Painter Michael Hofmann says his best work starts and finishes before he's even realized it.

"In my eyes, the work that's most successful comes as a gift. I may not even know it's coming, or it may happen when I've given up. Some paintings seem to have a life of their own: I was there, but . . . These I like to keep," the San Francisco native says.

Three different groups of Hofmann's works will be shown over the next six weeks at exhibits in Kyoto, Aichi and Osaka.