Japan House hosts its founder

Japan House has held open houses before this weekend, but previous events were missing a certain element. Shozo Sato, professor emeritus in the School of Art and Design, came back to visit the place he founded.

“Champaign-Urbana is my second home,” Sato said.

Sato showed participants how to create Sumi-e art and incorporate it into their daily lives.

“(I learned) how it (the art) relates to normal life,” said Evan Rodrigues, sophomore in Engineering who has taken classes on black ink painting.

Audience members were dazzled as Sato created an ink painting of a bamboo stem and leaves with just a few simple strokes.

Sumi-e is an ancient, Asian black ink painting style, which focuses on simple lines and open space. It also places emphasis on finding meaning in art.

Afterwards, James Bier, the Japan House garden designer and Champaign resident, gave tours of the Tea and Dry Gardens.

Throughout the day, tea ceremonies were performed by the Urbana-Champaign Association of Chado Urasenke Tankokai, a group that promotes Japanese culture.

Sasha Shimamoto, junior in AHS, said she didn’t know much about tea ceremonies before visiting Japan House.

“I am a student from Japan, and this is my first time coming here. I didn’t have a chance to learn about (tea ceremonies) there. I am really interested in how Americans feel about our culture,” Shimamoto said.

Community members were also present.

Anita Hamburg, Champaign resident, said she was eager to learn about Sato’s philosophy on the importance of every moment.

“(The best part) was just watching his technique. (It was) very peaceful,” Hamburg said.

Japan House was originally founded in 1975 on the corner of Lincoln and California Streets.

Sato converted an 80-year-old Victorian house which was then owned by the University.

The construction of the current Japan House was completed in 1998. Today, the Japan House hosts a variety of cultural activities along with a few classes on Japanese culture that University students can take. These classes are instructed by Kimiko Gunji, director and professor of Japan House.

“Students can learn about the culture, especially my heritage, to warm their perspective,” Gunji said.

Classes include Chado: The Way of Tea, and Ikebana: Japanese Floral Arts. These can be taken through the School of Art and Design.

“The Japan House is an untapped resource on campus that not many people know about,” Rodrigues said.