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Also known as Haruhisa Handa, Toshu Fukami, who is an artist, entrepreneur and philanthropist, held an opening ceremony for Toshu Fukami Exhibition 2023, a solo showing of his paintings at Tokyo Big Sight in Tokyo’s Koto Ward, on March 18.

The 23rd exhibition, held to commemorate his birthday, ran through March 21 and displayed about 170 pieces, including 55 works painted over the past year alongside 80 pieces selected by art critics. In addition to the exhibition, a variety of performances, which included samba and hula dancers, a magic show and animal shows, were held. The last program on each day of the event was an evening disco-themed party.

Magician and illusionist Tenko Hikita II, also known as Princess Tenko, performs during the exhibition on March 19. | TTJ TACHIBANA PUBLISHING
Magician and illusionist Tenko Hikita II, also known as Princess Tenko, performs during the exhibition on March 19. | TTJ TACHIBANA PUBLISHING

The five-day event, which started a day before the opening ceremony, attracted over 12,000 visitors.

The fields of art he engages in extend from calligraphy, different styles of painting, singing and opera to noh. To date, he has created 3,546 paintings and sho (works of Japanese calligraphy).

He creates new works with remarkable enthusiasm, concentration and speed. Every year, the number of exhibited works printed on brochures handed out to visitors during the event is tentative because he may show up with new paintings that are just dry enough to carry at any time before it ends.

While running multiple businesses and leading several nonprofit organizations such as Worldwide Support for Development, the International Sports Promotion Society and the International Foundation for Arts and Culture, Fukami, who turned 72 this year, has never given up his artistic desires.

In his speech at the opening ceremony, he said: “I am drawing whatever I found in my daily life that attracted me. As long as there are things that a painter wants to draw in his work, he can continue to live as a painter.” Then he emphasized that this applies to all occupations, saying one’s mindset is most important to continue what one does. “It is in this continuation achieved as a result of overcoming all the obstacles where we find the light of one’s soul and value,” he said.

He explained that the key to keep doing what one does is to forget and be free from one’s own age. “You feel old as soon as you realize how old you are. So, forget your age, not for yourself, but to live a long and healthy life to fully perform your role and achieve your responsibility and mission in this world,” he said.

Another thing that he promises himself to continue pursuing is building heart-to-heart relationships with people from all over the world through his multifaceted activities. “The important thing is to not just communicate with people at superficial levels but to associate with them in many different ways,” he said.

In the opening ceremony that started with an energetic samba performance and a lively hula show, many prominent guests gave congratulatory speeches. Peter Phillips, the eldest grandson of the late Queen Elizabeth II, and Princess Anne’s only son, visited from Britain and touched on his decade-long friendship with Fukami, as well as Fukami’s close relationship with other members of the royal family through his various charitable activities. He also celebrated Fukami’s assistance and passion for education, culture and sports, including his long-lasting dedication to the promotion of blind golf, based on the belief that sports can change people’s lives.

Samba performances opened the exhibition each morning. | TTJ TACHIBANA PUBLISHING
Samba performances opened the exhibition each morning. | TTJ TACHIBANA PUBLISHING

Many current and former politicians, including Shizuka Kamei and Masahiko Komura, both of whom have held several ministerial posts, House of Representatives veterans Ichiro Ozawa and Katsuei Hirasawa, as well as Muneo Suzuki of the House of Councilors, also attended the ceremony and gave speeches. These were followed by video messages from former prime ministers of the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Canada and Ukraine, the secretary-general of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, a former archbishop of Canterbury, as well as celebrities, athletes and leaders of religious, medical, sports and educational organizations, among others.

Fukami was grateful for the many congratulatory messages, saying, “I will continue to take on new challenges in the coming year.” He also encouraged the more than 2,500 visitors who attended the opening ceremony that it is important to have high aspirations regardless of how old they are. “You can stay young if you have a sense of mission and a vow to become who you aim to be, not for yourself but for others and the world,” he said.

He went on to emphasize the importance of trying to make a social impact no matter how small it is. “If you live for satisfying your desires, your life will lose its reason to continue when your purpose is achieved. But if you live to make the world a better place for others, there is no end to what you can do. Have a spirit of making progress and improvement. Then your energy will never be depleted,” he told audience members.