An art trip to Japan

On November 1, 2019, I learned that my print Babarrunak Raku (see previous post) had won a Prize of Excellence in the 7th NBC Meshtec Tokyo International Screen Print Biennale. It was to be exhibited at Yurakucho Asahi Gallery between November 22 and 27, 2019 and the award ceremony would take place in Tokyo on November 25. It was short notice, and Claire and I did not have a budget for it, but we decided to go.

Our friend Murray Gudmunson at TieroneTravel booked Korean Airlines flights for us (Vancouver-Seoul-Haneda, Osaka Kansai-Seoul-Vancouver), and we found an inexpensive hotel room in the Ginza area of downtown Tokyo within walking distance of the exhibition and awards night. It was also easy to visit the old Asakusa neighbourhood where our friend Aki used to live. The weekend was windy and wet!

On the weekend of our arrival, we rendezvous’d with a Polish-born screen printer and ceramic artist, Ewelina Skowronska and her partner Tom at a concert of some very creative new music during a Polish cultural festival taking place at the large Tokyo International Forum in recognition of 100 years of diplomatic relations between Poland and Japan.

She introduced us to Pawel Pachciarek, the Japan Desk Producer for the Adam Mickiewicz Institute who was involved in organizing the festival.  Ewelina has spent time at the Banff Centre and it was interesting to hear about what it’s like for artists in Tokyo: studio access, the cost of rent, exhibition opportunities, print sales, etc.

We enjoyed learning how to use the Tokyo Metro and find our way around such a large city:

The Biennale gallery was upstairs in the Yurakucho Mullion Building in a very busy Ginza district near the massive Tokyo International Forum. Mr. Matsuda Hidekazu of NBC Meshtec, the Biennale’s sponsor, had spent over a week hanging 100 of the 333 prints received from 33 countries, and welcomed us to the exhibition.

NBC Meshtec was established in 1934 and started manufacturing high quality meshes for flour milling. It now develops mesh-based technologies used in filter production, screen printing, computers, cars and train passes. They are also developing meshes that harness nanotechnology. You can see a company video here – watch for the “fractal sunshade” product!

We spent a long time looking at the exhibition and returned two more times in order to absorb the remarkable range of work. The Biennale committee had produced a lovely full colour 36 page catalogue, as they had in previous years.

The award ceremony at Ginza Lion in Tokyo  was wonderful. There was a table of delicious food, various drinks circulating, and beautiful floral arrangements.

Tasty treats await us! photo by Claire.

The evening began with several speeches, including representatives of NBC Meshtec (the sponsor of the Biennale) and the Jury members: Tatsuo Matsuyama (Chief editor of the journal Hanga Geijutsu), Reiichi Noguchi (a curator of Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum, Tokyo ), Yukie Takagi (Assistant director of The International Print Art Museum, Machida, Tokyo), Takasuke Nakayama (screen print artist), and Akiya Fukada (President of NBC MESHTEC Inc.)

Takasuke Nakayama speaking on behalf of the other members of the jury.

With the help of Google Translate, proof-read by Kanako Nozoe at the hotel front desk, I managed to give my acceptance speech in Japanese:

I am Bill Horne. Watashinonamaeha Bill Horne わたし Bill Horne
I do not speak Japanese – yet! Nihon gogade kimasen – Imadani! 未だに
Dahooja – This means “hello” in the indigenous language where we live in Canada.
Dahooja – Kore wa, watashitachi ga Kanada ni sunde iru Indo no neitibu gengo no `kon’nichiwa’ o imi shimasu. Dahoojaこれは、私たちがカナダに住んでいるインドのネイティブ言語の「こんにちは」を意味します。
I am honoured to be part of the Biennale and I am very happy to be in Japan.
Watashi wa Biennale ni sanka dekita koto o kōei ni omotte ori, Nihon ni iru koto o totemo ureshiku omotte imasu.
Thanks to NBC Meshtec, the judges and to Matsuda-san.
NBC Meshtec, shinsa-in, Matsuda-shi ni kansha shimasu.
NBC Meshtec、審査員、松田氏に感謝します。
Thanks to my wife, Claire Kujundzic, who is also an artist, and to our friends and family who helped us come here. Geijutsukade mo aru tsuma no Claire Kujundzic, soshite watashitachi ga koko ni kuru no o tasukete kureta yūjin ya kazoku ni kansha shimasu.
Congratulations to my fellow artists for their beautiful work!
Watashi no nakama no ātisuto no utsukushī sakuhin ni omedetōgozaimasu.
Screen printing is fun! Sukurīn insatsu wa tanoshī!
Connecting with people from around the world gives me hope and joy.
Sekaijū no hitobito o tsunagu koto de, kibō to yorokobi ga e raremasu.
Thank-you. Arigatōgozaimashita. ありがとうございました。

