guide: design, place, people

Explore Niseko and beyond with us. [Photos © Sanctuary Niseko unless stated otherwise]

Hiro of the ice bar: Interview with Takenaka Hirohiko, owner, Bar the ICE Niseko

Sanctuary Niseko (SN): Tell us about Bar the ICE art project.

Takenaka Hirohiko (TH): Bar the ICE is a world made of frozen water. I want to show the natural beauty of Niseko, and help connect people with nature. This is our 10th ice bar. We started the ice bar project 10 years ago. We have come a long way. Every year, it’s always something new, something different. We grow and learn, and each year, different things inspire me. Right now, I have no idea what next year’s ice bar is going to be like.

SN: How did you create this ice bar?

TH: I created the ice bar without 'thought' – it was built by just simply making and being. The process of creating with and without 'thought' is not the same. Thinking is good, but thinking only produces images. The making of the ice bar was a spontaneous and organic process. I could say that it was created from the ‘heart’. Every visitor is also part of its creation, as the moisture of the breath shapes the internal form. The form of the ice bar changes from day to day. The bar melts a little and its shape changes when the sun is up and the temperature rises. My team and I have to sculpt and re-sculpt it every day. Every night, we add water to the framework and let it freeze overnight. In the morning, we check it for safety and sculpt the spaces within. Every year, I incorporate new techniques and inspirations into the making of the ice bar. This year’s expression is different from last year’s, and the year before. Like nature, we grow and evolve.

SN: How do you feel about the space?

TH: My focus is on ice as my main material. The single snowflake is one of nature’s purest designs, created midway between the sky and earth. It is entirely created by nature. A single snowflake is made of dust particles in the air and frozen water. Just like human beings, every snowflake is unique. No two snowflakes are alike. To build using ice and a framework creates a very unique architectural space that is very close to nature.

SN: What do you want people to experience in the ice bar?

TH: I hope that people will just enjoy the space, and hopefully form a connection with it. There’s no need to study or understand it, but simply to feel it from the heart. This connection is important, as it helps us understand nature and life.

SN: Last but not least, tell us a little about yourself.

TH: My name is Takenaka Hirohiko, but everyone calls me 'Hiro'. Even my children call me 'Hiro', not 'daddy'. Why? Because I am only human. I am living life my way. Everyone has his/her own destiny. My life’s philosophy is to not to accumulate [things] but only to create good memories for the future. I hope that I’m able to help people form a connection with nature, to assist nature and to be able to give back in some ways. 

SN: Thank you very much Hiro-san. 

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