt them. I think the system of the children’s cafeteria itself is really a big invention, but I feel like there’s actually a little bug or something like that. I was wondering if I could create a new one without it.
A place to eliminate boundaries and the design of in-store money, Tyrol
CassimI understand. In fact, various bugs remain in the current welfare system.
YoshidadaMs. Ishida, who invited me, also felt that the situation in which she could do nothing but welfare things in her projects was a problem. I hear that even if children who use after-school day-care services (facilities for children with difficulties) have poverty problems in their families, they sometimes cannot reach help because the jurisdiction is different.
At my atelier e.f.t. in Osaka and Ikoma, there is a similar institutional issue with an after-school day-care service called bamboo in Ikoma School. For example, children with and without developmental difficulties cannot be in the same class. But the world is not so clearly divided, is it?
CassimWe should think from a child’s point of view, but managing it as a project comes first. The starting point is outside the 5-meter radius.
YoshidadaThat’s why I wanted to remove boundaries. Ishida and I always say, “Welfare is nothing special.” Someday, we will get old and may not be able to move our bodies. There are not only difficulties or disabilities, but also poverty and loneliness. We have various problems. So, we should help and support each other in the community and region. That’s why I thought it would be nice if the children’s cafeteria could be a common place where people with and without problems could gather.
CassimFrom there, why did you choose Dagashiya (penny candy store)?
YoshidadaOriginally, Ms. Mizoguchi of Tawawa Shokudo sometimes held Dagashiya and Ennichi events for children to come to the cafeteria freely. I also thought that if dagashi snacks helped create an environment where multiple generations could gather at any time, people would not think that the store is a place for children who need support.
CassimTo make it easier for everyone to come, not just children with problems.
YoshidadaHowever, this alone is not enough, and we have come up with ways to make people feel free to eat meals. That’s because if you just sell very cheap bento meals, the store will seem to be available only to people in need. I have seen people look for a 500-yen lunch restaurant with a sideways glance at 100-yen lunch boxes at the children’s cafeteria in Osaka many times.
I kept wondering how I could break that invisible barrier. As a result, I incorporated the fun of gachagacha, which I had tried to do for art work when I was a student, and the system of in-store money taught by Mr. Sakamoto, a designer. If you roll the gacha for 100 yen, you can get in-store money called Tyrol in exchange.
CassimIt’s made of bamboo. It feels great.
YoshidadaBy being able to collect and use the bills freely, the currency value of a 100-yen coin instantly vanishes. In addition, some gacha capsules contain one bill, while others contain two or three bills. I think children won’t have to feel miserable when they try their luck.
Of course, the income from gacha is not enough to keep this going. So, I decided to get adults to pay for the shortfall. When adults eat at Tyrol-Do, part of their meal expenses are donated to the store. I referred back to a story I had read in a free paper a long time ago that there was a culture of paying extra money at a cafe for the next person’s coffee.
CassimIt’s about paying it forward, isn’t it? Supermarkets in the UK often have a special sale called “Buy One Get One Free,” and there is a basket outside the checkout counter saying that if you don’t need it, put it here. You can put extra ones in the basket, and people who need them can take them from there. It may be a system that you don’t see much in Japan.
YoshidadaI also thought at that time that it would be impossible in Japan. However, as I got involved with the town of Ikoma through the activities of atelier e.f.t., I thought I could do it and decided to try it.
Ikoma was originally a tourist spot visited by pilgrims from all over the country. After the war, it continued to receive “outsiders” as a bedroom community for Osaka. As I felt that people tended to enjoy things that are different, I thought that some people would get on board with the new donation system.
A chain of fun creates new innovation.
CassimHow was the reaction of the local community after Tyrol-Do opened?
YoshidadaMore people than I imagined were interested. We call the act of donating something to Tyrol-Do chiroru. In the beginning, for example, a woman posted about us on Facebook, saying that this store had opened. And she continued that her birthday was coming up soon, but she didn’t need anything, and called on people to chiroru (donate) a picture book to Tyrol-Do.
