A circle of friends connected by gootouchi! The “FIST BUMP” corner of the radio program “GRAND MARQUEE” features people who live and enjoy Tokyo in a relay format.
On June 22, Kevin Yang, owner of Miaki Gallery in Nishi-Azabu, was introduced by Machiko Machikaku, a theremin player. We asked him about the turning point in his life, including why he gave up being a photographer and why he decided to apply for graduate school.
Drawn to Japan by Japanese Anime Culture
Celeina (MC): You came to Japan in 2003, right?
Kevin: That’s right. That’s how long it’s been since I’ve been here.
Celeina: Were you originally interested in Japanese culture?
Kevin: In the 1990s, there wasn’t much information from Japan, but I was really into Japanese anime, such as “The Super Dimension Fortress Macross”.
Takano (MC): Anime culture.
Kevin: Yes, that’s right.
Celeina: I should have asked where you are from first.
Kevin: I am from Tianjin, China. Tianjin rice is something made by Japanese people (laughs).
Takano: I didn’t know that!
Kevin: I’ve been doing this one thing for the past 20 years (laughs).
Takano: It’s my own material (laughs).
Celeina: So you also worked for IBM and GREE.
Kevin: That’s right. It’s been exactly 22 years since I came back to Roppongi Hills.
Celeina: After that, you went independent, didn’t you? How did that come about?
Kevin: It all started when my family became ill. I think everyone is familiar with the one-child policy, and I was born in the same year that the one-child policy started.
Celeina: I see, so you decided to take a flexible job in order to take care of your family.
You became a photographer because of your passion for art.
Celeina: You became independent and started your own photography business. How did that come about?
Kevin: When I was a child, I liked drawing and art, but in China, there was a huge exam war, so I wasn’t allowed to do that. So I had some regrets. When I became an adult and wanted to start art, there were hurdles to overcome. So I decided to take up photography because I thought it would be easier to get into.
Takano: When you are an adult, you realize your dreams, but when you are a child, you have to deal with all kinds of restrictions. You have to think about your parents and so on.
Kevin: Yes, that’s true.
Celeina: And last month you opened “Miaki Gallery” in Nishiazabu. What inspired you to open this gallery?
Kevin: As a photographer, I got to a certain point. I won an award called the Sony Award and attended an award ceremony in London, and in short, I saw the top of the world. Then my heart broke and I ran away as fast as I could (laughs).
Takano: I think that’s great enough.
Kevin: In my late thirties, I was not sure if I wanted to be a world-class artist. So I decided to become a behind-the-scenes supporter of artists. I have been searching for a variety of ways.
Celeina: I see. So that’s why you started the gallery. But isn’t it quite difficult to give up? Are you the type of person who can quickly change your mind?
Kevin: Yes, I am. I don’t know if it’s right or wrong to say this, but there are many times when I just need to score 60 or 70 points to move on.
Takano: But you are attending the award ceremony in London!
Celeina: I’m not saying that I got 60 or 70 points.
I want to spread the beauty of Asia to the world.
Celeina: You started a gallery. The name of your gallery is “Miachi. What does that mean?
Kevin: There is an old Chinese saying that goes, “If you don’t see each other for a day, it will be like three autumns. It expresses the feeling of not being able to wait for a long time, as if three years have passed after waiting for only one day. I chose the name “Miaki Gallery” to express the meaning of “three autumns,” or the harvest season.
Takano: I see… Autumn on the Autumn side.
Celeina: What kind of exhibitions are you currently holding at Miaki Gallery?
Kevin: A new exhibit will open on the 24th. It is by a Japanese artist named Fumiko Ishiba. She is an artist who has a background in printmaking and participated in the Aichi Triennale. At first glance, they are still images of ordinary things in our daily lives, but if you look closely, you can see that they are a bit strange. I was wondering if people these days are so used to short videos that they have lost their powers of observation. I think this will refresh them.
Takano: I brought a postcard for you, though. For a moment, I thought it was a photo of a stove and a washbasin, but upon closer inspection, the outlines are framed.
Celeina: You mean you added a picture to the photo, right?
Kevin: No, it is really a photograph.
Celeina: You mean that if you look closely, you can see that there is a secret hidden in it?
Takano: I want to see this in person!
Kevin: I saw her exhibit in Paris in 2019 and I’m so excited. I contacted her as soon as I got back to Japan.
Takano: Kevin, what do you hope to do with the gallery in the future?
Kevin: There is one thing that all the artists I am friends with have in common, and that is that we want to spread the beauty of Asia to the world. But first, we have to recognize Asia. I would like to introduce Japanese artists to China and Korea. I think that is my role.
Takano: I would like to introduce Japanese artists to the world.
Celeina: Now here, I asked Kevin to choose a song that we would all like to listen to together on the radio at this time. What song would it be?
Kevin: It may sound a little bit harsh, but it is a song from the movie “Red Pig,” called “Cherry Blossoms in Bloom. I like the French version sung by Tokiko Kato. It was right around this time, when the cherries were ripening.
Celeina: Indeed! Let’s listen to it.
From Lost in the Corona Disaster to Graduate School
Celeina: Kevin, you are the owner of “Miaki Gallery” and also a student at the graduate school of the University of Tokyo.
Takano: That’s amazing vitality.
Celeina: What made you decide to enter the graduate school?
Kevin: There was a time when I was quite lost. I am just now getting out of that period. I was lost in the Corona disaster. However, as people around me say, I am the type of person who will die if I stop.
Kevin: I need to keep moving, so I’m thinking of going back to college to study.
Celeina: What kind of studies are you doing?
Kevin: Science fiction prototyping. My current research is about how to estimate what should be done now or how to develop something new, but SF prototyping is about imagining what will happen 50 years from now and working backwards from there.
Takano: It is science fiction. What exactly do you mean by that?
Kevin: For example, in a peace education program in Hiroshima 50 years from now, I would imagine a parallel world where nuclear bombs are used again, a situation where nuclear weapons have been abolished, and a tense situation like now, in each of these three situations.
Celeina: You can make predictions and experiment with them.
Kevin: That’s right. You can work backwards and see what you need to do now.
Celeina: That sounds difficult.
Takano: Sounds fun.
Kevin: You are also bringing in companies, aren’t you?
Celeina: Last question, from your point of view, what is the attraction of Tokyo?
Kevin: The freedom. The freedom of not being interfered with, and the appropriate distance between people. I think people complain about Tokyo being cold, but I think they are complaining because they like it. You often complain about your family. That’s because they like it.
Celeina: You are saying, “Like it or not, I love it.
Takano: It is not the flip side of that coldness, but it means that you accept various people. There are all kinds of people in Tokyo, and we don’t speak ill of them.
Kevin: People like me are also made to feel comfortable (laughs).
Takano: Everyone is accepted.
Celeina: FIST BUMP, today we welcome Kevin Yang, owner of Miaki Gallery in Nishiazabu. Thank you very much.
Kevin: Thank you very much.
J-WAVE (81.3FM) Mon-Thu 16:00 – 18:50
Navigator: Shinya Takano, Celeina Ann