Award presentation by Mr Akiya Fukada; Claire Kujundzic photo.

Tatsuo Matsuyama proposes a toast. photo courtesy of Matsuda-san.

Audience gets ready for the toast. Photo courtesy of Matsuda-san.

It was great to meet the other artists, the jurors and the people from Meshtec, including its President, Mr Akiya Fukada. Also from NBC Meshtec: Takuya Ikeda, Shigeo Kanada, Tetsuya Kido, and Yui Akiyama, as well as Matsuda Hidekazu. I gifted as many of my Behind the Lines catalogues as I could, and exchanged many business cards.

I also had the opportunity to meet Mr Akinobu Kochiya, CEO of Screen Printing Magazine, Masami Nakagawa from the monthly magazines Art Collectors and The Window of Arts, Masakazu Naito, President of the Japanese Screen & Digital Printers Association, and Hiroko Kurimoto, Editor at Abe Publishing in Tokyo, Lisa Eidt, the daughter of Johannes who won the Prize of NBC Meshtec, but could not attend, and Mirjam Cuk Moishi from the Slovenian Embassy who accepted a Prize of Excellence on behalf of Matjaz Penko.

With fellow prize winners, Kanda, Kei and Erica; Claire Kujundzic photo.

With Mr Shigeo Kanada and Mr Takuya Ikeda of NBC Meshtec.

Our prizes were beautifully designed, produced and packaged. The event was planned in great detail and all of us were glad we attended.

The next day we took a train from Tokyo to Hiroshima, then another one north to Miyoshi where Rikio Hakudo Hashimoto met us at the station.

Rikio is a master potter, filmmaker, and long time friend of our friends Isao Sanami-Morrill, her son Kai and Burt Cohen of Potters Without Borders (whose logo Claire designed). He lives in a traditional Japanese house in the mountains north of Misato. Inside is a kotatsu table, an indoor studio, an attic gallery/meeting place, and nearby is a separate building with a large Anagama (wood-firing) kiln he has built.

Rikio was a warm and generous host who not only picked us up at the Miyoshi train station, but took time to show us special places in his area, including the Kurasuyado Lodge, a restored samurai-era building in a UNESCO village that now operates as a very special lodging with only three suites. His friend Takuro Onodera kindly showed us around the building and explained many details of the renovation process, much of which was done by Rebuilding Center Japan. We felt very fortunate to spend time with Rikio, to be able to cook together in his kitchen, and to exchange gifts of prints and ceramics.

Our next destination was the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.  Both Claire and I had been active in the anti-nuclear movement of the early 1980s, and through Headlines Theatre, I had met the late Kinuko Laskey who was a Hibakusha – survivor of the first blast. The museum, surrounding parks, memorials and the nearby Hall of Remembrance are powerful, profound places.

From Hiroshima we took a train west to Fukuoka where Yasumasa Matsumata met us at the Hakata station. Our mutual friend Dorien Jongsma had introduced us through Facebook (!) and he is an accomplished, experienced painter who creates landscapes and abstracts in a variety of media. Both he and his wife Yuko, who works as a translator, speak Spanish, and that was our common language during our visit there!