Through her connections, a longtime bookstore employee selected picture books and created an Amazon Wish List. Many people actually bought picture books for us, and then it was decided to hold a storytelling event using the picture books. Community people became interested and started using Tyrol-Do freely.
CassimIt’s important to have someone to speak up first.
YoshidadaI think she was the very “first penguin.” Since then, people have come here to do something. A person wanted to have a workshop for making food samples. Another wanted to give an English class for children who were not good at studying. And another wanted to cook ramen before opening a ramen shop. And they chiroru their sales to Tyrol-Do. More and more people gather and think of something fun.
YoshidadaWe often go travelling on say 50,000 yen from the salary. In the consumer society, I think we buy the feeling of fun with money. But Tyrol-Do has slightly different values.
For example, a person who held a workshop for 10 people with an entry fee of 500 yen left the full sale amount of 5,000 yen, saying “It was so much fun!” (Laugh) Considering the cost of materials and time, it’s completely in the red.
Cassim(Laugh). But that might be a healthy value. I think people want roles. Therefore, it’s difficult to develop as a community even if people who like the same things gather. After having the role that they want to or can play, their world broadens. In Tyrol-Do, I feel that the movement toward enjoying it is constantly progressing.
YoshidadaEven if they don’t exchange it for money, if they come to Tyrol-Do and have fun, I think they feel that they have earned a certain reward. Of course, money is a necessity and a very useful tool. But I think it’s better to think in an orderly sequence, such as first what you want to do or what you can do, and then, how much money you need to do it, like people who are involved in Tyrol-Do.
Change adults’ attitudes using questions and words.
CassimI think that finding or thinking about what you can do is a perspective necessary for this place. Not only those who give support, but also those who receive it somewhat want to do it by themselves. It’s important to have a place where they can stay as they are. It has only been about an hour since I came to Tyrol-Do, but I have a sense of people watching over children who visit here.
YoshidadaI’m glad that you feel exactly what I value. I often tell the staff and parents to watch them. In my career in education, I have come to believe that the most important thing is not to interfere with the growth of children. We tend to think for the sake of children, but children have their own lives. First, adults have to change their attitude.
CassimI feel that people are questioned by coming to Tyrol-Do: “What do you want to do here?” At school in the UK, students arrange their chairs in a circle and talk in the class. In English and history classes, they discuss in a circle and learn while interacting with others. They are always asked what they think in a place of learning.
YoshidadaI’ve been doing this for almost 25 years at atelier e.f.t. There are no fixed correct answers. I have asked myself what I want to make, and what I have learned from the process. I think that’s why Tyrol-Do is based on that idea.
CassimWhat makes Tyrol-Do so amazing is the exquisite choice of words. Donating and supporting are called chiroru, and this place is “Magical Dagashiya,” such that people are unaware of their positions. People called support staff work even in welfare facilities, but I feel the term may create a wall of those who support and are supported in the relationships with people called users with disabilities or difficulties.
YoshidadaThe act itself is wonderful, but as soon as you use the words “donation” and “support,” the scenery changes completely. In the same way, disabilities or difficulties are actually around the person rather than the person themselves. If you move in a wheelchair, the bumps are problems or difficulties. Many people don’t notice the inconsistency in the words.
CassimI also try not to refer to myself as disabled. I have cerebral palsy, and it’s true that I came here in a wheelchair today, but it’s not a problem in itself. You may think that it’s just a word, but when I hear how words are used here, I think the choice of words is really important.
YoshidadaI think the categorization of Japanese words is often vague. “Developmental difficulties,” “truancy,” “problem behavior,” and “adaptation class.” Don’t you think they are creepy? It’s like because you are unadaptable, we’ll instruct you properly. As a result, these words are hurting children who should be treated with care.
CassimMaybe they feel secure by defining people as words. However, it’s a shame to assume that this person should go to this class, this person should go to this facility, and so on, without having time to listen to them about their daily life, their environment and their background. I always want them to start in a bottom-up approach.
Create ripples that change society from within a 5-meter radius.
YoshidadaTyrol-Do started in Ikoma and is now spreading to other areas. It opened in July 2022 in Kanazawa City, Ishikawa, and is scheduled to open in five locations nationwide next spring. In addition to the system, I try to employ people whom I think can see the same scenery as I do, step by step.
