Today was an exciting day. At 12.00 I was to going to meet artist Naomi Okubo at Kichijoji Station in West Tokyo. Kichijoji is a popular, artistic area where Inokashira Park is located (which is famous for it’s beautiful cherry blossoms during spring). I traveled to Kichijoji by train, Naomi waited for me at the entrance.
First: a bit more about Naomi. Born in Tokyo, Naomi earned her Masters degree in painting at the Musashino Art University in Tokyo. Her works have been featured in solo- and group exhibitions throughout Japan. Typical for Naomi’s paintings is that they are very diverse in color. And besides the fact that they are a delight to look at, they often relate to contemporary social issues that play important roles in our daily lives. “Although people do not need to concern about how they can get food and where they can find out housing, they focus on what they should wear in and how others see their appearance everyday. With the changes over time, people have generated a society that visual images like mass media and fashion are significant. It has caused many social issues.”
I have to admit. I was a bit nervous before meeting up with Naomi today. I’m a HUGE fan of her paintings! But as soon as we met I realized there was no need for nerves; Naomi is a very friendly person with a wonderful personality and I absolutely loved hanging out with her. In Inokashira Park we had a traditional Japanese lunch, talked, giggled and shared a beer. Naomi told me about her experience of working on an artist project in Sweden, I talked about my first days in Japan. We also talked about Japanese art, and about how excited she was that her paintings started to get recognized internationally. I explained how much I loved them and that the whole world should know her works, and she blushed. Then I blushed, and again, we giggled.
After lunch we bought some traditional Japanese sweets and went to Naomi’s house, where she lives with her mother. She showed me her studio, and that’s the part where I got really excited.. Naomi showed me some amazing sketches of some of my favorite paintings! In these sketches she ‘experiments’ with colors before she starts with the actual painting. But they were so beautiful and detailed that they could have been finished paintings themselves. She also showed me some beautiful new works which she had only finished a couple of days ago. “Sometimes, when I have a deadline, I paint from early morning to late at night in this studio. But I love to paint. So as long as there are also periods that are less hectic, I don’t mind.”
After taking some shots in her studio we had some green tea with Naomi’s mother (who is also a painter) while eating the sweets we bought at the market. We chatted a bit more about art and traveling, until we couldn’t eat any more and it was time to leave. I offered Naomi a little souvenir from Holland and thanked her for spending time together. She gave me a legendary gift back: a hand-painted sketch! The one in the close-up, to be precisely. When I get home from my trip that sketch will be on my wall before by bag is unpacked.
Thank you for your hospitality, Naomi! It was a pleasure meeting you today. Although I just arrived to Japan, today turned out to be a highlight already. I wish you many successes!