Like Rikio, Yasumasa and Yuko were warm, thoughtful and generous. We enjoyed a visit to Yasumasa’s studio and exchanged a variety of prints and paintings. They introduced us to all sorts of foods and grocery stores and we thoroughly enjoyed our time with them. Yasumasa also helped us ship a box of our things to the Osaka Kansai airport so we wouldn’t have to lug them on the train. Brilliant!

Yasumasa took us to the Komyozen-ji temple in Dazaifu southeast of Fukuoka. It was founded in 1273 and includes a beautiful Zen garden, as well as many wonderful buildings, shrines and bridges. On our way there we stopped for some special goodies:

This is a very special place.

On the weekend we took a train south to Hizen-Kashima where Rikio’s son Machiyu met us at the station. He drove us about 20 minutes from town and dropped us at the foot of a mountain. Then we started climbing a long series of stone steps up past several shrines until we reached the Sue-ji Zen temple where he, his wife Yuko and their two children live. It also happened to be the site of an exhibition of his wonderful wood-fired ceramics.

 Yuko prepared a fabulous lunch for us which we enjoyed with two friends of theirs who were visiting from Nagasaki. We bought some ceramics and gave them some of our prints and reproductions. In spite of the language barriers, we had a remarkable – at times moving – conversation using Google Translate!

After tea, Machiyu drove us back to the train station and we continued south to Nagasaki where we visited the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum. Once again, a powerful, profound experience.

Imagine our reactions when, on a wall at the end of a final display charting the arms race and peace movements, we saw a photo of protesters in Vancouver surrounding a train loaded with nuclear weapons. In this way, the trip brought us full circle in our own lives together as young activist-artists.

Vancouver protest photo.

[more on the “We Resist” shirt in the ^ above photo gallery ^ here.]

We emerged from the museum into a beautiful Nagasaki evening.

Crescent moon over downtown Nagasaki.

In our haste, we jumped onto the wrong train, which stopped after two stations and everyone got off. We returned to Nagasaki’s Urakami Station to await the next [correct] fast train back north to Hakata station in Fukuoka. Derailments on the line delayed our departure, which gave us time to buy some snacks and reflect on a very full day.

We enjoyed one last night in Fukuoka and in the morning, Yuko and Yasumasa took us to a big, two-storey second hand store, then a  large 100 Yen store. After a last meal with our friends, they took us to the station from which we took a train back east to Kobe. We had booked a room at Guesthouse Maya, a unique, funky and friendly hostel in a diverse neighbourhood full of artisans, artists’ studios and small shops.

Park, Maya’s coordinator, invited us to take his market tour and two other guests – Chieko Arai, who works in sustainable development, and designer Chris Tomoya – came as well. For just 1000 Yen each, we spent over an hour meeting people in a labyrinth of shops, many of which were third-generation family businesses. Lots of proprietors knew Park and we were given all sorts of samples such as fresh made soy milk with sesame, BBQ, fried pyrogies, fresh strawberries, shaved bonito flakes, and exquisite hand-made confections. Wow.

On our last afternoon, we visited Keiko Kuroda at her office at the University of Kobe where she teaches forest science. We had met her in 2011 when we took Claire’s pine beetle-based art to a forest pathology conference in northern Spain.

It was great to see Keiko again and hear more about her work. She chose from a selection of screen prints and reproductions we had brought for her. Then from the university, we caught a bus and train downtown. There she took us to the “Agricultural High School Restaurant Sannomiya” (農業高校レストラン 三宮店 ) near the Ikuta shrine in downtown Kobe. We enjoyed a wonderful meal made almost entirely from vegetables grown by the students and cooked in a fusion cuisine style (reviewed here). Lucky us!

(I will try to post more food photos for our chef friends!)

