Wednesday, October 25, 2017

An audience with Leonardo da Vinci's Salvator Mundi at Christie's London.

During my latest visit to London, I had the fortune of viewing Leonardo da Vinci's Salvator Mundi, recently authenticated by experts. Christies announced that it would be put on auction on November 15. The artwork is expected to fetch astronomical sums. The last time it was put on auction in 1958, it fetched just 45 pounds. 

Learning that "The Last da Vinci" was to be shown in London, I was grateful for the happy coincidence. On the first day of the public viewing, which happened to be my last day in London, I started off to Christies at 8 King Street, after finishing my usual rounds of 10 km run in Hyde Park.
As I approached the venue, I was apprehensive of the wait time. Fortunately, the queue was not that long, perhaps due to the fact it was still early in the day. There were only six people before me. 

However, the movement of the queue was very slow. Apparently, given the nature of the venue (it's Christie's, after all) and people (some of them might actually be considering a purchase), they were taking extra time to admire the recovered work of the genius.
When I finally turned around the corner and the painting came into view, I understood the real reason why the movement had been so slow. 

It was such a fascinating painting. Once enraptured by it, it was really hard to leave. 
Christ's right hand is giving benediction. The luminance coming from the crossed fingers is counterbalanced by the subtle nuances of the face on one hand, and the serene, detached beauty of the crystal ball on the other, in an exquisite trinity of artistic motifs. As with Mona Lisa, the countenance of the savior, Jesus Christ, seemed to be conveying a poignant enigma.
The mystery of that expression would perhaps never be solvable, as in the case of Mona Lisa. People would discuss the "meaning" of the Salvator Mundi for many years to come.

Walking along the streets of London, I thought about the unique position that a savior of the world is placed. What does it take to sacrifice oneself for the redemption of the original sin of all humanity? What would the emotion of the savior be, as he reflects on his own destiny. Would it be resignation, sorrow, joy, pride, sense of duty, resilience, or sheer rapture?

Later that day, sitting on a chair at Heathrow, I felt as if, in some strange sense, I have encountered the person of Jesus Christ himself, in the house of Christie's. At the least, I had a sense of a reverberating intimacy of physical closeness. 

The very vividness and mastery coordinations of Leonardo's artistic expressions perhaps did that trick. 
As far as I was concerned, I met Jesus Christ in London, on that morning.
That would be what you would call the magic of a great work of art.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Writing the Little Book of IKIGAI.

The Little Book of IKIGAI, due to be published from Quercus on the 7th September 2017, is my first full English language book.

In the past, within the English language domain, I have written book chapters and edited a volume. However, this is the first time I have ever written a book in English from the beginning to the end. 

It is not that I am a stranger to the publishing world. I have published more than ~100 books in Japanese. 

However, the practical and imagined language barrier has been huge. For someone who was born and educated in Japan, writing a book in the English language de novo has been a dream that I thought would perhaps never become a reality.

Now that I have finished writing the book, with the final proof sent to the publisher, I can look forward to see that impossibility actually happen. 

Needless to say, I am extremely happy.

Writing a book in the English language has always been one of my personal ambitions. Like many other things in life, it got postponed for some reason or another, in a series of not-so-creative procrastinations.

The serendipity happened when my literary agent Mr. H made a trip to the London Book Fair. To be precise, Mr. H was not my literary agent at that time, since I did not have a single publication to my name in the English langauge. Mr. H was born in Australia and is now based in Tokyo. We have been discussing book projects over the years, but nothing had materialized, until last year.

During the London Book Fair, Mr. H met with an editor at Quercus, Katy. Katy apparently said she was looking for someone who would write a book on IKIGAI—the Japanese philosophy of life which contributes to good life and longevity. Mr. H immediately thought of me, and sent an e-mail.
To be honest, at that time, writing a book on IKIGAI was not on the top of my "to do list". 

Interestingly, there were several interesting coincidences. I already knew the Dan Buettner TED talk in which he mentioned IKIGAI as the secret of longevity in Okinawa, a lovely island in the south of Japan. Just before I got that e-mail from Mr. H, I was attending a TEDx conference in Tokyo, in which one of the audiences (who was apparently an American) mentioned in passing IKIGAI as one of the Japanese ideas that was catching the world's imagination.

So when I received that e-mail from Mr. H, although I had not thought of writing a book on IKIGAI before, I immediately thought it would be an interesting challenge to come up with something that would be not only helpful, but also provide some insights into the Japanese ways of life.

IKIGAI is something that many Japanese take for granted, like the air. In the process of writing the book, I needed to do some soul searching, reflecting on how this particular concept actually formed our daily lives. I also tried to present a concise explanation of science involved in the elucidation of the benefits of IKIGAI.

I did my best to make the book balanced on practical indications and in-depth explorations. I discussed the world of sumo, sushi, Shinto shrines, the usual suspects when discussing the unique values of the Japanese culture, as well as some themes probably new to many Western readers, such as radio calisthenics, comiket (comic market), and cosplay. 

I hope this book will be helpful for people who are interested in IKIGAI as a hint for a better life.