Japan art and Kiyoshi Saito (1907-1997)

Japan art and Kiyoshi Saito (1907 – 1997)

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Kiyoshi Saito (1907 – 1997) was born during the Meiji Period of 1868-1912. Thus, his teenage years belong to the more open Taisho Period (1912-1926). Therefore, he witnessed the expanding imperial aspirations of Japan and its ultimate defeat in 1945.

However, for Saito, who evaded military conscription, his world was fixated on art. Hence, in the lovely art pieces in this article that belong to the 1940s and 1950s period, the simplicity of Saito’s art runs counter to the chaotic world he witnessed.

His early life denotes family trauma. This concerns the death of his mother when 12 years old and having several stepmothers. Despite being born in Fukushima Prefecture (Aizubange Town), his childhood memories relate overwhelmingly to Yubari in Hokkaido.

Saito had various jobs when young. For example, in Otaru, he did pharmacy work and also worked for a gas company. However, it was drawing, oil painting, writing songs for children, and illustrations that enabled him to dream of a better future.

The Kiyoshi Saito Museum of Art (Yanaizu) says, “Kiyoshi Saito existed in the threshold between realism, the foundation of his painting, and abstract art, which was popular during his era. He struggled at times, but his unremitting efforts led him to create truly unique images. His artwork reveals a cross-section of contemporary art.

Saito said, “I felt soothed when I was drawing.”

In 1945, Saito and family members moved to Aizu – a potent place for his art – to escape the carpet bombing of America. Saito also spent his last decade on this earth in Yanaizu. Therefore, despite witnessing many convulsions throughout his life – and having the option to spend the last part of his life anywhere of his choosing (concerning his economic status) – the lore of Yanaizu was a natural homecoming before parting from this world.


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