Without an Agenda —

A Trip Through the Japanese Countryside with Focus HIDA


We live in a time and place where everything can be reviewed and researched. It doesn’t leave ourselves much opportunity to simply let things happen. Half on a whim and half on the trusted recommendation of a friend, Eugene took a trip to Hida, a sleepy town located in Japan’s Gifu prefecture. There, he connected with different minds from the world of tech, publishing, photography, and advertising over several days at Focus Hida. Technology has more than encroached in our lives; it’s often manipulated and influenced our values in the name of optimization. We exchange moments of surprise and the excitement of discovery for carefully scripted moments. When we figure out the underlying mechanisms, as we inevitably do, it’s an unsatisfying experience.


Part of culture is always looking for ways to continually optimize. Humans built the machines that surround us, but we lose sight of the fact that we’re not able to play on the same level and achieve the same goals. Finding our way can’t be achieved through brute computational force as is the case with technology. The fluidity of our thoughts and the ability to change our minds (sometimes), are some of the very things that make us human. They allows us to ideate on critical ideas and imagine things that don’t exist. We lose sight of this far too often at any given moment. Focus and attention are new forms of currency that we’ve come to spend on others rather than ourselves. It’s time to change that.


For more information on Focus Hida, you can check out Studio D.


Special thanks to the whole crew at Focus Hida as well as the organizers Craig Mod and Jan Chipchase.

Waiting for the train.

The N700 on the Shinkansen can reach speeds upwards of 300 km/h (185 mph).

“Inevitably this was an interesting experience because people were coming at different points in their career and coming at with a sense of vulnerability. It’s not the process of doing but why you’re doing and creating purpose behind it.”

The quaint little train station at Hida.

The best ice cream in town can be had here.

A shot from right outside the train station.

FabCafe Hida played host to us over the course of our stay. Workshops and breakfast took place downstairs with. Guests sleep on the second floor in a traditional Japanese setting including tatami mats and futons.

“If you see people smiling and laughing, and genuinely emotionally moved by their surroundings and the people they’re with, that’s a win. ”

A farm on the way up the mountain during a hike.

A small cabbage patch.

Farming and agriculture is a notable part of Hida’s landscape.

“What other people do and how they approach being effective is on them.”

On the last night, there was a barbecue in the cafe courtyard.

One of the ongoing activities at Focus HIDA was the whittling of chopsticks. As organizer Jan explained it, he’s looking for a way to use some of the unusable remains from local chopstick factories.

The squad.

“There are no absolutes… to be absolutely certain about something, does that really exist? ”

David Kenji Chang talks with the founder in his LA studio and new shop to talk about his life’s work and staying weird in a weird world.