cast of characters

There's this one old man who lives in my town who sometimes visits my school to teach the art club. He's a relatively reknowned (at least locally) Hanga artist, that is, Japanese wood-cut printmaking. Even though i usually cannot attend his instructional sessions at my school (he comes on the same day as my Japanese class downtown) I go whenever possible and he seemed to take a liking to me almost immediately.

He likes to call me "Doctor Michael" because I told him was thinking about going to MD or PhD programs at some point in the future. Basically everyone in town knows him and his craft. To illustrate this point, I was once going to his house for a party, and the hand-drawn map he drew me indicated that his house was on the complete opposite side of town. So i was wandering around the entirely wrong neighborhood and asked a random shop keeper if they knew Sano Sensei's house. As far as i could tell they were like "THE Sano sensei?" and I was like yeah! and they proceeded to draw me a real map to his house. Yes, this is that kind of community.

On another occasion I was walking around with Sano sensei going into random stores and barber shops where he knows people. Basically everywhere we went had something hanging on the wall that he would point to and say "I made that." He also showed me architectural drafts he's done that have been built into actual homes in the city.

I went to a new Years Party he was hosting with some former students. They are great. They apparently get together frequently and their group name is "The Weasels" Which is a play on one of the member's names, i think, which i guess sounds like the Japanese word for weasel.

He's 84, and let me assure you, I can't understand a WORD of what he says. Actually I have gotten to the point where i can usually understand Japanese people, believe it or not, but old people simply speak a different language. It's hard to demonstrate without showing you an imitation in person. basically just try to imagine tipsy 60 year old dudes hanging out in dive bars in America. It's basically the equivalent of that. He even pronounces the most common words with complete different, old-fashioned sounds. So I talk to this guy, and I understand about 10% of what he says, but nevertheless he seems to LOVE me. And is always trying to explain something simple to me about Japan. I look confused but it's only because I have no idea what words he's using.

So yeah, Local hero. Cool grandfather character in my Japanese life.


Samantha said...

"THE Sano sensei?"
Lol. That guy has it made. Actually, it sounds like he makes it prolifically, if his stuff is all over the place. What do you mean by architectural drafts? Surely he doesn't also design buildings... Has he carved images into buildings? What do his woodcuts look like? Are they traditionally inspired? What are his common themes/ images?

Mike said...

He's really cool, though I doubt if people would know THE Sano sensei outside of my little town. But in-house, he's champ.

Architecturally--Japanese houses usually have decorative centerpieces at the tops of the the rooves. He designed a few of those, as well as some decorative work for the tops of gates and stuff. Really cool.

His work is not really traditional, It's a little more abstract that old style prints and he colors them by applying oil paint to the BACK of the prints, which bleeds through and gives it a really neat, soft effect. Next time I hang out with him (tommorrow) I will try to get some pictures for you.

Mike said...

you can see what I mean here: