Name: Miwa Komatsu
Likes: Researching lion dogs, travel
Dislikes: Litter, animal abuse
1. What do the kanji that comprise your first name — 美羽 — mean? Would you say they match your personality? All three children in my family all have a kanji for “wing” in our names because my parents wanted us to fly. I believe I need some wings now.
2. What do you love about living in Japan? I like the fact that Japan’s culture includes various kinds of religious rites.
3. Where do you go to escape Japan? I return to Sakaki-machi, Nagano Prefecture, to refresh and be energized from the local shrines, temples and nature.
4. Whom in Japan do you most admire? I admire Jakuchu Ito, a painter from the late 1700s. I can relate to his attitude toward painting, the purity of his art and his life in general.
5. What’s your favorite Japanese word or phrase? “Protect your own sensibility, fool,” which comes from a poem by Noriko Ibaragi (1926-2006). It’s a strong phrase that always keeps me going.
6. What’s your favorite phrase in any language? “Webale nyo sebbo/nyabo.” (“Thank you very much, sir/madam” in Lugandan). I once felt a little out of place visiting a slum in Uganda to buy some tire rubber. As soon as I thanked a local in their language, however, they were very helpful. It’s common sense, but I realized it’s important to understand local cultures.
7. If you could have dinner with anyone from history, who would it be? Not a person exactly, but I’d like to share a table with an archaeopteryx (a genus of bird-like dinosaur). I’d like to chat about its appearance and the beauty of the ancient times.
8. If someone wrote a biography about you, what do you think the title should be? If my biography is penned by an alien and written from the perspective of an artist representing Earth, it would be “Written Recordings of the Earthlings: The Miwa Komatsu Edition.”
9. What song best describes your work ethic? “Te wo Tsunago,” the theme song to “Tottoko Hamutaro.” I love its message of peace.
10. What’s the strangest request you’ve ever been asked in your line of work? I’ve yet to receive a request that I’ve considered strange. I’m keen to try anything.
11. You became famous as a copperplate artist in your 20s. What first attracted you to the medium? I took a print course while attending art school and was shocked to see an actual work of art printed by copperplate. It was the exact method of line drawing that I was looking for.
12. From where did you draw your inspiration for these earlier pieces? That would be my hometown — Sakaki-machi, Nagano Prefecture.
13. Your artwork sometimes appears to be quite intimidating. Is this deliberate? It’s unintentional. Even the purest life form can sometimes be frightening for people.
14. How important is spirituality to you in terms of your artwork? It’s important to see the invisible forces around you and draw inspiration from that energy. This sensitivity is essential in making crafts.
15. You destroyed the original copperplate of your most famous work, “Forty-nine Days,” in an effort to start afresh. How did you feel after you cut the copperplate in half? Destruction isn’t the same as death, it clears the way for the future. The destruction of the original copperplate was essentially a ritual that allowed me to move on.
16. You have since produced two lion-dog figurines from Arita porcelain that are now on display at The British Museum in London. What do these creatures mean to you? Lion dogs are believed to come from a mythological Egyptian creature that was a cross between a sphinx and a cherubim. They were introduced to Japan after traveling across many continents, and changed appearance after being influenced by various cultures along the way. By making lion dogs, I am paying my respect to other countries and the power of art that has no borders.
17. Are there any other artistic mediums you would like to experiment with? I’d like to explore traditional Japanese culture while also incorporating overseas influences. I consider myself to be a person of the Earth instead of just being Japanese. I’d like to meet more people from around the globe and create art.
18. Who would win a fight between a lion and tiger? I don’t think lions and tigers would ever fight because the two species live in completely different environments.
19. What do you want to be when you grow up? I’d like to get involved in cultural exchanges and fair trades with aliens. I’d love to be an artist representing Earth.
20. Do you have any words of advice for young people? Stay interested and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Also, it’s absurd to try and accomplish anything by yourself and you’ll always need the help of others to make your wish come true. You can only join others at the starting line when you desire to achieve what someone else dreams of accomplishing.
For more information on Miwa Komatsu, visit miwa-komatsu.jp.