Those who know him well agree that Jorge Ferreras is unusually talented and highly original. With his whimsies, his art and piano he has a gift for lighting up the space he occupies. He is an architect and artist, NHK radio man and university lecturer who came from Argentina to study and live in Japan.
The fourth boy of five brothers, he grew up in a small city in the pampas. He said, “At 17, in order to attend university, I moved to Cordoba. I saw the first Japanese I had ever seen there. In the same neighborhood as my boarding house was a school for Japanese children. I loved to look at those Japanese kids walking by. They all wore their beautiful smiles.”
For a second time, Ferreras became conscious of Japanese people when he worked with an architect whose father was Japanese and mother German. “She was a very good designer who made me fall in love with Japanese architecture and design in general,” he said.
In 1972, when he was 25, Ferreras won a Rotary international scholarship which brought him for a year to Japan. “I came to study architecture at Tokyo University,” he said.
“I was not intending to get a master’s degree, and my Japanese was too poor for me to attend classes at the university. My professor suggested that I take advantage of my sketching ability and go around Japan, looking at the best in old and contemporary buildings.
“For several months I went hitchhiking to the places that attracted me in Kyushu, Shikoku and Honshu. That was a wonderful way for me to improve my Japanese language, to make friends and understand Japanese culture.”
He returned to Cordoba. Then, in 1976, Ferreras received a grant from the Japanese Ministry of Education to study at the Tokyo Institute of Technology. “That time,” he said, “I was to study seriously, get a master’s degree, and finish the doctoral course.
“Now at 60 I am not sure where I belong. That’s not strange, because since I was a young boy I was not sure I really belonged anywhere.”
Ferreras added, “I must recognize that all the flattering in my early years here, all the VIP treatment I got without any qualification, spoiled me. I got a lot of confidence in my knowledge of foreign languages, my intelligence and . . . even my appearance.
“They asked me if I were an actor or a model. I just could not believe it when I really began working as a model, and saw myself advertising whiskey in posters on the trains. My career to stardom ended abruptly when my professor ordered me not to do any work unrelated to architecture.”
A member of the Architectural Institute of Japan, Ferreras changed direction when he lost his parents. “I shifted from architecture to what I really wanted to do: painting,” he said.
He works at translations between Spanish and Japanese and announcing for NHK World Radio. He lectures on comparative culture at Dokkyo University. “I enjoy both these activities so much I cannot think of them as work. The rest of my time I give to painting, practicing zen meditation and the tea ceremony, and enjoying life thanks to what I have learned in Japan.”
Ferreras gives piano concerts of classical music and tangos. He adorns the walls of concert rooms with his art work. Working in oil pastel, he chooses colors from kimono and utensils of the tea ceremony. He practices kanji and considers “the high quality of Japanese design in all fields a byproduct of the visual richness of the language.”
Ferreras has presented his paintings on television channels in Japan, and in Buenos Aires and Mexico. He said, “What I appreciate most of what Japan has taught me is physical rather than intellectual.
“Mastering the kneeling position of seiza is one of my greatest acquisitions. When I have the time, I sit in meditation or practice the way of tea. When I don’t have the time, I kneel in seiza to perform little domestic tortures in the life of a bachelor.
“Through this seating position I have learned how important the body is.”