Back to Japan: Nakatsu 2001

Yep, this is me, new to Nakatsu

I first lived in Nakatsu, in Kyushu Japan, arriving in August 2001. It was a freezing day when I left New Zealand and a sweltering one when I touched down in Japan. On the train down from Osaka, sweat pooled in my boots, after I’d removed my woollen socks to supposedly help cool me down. I was met off the train and taken to my apartment, a short walk away. Everything was close in this old castle town. Some might have called it ‘sleepy’, but I found it a perfect place for finding friends and cycling around.

Sat, 22nd Sept. 2001: Mr Hokozono in yellow, me beside him.

My apartment ‘Sunflower’ was close to a supermarket, and that is where I met and made friends with a Japanese woman just three days after my arrival. Little did I know, just how lucky I was to meet her. Mizuyo spoke little English, and I even less Japanese, but we somehow managed to find out that we both loved art.

Just a few weeks in, and I was invited to join her watercolour painting group, which was a few kilometres out in the country. The plan: I biked to her house (20mins approx) and then she drove me there. It was at two-storied wooden building in the middle of a field, with stairs up the outside to the second floor. Windows lined each side, of a spacious light classroom. I was made so welcome, by Masami Hokozono, and his pupils. We sketched, painted and had fun.

And, a few weeks later we all went on a sketch trip to the peninsular Kunisaki Hanto to have a picnic and sketch. At the end of a gorgeous wooded walk we came across Fukiji – an Amida Buddhist temple, the oldest wooden structure in Kyushu (8th century). The main hall is a national treasure, and the wooden Buddha ensconced therein, is one of Japan’s important cultural properties. We ate, sketched, took photos and left in time for me to start teaching that evening. Such a lovely day to have spent with a group of Japanese artists.

My watercolour and ink sketch of Fukiji temple

At the next art session, I sketched a front view of the temple in ink, and managed to finish some of the watercolour, when Mr Hokozono asked if he could take my sketch home, ‘so he could have a wee dabble’ or words to that effect. I loved the results. It has been framed and has hung on various walls of my home ever since. I shall always be reminded of Mizuyo, Mr Hokozono, and the art group in Nakatsu every time I look at it. I shall never forget them.

PS There is at least one more story and a group of sketches to come from Japan

13 thoughts on “Back to Japan: Nakatsu 2001

  1. Amazing! I wish I could sketch to your level of ability. I particularly love the detail of the roof. Welp, time to get practising thanks to this inspiration. Anyway, what do you use for the ink?


    • Thanks Stuart. So nice to think I’ve inspired someone.I’ve been sketching a lot longer than you most likely. : ) Think in indelible black ink, bought in cartridges, and fits a long handled pen. I’ll let you know more detail later if you want.


  2. It’s great to read about your experiences in Japan. And the sketch is beautiful!
    A weird thing happened when you sent a comment on my previous post. I clicked on it and it vanished! I have no idea what happened. I think that happened once before to one of your comments. So I was really glad to see your post today so I could tell you I didn’t mean to lose the comment. And thanks for sharing your stories! They’re always interesting to hear how it is on the other side of the world!


  3. Hello Vivienne!
    I found your blog while looking for new ones to follow. Your art in this post is beautiful. I’m not an artist, but recently I’ve joined a nature journaling group and “I’m trying”….I greatly admire those who have talent! Are you still here in Japan? My husband and I live in rural Kyushu. We moved back to his hometown when we he retired. Later I’ll go through your other posts- perhaps I can answer my own question 🙂.
    Lovely art! Happy New Year!


    • Nice to meet you Mrs N in Japan. I have been back in New Zealand a long time now, buy always I am remembering Kyushu and the wonderful friends I knew there. I did so enjoy my art classes in Nakatsu, and admired the watercolour sketches of many Japanese. I will look up your site. Thank you for sending a message to me, Vivienne.


      • Hello! Nice to meet you too!
        Kyushu is a wonderful place to live. I hope you can come back again someday after we are past this challenge of the pandemic. May you have many lovely days of creating art 🙂


  4. Lovely read, Vivienne especially with the added artwork. We have a few things in common, that being Japan. I too came back to Japan though in 2000, after a six-month stint in 1999. Anyway, all the best. ‘Akemashite omedetō gozaimasu’ as they say over here!


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