This article originally appeared in the April 2024 issue of Connect.

Kianna Shore (Gunma)

One of my favorite things as a creative writer is finding inspiration everywhere. Of course, I am inspired by novels and movies, their characters often endearing and the plot hopefully unpredictable. I can find inspiration in the mundane, my daily life as an ALT, and quiet interactions in the inaka. One of my favorite places for an artist date, however, is a good, old fashioned museum.

No matter what country or city I am in, it is a safe bet that I will visit at least one or two museums and galleries. My love for museums stems from my mom who worked as a museum curator, designing exhibitions in our hometown. No matter where we traveled, we would hit up the local museum (and gift shop, naturally).

This trend of visiting museums continues in my life here in Japan as well, frequenting popular museums in Ueno and Roppongi, as well as smaller museums off the beaten path. My favorite museum and newfound artist is Fujishiro Seiji and his museum tucked away in oft-overlooked Nasu, Tochigi. It is a small town hidden in the mountains about an hour north of Nikko by car, or three hours by car from Tokyo.

Fujishiro Seiji is a world renowned Japanese kiri-e (paper cutting) artist who uses shadow and light to create whimsical and ethereal images in a delicate dream-like world. Born in 1924, his experience during World War II is felt in his work where common themes are hope and peace even during the darkest of times. 

When you first enter the Fujishiro Seiji Museum, you are immediately greeted by staff. The grounds have little statues and silhouettes of cats and frogs, which you will quickly learn are recurring motifs in his work. On the way to the main building, you pass by a simple chapel with beautiful stained glass. Only here are you allowed to take pictures.

The only light within the museum itself comes from behind the artwork, which makes for an interesting experience as you are nearly forced to pay attention to Fujishiro’s work. You are not allowed to take pictures within the gallery, which only adds to the ethereal and fleeting nature of his work. You have to pay close attention, stay in the moment, and exist in that space. The path through the museum has no set course and you are free to explore the many twists and turns.

One of my favorite spaces was the kage-e theater, which are moving shadow pictures. Different symbols and motifs fly by the screen, the scene never staying the same for even a single second. You are even allowed to see the art and silhouettes behind the screen, moving quickly. It’s quite the show, both the final product and the behind-the-scenes. A video recording would not be able to capture the magical intricacies. 

My friends and I spent two or three hours at the Fujishiro Seiji Museum before having to rush out at closing, but we could have easily spent a few more hours exploring the museum and examining the worlds within the artwork. The postcards in the gift shop are wonderful, but do not have the same effect as seeing Fujishiro’s artwork in person. Nevertheless, I purchased about half a dozen to decorate my own home.

We may have been the only foreigners, but there were also couples visiting, young and old, and families with children. Fujishiro Seiji’s artwork is able to entertain and connect with anyone, regardless of age or language.

At 99 years old (possibly even 100 at the time of publication as his birth is in April), Fujishiro hasn’t slowed down one bit in his artistic pursuits. He recently made a painting of Ukraine’s President Zelensky holding a sunflower, inspired by the war in Ukraine. Fujishiro is active on social media, with accounts on Facebook and Instagram, and his art is becoming more popular. Fujishiro even has an active YouTube channel and vlogs about his day to day life and artistic process.

The more I learn about Fujishiro Seiji, the more I am inspired as a writer and encouraged to be a kinder person. His work has the ability to touch lives and inspire many positively for over half a century. I am not only more cognizant of the power and influence that my stories may have, but also my impact on others in my daily life.

Kianna Shore is a Korean American writer and second-year JET based in Gunma, Japan. Kianna is also a UCLA MFA Screenwriting alumna, Women in Film Scholar, and editor of [CONNECT]. When she’s not busy writing or fangirling over her favorite books, Kianna can be found befriending stray cats and hunting for the best boba in town.