From an early age, I have myself been an artist as well as a businessman. I have been a shinto priest as well as a philanthropist – because music and the arts can lift our hearts and invigorate our minds. It is my lifelong passion for the arts that led to the creation of the International Foundation for Arts and Culture. IFAC now operates, not just in Japan, but also in the United States, Britain and Australia.
To advance my patronage of this foundation, I hark back to examples in history where philanthropy made a difference. Japanʼs philanthropic tradition has always gone beyond simply funding the arts. Many of our nationʼs most significant patrons have been artists themselves, integrating financial patronage with the pursuit of artistic excellence. From Japanese shoguns (feudal lords), in times past, to business leaders today, the participation of prominent figures has drawn popular attention to the arts.
The perfected art of Noh theatre that’s enjoyed today, is largely credited to the playwright Zeami. But it was the Shogun of that era – Yoshimitsu Ashikaga – who discovered, extolled and patronised Zeami. Yoshimitsu sufficiently studied the art of choral chanting, as practiced by Buddhist monks, to attain the distinguished level of a soloist. It was this profound artistic acumen that allowed him to identify and nurture the genius of Zeami.
In devoting my energies to the extensive study of Noh and other artistic genres, I have come to a deeper understanding of the outstanding merits of this Japanese tradition which serves to enrich my patronage.
As an undergraduate, I intensively studied Noh theatre and the Japanese dance, flute and drums derived from Noh. I then learnt under the masters of tea ceremony, flower arrangement and calligraphy to myself reach the level of master of these disciplines. Subsequently, I pursued western art forms: opera, conducting and composing, as well as Peking Opera, Japanese ceramics and also Japanese-style ink painting. Those hours of study at universities and with maestros presented me the opportunity to perform in numerous title and supporting roles in opera, in turn producing and directing a dozen of my own productions. With my extensive involvement in opera and in parallel to my appointment as an an official instructor of the Hosho School of Noh, it made sense to launch a choir group and a branch of the Hosho school of Noh (Toshu Hoshokai) through IFAC. We are soon to celebrate two decades of sharing the magic of art with the wider public ‒ a key tenet of our foundationʼs mission.