I was born in Bastos, San Paulo, Brazil. My father Shozo and my mother Masako were married on July 7, 1958. In October of that year, when my mother was crossing the Pacific Ocean on the Argentina, which had left Kobe Port, she was carrying me in her belly. The ship called at the ports of many countries, and while procuring food and water it proceeded south from North America to South America. In December, after two months of navigation, it arrived at Santos Port in Brazil.

After spending one night at a hotel in the harbor, my parents' long voyage ended in the city of Bastos, 800 km inland to the west. I was born with the help of a midwife at the Higashi Honganji temple in Bastos, on August 8, 1959 (the following year).

The reason for my father and mother to travel to Brazil was that at the time, my grandfather's younger brother Kinzo Yasoyama (Chief Priest Bonsui Yasoyama), who was an official of Higashi Betsuin, Higashi Honganji Temple in Yoshizaki, Fukui Prefecture, had gone to Brazil for the Japanese immigrants there who were supporting members of the temple. My parents went to Bastos, a community of Japanese immigrants, because a temple had been built there. My mother was very fond of Brazil, and apparently wanted to live there permanently. In 1960, after the birth of my younger brother Akiharu (Mario), my father fell ill, and in November 1962 my whole family returned to his hometown of Komatsu, in Ishikawa Prefecture. In October of that year my parents' second son Hiroshi was born.

After our return to Japan, my mother Masako started to paint oil paintings again, something that she had started doing in early childhood. Simply painting on canvas was not enough for her; my nature-loving mother even graced our sliding doors with her paintings.

My mother was born in October 1934 in Minosato-machi, Higashi Ibaraki-gun, Ibaraki Prefecure as the second daughter of her father Koei Oshima and her mother Tatsu. In the Heian period my mother's ancestors were retainers of Daijo-tairanokunika in Hitachi, and in the Edo period they received a stipend of 500 koku in rice. My mother was born as the second daughter of the 43rd generation of the Oshima family.

At the age of three my mother went to Manchuria in China with her parents, her older brother and her older sister, and for seven years until the age of ten, she was raised on the bank of the Amur River, from which she had a constant view of Russia.

When my mother was four years old, her mother Tatsu died of pneumonia at the young age of 38. Her father Koei is said to have started frequenting a White Russian girlfriend; he put my young mother on a carriage and went to meet her in Russia on the far bank of the Amur River. In 1944, when my mother was ten years old, her family returned to Japan.

The healthiest child in her family, my mother was adopted by my father's younger sister (my aunt), who lived in Misato-machi, Shari-gun, Hokkaido. There she met my father Shozo. Until the age of 23 she spent her youth with her favorite horse Ao in the wilderness of eastern Hokkaido. My mother's paintings depict the endless vistas that are common to China, Brazil and Hokkaido. The love between parent and child animals and people, depicted in her paintings in such a way as to blend in with nature, can be felt as strongly as her feelings for the mother she lost as a child.

The mother talking to the shrubs and wild birds on the estate is both a young girl and an alien.

People often gathered around my cheerful mother. My father had just the opposite personality ? all I remember about him is that he would retire to his study alone and write silently.

I liked to paint ever since I was a small child. My mother initiated me, and before I knew it I had become an oil painter. At the age of 22, when I was driving a car, I caused a head-on crash with a trailer and narrowly escaped death. It was after that accident that I started working full-time as a painter.
In the spring after I turned 23, I left my parents' home in Komatsu to live by myself in Kyoto.
I wanted to challenge myself as a painter starting from scratch. My days were spent painting and peddling my works. And then something happened in early summer of the following year, when I was walking in a bamboo forest in Rakusei. I was captivated, and have been so ever since, by the fact that even though it was the same bamboo that I had always looked at, my state of mind at that time and the appearance of the bamboo were suddenly in perfect accord.

The thick, strong moso bamboo of a lush green grows straight up to the sky.
In contrast, its dense roots run riot, forming a tangles mass from which they have enough force to break through concrete. I was deeply struck by that weed-like vitality. For me the bamboo represented a human being: the trunk being the outward appearance, and the roots the spirit. I wanted to investigate the extent to which expression can derive from the representation of bamboo as human beings. It was on that day that my craze for bamboo began.

Because I had trouble judging the color of the bamboo of my spirit, I decided to go to a colorless world to verify it. In July 1991 I went to the North Pole, in Greenland, to live in a tent for one month. In 1995 I went to China, the home of bamboo, to I hold a traveling solo exhibition at the Shanghai Art Museum, the Sichuan Art Museum and the Xian Academy of Fine Arts. At that time three paintings of bamboo that I came across in Chengdu riveted me. I wanted to adopt the techniques of ink painting, from which Japanese-style painting originated, for my oil paintings.

In order for me to develop as an Asian painter, it was absolutely necessary that I study ink painting in China, where it originated. After holding a successful traveling solo exhibition in China, I planned to study at the Xian Academy of Fine Arts, and was to leave home on March 27, 1996. However, on March 23 of that year, just before my intended departure, my mother was unexpectedly hospitalized. She had advanced stomach cancer. Hearing the doctor's pronouncement that she had only three months to live, I postponed my studies in China. I put an extra bed alongside my mother's, and spent my days caring for her. The second month of her hospitalization, on May 19, my father was in a traffic accident, and got a brain contusion from hitting the back of his head hard on the concrete. After hovering for a while between life and death he went into a vegetable state.

When mother's hospitalization in Kanazawa University Hospital and my father's hospitalization in Komatsu Municipal Hospital had overlapped by one month, on June 19, my mother left my arms and went to Heaven. She was 61 years old. While caring for my father I planned a mother and daughter traveling exhibition in Brazil. I wanted to hold such an exhibition in Brazil, a country that had formed a strong bond between us. On July 17, 1998 my father left my arms to join my mother waiting in Heaven. He was 67 years old. From that day on, to me the sky has been my parents, and I feel that it is always watching over me.

That year, the mother and daughter traveling exhibition in Brazil, which expressed my gratitude to my mother, was a great success. Two years later, on April 6, 2000, I was able to go through with my studies in China that I had postponed for four years. I studied Chinese painting for one year and returned to Japan safely on April 20 of this year.

At each turning point I have met many people, formed bonds, and like a root, I keep growing spiritually. The widening I experience is like a bamboo forest that creates a human society beyond national boundaries, that makes us join hands, widens our ring of friendship and creates harmony among people.

I want to learn from nature, to be supported by other people and to have a feeling of gratitude towards my parents as I walk onward through the journey of life.

Preface written by Katsuhiro Harada, Member of Editorial Board, Nihon Keizai Shinbun
From China to the World

Album of the Days in China