CassimWhether or not you can trust them in your absence. Actually, it’s the same as SHIBUYA FONT. We designers do not simply borrow fonts and pictures created by people with disabilities, but we value the process of building relationships with them and thinking together.
YoshidadaWhat we provide is not a font or system, but thoughts. There is no point in providing the inane “outside.” In our case, Mr. Sakamoto used the expression “We share manners, not rules.”
CassimI understand. It’s important to leave a margin. Not everything should be decided.
YoshidadaRegionality may appear in the margin. In Kanazawa, we run the store at an old folk house with a traditional Japanese storehouse, and are involved in local festivals. In fact, problems, the degrees of difficulty and the ways of getting involved vary depending on the region. For example, there are some places where people line up and say thank you when we serve them a hot meal, but there may be places where people never line up. But it doesn’t mean there are no hungry people in those areas.
When Tyrol-Do was mentioned in the media before, someone made a malicious comment “the children don’t look poor,” but poverty is not so simple. Even in wealthy residential areas, there are parents who send their children to cram schools and don’t give them dinner. That’s why we need a place like Tyrol-Do, where anyone can come.
CassimStarting from a radius of 5 meters, you will accept the whole area. I think this design is necessary not only in Japan but all over the world.
YoshidadaI hope we can create a society where we can do ordinary things in an ordinary way. We are all in trouble to a greater or lesser extent, and we support each other where possible. If a hungry child is in sight, it is normal for someone with money to buy a meal, whether the child is poor or not. It’s not a good action or welfare, but an ordinary thing being done, and each person enjoys the benefit of something different. I want to make such a place.
CassimI also try not to apologize when people open the door for me. I might be the first disabled foreigner they have ever seen. If I say “I’m sorry” apologetically, I’m afraid that it may create a strange relationship.
YoshidadaA relationship between a person who helped and a person who was helped. We also try not to say “thank you” to people who make chiroru. I’m tempted to say thank you when they have come all the way and donate something saying that they finally made it. At that time, I swallow it and say, “Nice chiro!” I mean a nice choice.
CassimIt’s a good choice of words!
YoshidadaIf you feel even a little hypocritical, you won’t be able to continue. In the Kansai region, when people ask a person with baggage, “It looks heavy. May I help you?” the person accepts their offer saying “don’t run away with it.” It’s something to remove the wall. I think this is a great relationship.
I think design has the power to create such relationships and encourage people to act naturally. I say that design is to make something smooth and beautiful. I want to design to make relationships between people smooth and beautiful.
YoshidadaAs I run Tyrol-Do, I also feel that adults’ attitudes are changing. Some of them stop buying lunch at convenience stores and buy it at Tyrol-Do. Some come here for drinking. Adults’ behaviors are changing. They are choosing. I began to realize that if we just changed our attitudes we could change the world.
We want to serve as much delicious food as possible. We don’t want to rely on their generosity. We want to make meals as delicious as nearby restaurants and want to create a place where people come not because they want to help us but because we serve delicious food.
CassimIf helping is the goal and the quality deteriorates, it’ll be no good. I am always conscious of that. How people view activities depends on design. I try not to make cute patterns in SHIBUYA FONT because they are easily associated with welfare or poor people with disabilities.
Therefore, I ask designers to visit places where people collaborate, as often as possible. After they bring back surprise and excitement from there, their attitudes increasingly change. They create design with the spirit of challenge.
YoshidadaWe have no choice but to continue on-the-ground work. Some people think that in such a small place, what will change in society when just 10 or 20 people around us change their attitudes. But this is actually the fastest way.
CassimIt’s the image of throwing a stone in the water and ripples spreading from there. Moreover, waves don’t disturb each other. When they hit, they spread out again. I feel that one such cycle is about to occur.
YoshidadaSome people think that changing the rules will change society, but I think the opposite is true. Adults within a 5-meter radius change, which spreads more and more into the surroundings. From there, I feel systems and society will change for the better.
[Writer] Sachiyo Oya [Photographer] Yukiya Sonoda [Editor] Masashi Sasaki