Ambassador Kitano’s Speech at launch of Artist in Residency Exhibition: Great Artists of the Ocean (Hiroshige and Hokusai) at Barefield National School, Barefield, Ennis, Co. Clare (Friday, 13 December 2019)

Minister Pat Breen TD,  Councillor Anne Norton, Councillor Roisin Garvey, Mr John Burns, Ms Siobhán Mulcahy, Ms Carmel Madigan, Teachers and Pupils,

Good afternoon. I would like to thank Mr Burns, Principal of the school, for inviting me here today to launch the Exhibition of Great Artists of the Ocean. It is a great pleasure to be here with you all.  I am also particularly happy to see Minister Breen again in his beautiful home county.

I would also like to thank the resident school artist Ms Carmel Madigan and all the teachers at Barefield National School, who have clearly devoted so much time and energy to organising this event.

Above all, I would like to congratulate the forty-five pupils in the sixth class on your wonderful artworks on display in the Exhibition of Great Artists of the Ocean. As I looked at each painting, I was fascinated to see how they reflect your own feelings about the sea, and how you were inspired by images of Japan.

As Ambassador of Japan to Ireland, I have a strong feeling that Ireland and Japan have much in common – our long history, distinct culture and traditions, and our deep attachment to nature and the environment. 

In addition to these points, our strongest connection is that we are both island countries, surrounded by the sea, and are never far away from the sight and sound of the waves. The sea plays an essential part in the lives of Irish and Japanese people.

From this standpoint, I am very glad that you chose the two Japanese artists Hiroshige and Hokusai to explore the theme of the ocean among many artists around the world fascinated by the sea.  They both included many different subjects in their works: scenes of daily life, festivals, kabuki actors, the changing seasons, landscapes and cityscapes, for example. 

But it is important to note that in their works, the sea appears again and again. We see it in many of Hokusai’s “Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji”, and in Hiroshige’s “Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido”. The Tokaido is the route along the eastern coastline of Japan’s main island Honshu connecting the two big cities Edo (current Tokyo) and Kyoto.

The relationship between nature and human beings is complex: on the one hand, nature is vast and we are tiny in comparison.  I think we all share a sense of respect and awe towards nature, including the oceans.  Perhaps no image shows the sheer power of the sea more dramatically than Hokusai’s “Great Wave off Kanagawa”.  I hope you understand which of his works I am talking about.

On the other hand, we have an impact on nature too, and the progress of the human being has depended on how we use nature for our benefit.  Hiroshige’s “Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido”, for example, include images of the sea as a means of transport.  We always associate the great explorers of history with their ocean voyages, and international trade depends on transport by sea. 

We need to show due respect to nature, while we use it to advance our own lives. Given the seriousness of the issue of global warming facing us at the moment, we should constantly remind ourselves of the delicate balance between these two elements.

I would like to conclude my remarks by thanking you for reminding us of this important relationship, which is essential for our future.  I say this because our future matters a lot for the younger generation like you.

Thank you very much.