Yoh Shomei was born as Hayama Shomei on July 7, 1946 in the city of Kumamoto. He lived in the city center, near Kumamoto Castle, until he was 18, and then attended college in Tokyo. During his college years, he wanted to be a fashion illustrator but one day he happened to see the work of the picture book author Kohta Taniuchi, who was almost the same age as he himself was, and was inspired to begin making his own picture books. He made his debut with White Bird on My Bench (Jake in English translation).
He was then discovered by Takashi Yanase, the creator of the picture book series Anpanman, and greatly broadened the scope of his activities as a “fairy-tale author.” In addition to postcards, letter sets and other kinds of stationary from Sanrio, his illustrations began to be used for many household goods such as towels and dishes, and his landscape paintings of beautiful natural scenes gained popularity. Even after 40 years of artistic endeavor, he continues to publish new picture books. In recent years his book Words, in which he offers hints for how to achieve happiness and tranquility in life, has attracted much attention.
Yoh Shomei (birth name: Hayama Shomei), picture book author, painter, and poet, born in 1946 in the city of Kumamoto. His first picture book is White Bird on My Bench (Jake in English translation). In 1990 receives the Graphic Prize at the Bologna International Children’s Book Fair for his picture book The Wind of the Panther. Kita-Kamakura Yoh Shomei Museum and the Aso Highland Museum Park open their doors in 1991 and 2002 respectively. Today he continues his creative activity and addresses the problems that we face on earth as human beings in works such as Don’t give us land mines, give us flowers, and Voices that stir the heart..
The Kita-Kamakura Yoh Shomei Art Museum opened in 1991 in Kita-Kamakura. Yoh Shomei had been looking for a quiet location full of greenery and no more than an hour from Tokyo by train and found it here in this city rich in history and tradition, and home to such sites as the Buddhist temples of Meigetsuin and Engakuji, famous for their hydrangeas.
The building was based on Yoh’s own design, done in the Georgian style, and remains exactly as it was when first built 25years ago, still welcoming visitors.
Here you can see Yoh Shomei’s watercolors, oil paintings, drawings, handwritten phrases and words, and his picture books about a variety of subjects. We hope visitors to the museum will absorb something of the atmosphere of the culture of Kita-Kamakura, which was once the capital of Japan, and at the same time will feel as relaxed as if they were visiting a friend’s home.
Please take your time to appreciate the depth of Yoh Shomei’s works and the emotional resonance of his words. As you think about the images in these works, we hope that this will become a site of spiritual exchange between the artist and you, the visitors.