Design Made From Challenges
Words by Natsumi Yokoyama
-Caught by a Rainbow just above the Roof-
Akiraka was born in Tadotsu, a small port town in Kagawa. Kagawa is also famous for lacquer and we can see "rainbow roofs" which are painted with lacquer and shine beautifully when the sun comes. He compares it to fishes' shining scales. His art work has been inspired by this beautiful landscape and the craftsmanship of his father who worked in a forge. Akiraka liked drawing pictures, so they made him start a career as a craftsman of lacquer ware. In his high school, Akiraka approached Kodo Otomaru, who had been honored as "a living national treasure" and lived next to his hometown. Otomaru taught Akiraka art design and led him to Tokyo University of the Arts where he learned about lacquer more profoundly.
-The Largest Artistic City, New York-
After his high school graduation he got a job at the Japan Patent Office to know what the current trends were and to introduce his artworks. At the same time, he established his design office. One day, Akiraka got the opportunity to attend a workshop with American designers and to see sophisticated artworks there. "All looked really different from Japanese artwork which I had worked on," he said. After that, he sought overseas art experiences and found an overseas program offered by JETRO, a government-related organization. It led him to take the first step as a designer in New York where a lot of artworks such as Guernica by Picasso were gathered for the world fair of 1964/1965.
-Lacquer Works with Ignored Budgets-
After his experience in New York, he continued in his office to try generating many kinds of designs which fascinated people all over the world. At the same time, he started teaching interior design in Tama Art University to stimulate students' interests about arts of the world. On the other hand, he crafted lacquer wares as his hobby and as a channel for self-expression, and he did that without caring for budgets. He just continued to maximize the possibility of lacquer as both art and glue. Akiraka stopped his career as a teacher at the Tama Art University and closed his design office at 65 years old. However he never stops seeking for what he can do in his next stage as a craftsman of lacquer ware.
-"KO-U-GE-I," No Longer "CRAFT"-
"I heard that it is hard for them to know what is the japanese craft called Kougei. I hope they understand that Japan has a profound culture called "KO-U-GE-I" rather than "craft." I'd also like them to know my work with lacquer is a part of the Japanese tea culture and will be used in new ways from now on. KOUGEI still continues to evolve. It must be great for them to seek new sophisticated styles of KOUGEI."
-Challenge Generates Value-
"I'd like young Japanese to learn a lot, to each have their unique personality, and to accept challenges from the global world. Although it is said that Japan has no competitive resources such as oil, I believe they can generate much better values than tangible resources. I have overcome a lot of challenges such as being offered the job of a designer at a wedding ceremony. Therefore, especially young artists should not choose what to do but do anything they can in their young age. It is a better way to make their own careers as artists. It is not until they learn everything at each basic level that they will create both their specialization and clear career goals in the art fields. The ideal is the person who is never surprised even if surprising jobs come but simply says "Let's do it"."