All the people we encountered during our two weeks in Japan were kind, helpful and generous.  We are so fortunate to have traveled there and grateful for the hospitality we enjoyed. We also thank the following for their help and support for this trip:

Amos Nir, Gillian Walker, Carol Evenchik, Sophia Isajiw, Leanne Davies, Marilyn Fuchs, Lyndal Osborne, Jennifer Penny, Ian Crawford, Judy Kujundzic, Aki Yamamoto, Dorien Jongsma, Isao Sanami-Morrill, Eri Ishii, Craig Paterson, Susan Madsen, Stephen Mitchell, Dave Jeffery, Gary and Linda Champagne, Ekai Jorgenson, Shane Yamamoto, Ewelina Skowronska, Aiai & Akane, Rikio Hakudo Hashimoto, Yasumasa and Yuko Matsumata, Keiko Kuroda, Kanako Nozoe, and Machiyu & Yuko.

Interview with Sheryl MacKay of CBC Radio One’s program “North by Northwest” about Babarrunak Raku and the 7th NBC Meshtec Tokyo International Screen Print Biennial and awards … starts at about 58:48.

9 thoughts on “An art trip to Japan

  1. Caroline Woodward

    Congratulations, Bill! & thank you for such a wonderfully written and photographed account of your trip to Japan! It is such a hopeful way to begin the New Year. I am going to share this with my own Facebook and (teensy) Twitter gang as it is so life-and-art-affirming and we all need a Jolt of Joy in this life. May the joys of this journey, thanks to your outstanding artistic accomplishment and the support of many friends on either side of the Pacific Ocean, last you a lifetime. Now, back to the studio/writing room/kiln/woodpile….!
    Happy New Year to you and Claire from Caroline & Jeff (formerly of the Motherlode Bookstore, New Denver and currently lightkeepers on Lennard Island)

  2. chrisharrisphotos

    Absolutely AMAZING Bill. Congratulations on a well deserved recognition. I am very proud to have worked with you so often over the years…I have learned a lot. Best wishes on your new adventure. I’ll be following! Chris

    *Chris Harris Photography* *Box 333, 108 Mile Ranch* *BC V0K 2Z0* *T. 250-791-6631*

    ” Never be swayed by anything but your own work and vision” Tony O’Malley

  3. Anne Fullerton

    Hi Bill and Claire – what an amazing Trip. And congrats on the award.

    While you were in Japan, I was taking a Japanese woodblock printing course in Waterloo. (Mokuhanga). My instructor, Elizabeth Forrest, studied in Japan for 11 years and has recently moved to KW. Next class is collage using the prints which didn’t work out.

    Guessing you are still in Wells. Mark is still doing research and teaching. I am happily retired, learning more art, working on my photos and helping my mother 1 weekend a month. She is still in the house in Cobourg, not driving as she lost periferal vision a year ago through a stroke in the occipital area. In 10 days she turns 95. She has a terrific live in caregiver, Kat.

    Happy New Year to you both. Love,

  4. Caroline Woodward

    Congratulations, Bill! & thank you for such a wonderfully written and photographed account of your trip to Japan! It is such a hopeful way to begin the New Year. It is so life-and-art-affirming and we all need a Jolt of Joy in this life. May the joys of this journey, thanks to your outstanding artistic accomplishment and the support of many friends on either side of the Pacific Ocean, last you a lifetime. Now, back to the studio/writing room/kiln/woodpile….!
    Happy New Year to you and Claire from Caroline & Jeff (formerly of the Motherlode Bookstore, New Denver and currently lightkeepers on Lennard Island)

  5. Sarah Smith

    Dear Bill and Claire,
    Congratulations on your award! I am thrilled for you that you were able to attend in person. The photo journaling was exceptional! I studied every photograph, read your text and imagined myself in every picture.
    I am overwhelmed by your attention to detail, not forgetting anyone’s name, learning your speech in Japanese and including Indigenous people from home.
    Thank you for sharing your experience and Best Wishes for you both in 2020!
    With Admiration,
    Sarah Smith
    100 Mile House, BC

    1. Bill Horne Post author

      Thanks so much for your appreciation, Sarah. It did take a lot of work to compile the photos and stories, but the process provided another way to reflect on the trip and the wonderful people we met.
      best wishes,


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