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Portrait of Chapa



I was born an only child and grew up in Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan. Hokkaido, the northern most island of Japan, is covered with white snow in the winter, cherry blossom and sweet lilac in the spring, and golden autumn colored leaves in the fall.

As a child, I loved to watch my father as he sketched. Once, his pencil ran all over his sketchbook. Adonises, the first spring flowers in the snow filled garden, bloomed vividly on his white pages. Sometimes as he drew, I would write poems in my own book about a father and a child. Back then, I expressed myself in words rather than colors. I spent a lot of time at home reading books. Some of my favorites were Japanese translations of Russian literature for children; I also dreamt of becoming a novelist.

My mother was a cheerful, pleasant and considerate person. She had many life long friends and kept in contact with her school classmates. Her favorite sayings to me were, "Ears of rice bend lower when it's rich,” and “Give your friend the better one when you have two apples." I try to follow her words of wisdom, but sometimes, like being honest, it’s difficult to do in this day and age.

Early on, I fell in love with sounds and music. I studied the Koto and Sangen-Shamisen, traditional Japanese musical instruments. In the school orchestra I played the cello. At the age of 36, I was particularly attracted to phonetics, the study of the sounds of speech, while learning the Russian language in Moscow and became fascinated by the different shapes of the Russian alphabet characters. After graduation, I worked for a broadcast station, a publisher, a film magazine, a university library and as a Russian interpreter. Throughout, I’ve viewed these experiences with the eyes of a writer.

In 1999 I suddenly decided to seriously study art and make it the most important thing in my life. I went to Bunka Gakuin, Ochanomizu, Tokyo for two years in pursuit of my new career. For some time prior, I had been painting on leather, in a distinctive style of my own, and on occasion I would exhibit these works. At the time I did not realize how much I loved making art! In 2001 I came to New York to live and work as an artist. I studied drawing, painting and anatomy at the art Students League of New York for four years.

Coming full circle, the little girl that dreamt of becoming a writer and living abroad, is now all grown up, lives in New York City and is not a writer, but as an artist that sculpts and paints. Who would have imagined! John Lennon was right: “Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans.”

- Mitsuko Miyakawa (Chapa)



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