It was sixty-four years ago, in 1926, that I first traveled to Shinshû. At the time, I was a first-year student of Japanese-style painting at Tokyo Fine Arts School. Together with three friends, carrying our gear on our backs, I hiked for ten days along the Kiso River and climbed Mount Ontake. I was born in Yokohama and spent my boyhood in Kobe, so I was greatly impressed by the awesomeness of nature, which I experienced for the first time in this mountainous region and by the contact I had with the warm-hearted, simple people who lived there.
On the evening of the second day of this trip, we arrived in Asō Village. As we looked for a place to camp further up the mountain road, large drops of rain began to fall. The sky grew dark, the rain began falling harder, and the thunder grew louder. The path turned into a waterfall and we sought refuge under the cedar trees as the thunder crashed and rolled unmercifully over our heads. We were forced to go back to the village.
When we knocked on the door of a farmhouse and explained our situation, the old woman there kindly let us in. We asked her to let us sleep on the dirt floor near the entrance, but she showed us into the living quarters and brought us tea. The old woman lived there with her son, who had gone out to practice the flute for an upcoming festival. While we were talking, the thunder died down and the rain stopped. The old woman invited us to go out with her, saying that there were no famous sights in the area, but that a park had been made nearby. It was an unexpectedly beautiful moonlit night. The park she had mentioned was very simple, just a few cherry trees which had been planted next to a hydroelectric power plant, but the old woman was very pleased with it.
To me, this quiet mountain view in the moonlight was wonderful, unlike anything that could be experienced in a city park. The air was clear and a refreshing breeze was blowing.
This trip had a great influence on me, although I did not realize it at the time. I came to understand it much later. I made many trips to the mountains after that and made many paintings of the scenery of the Shinano region. Eventually, I devoted my life to the single path of landscape painting.
Without knowing it, I have grown much older, and since I have no children, have come to the point in life where I must think seriously about what to do with my personal collection of my own work. After considering various possibilities, I decided to ask this favor of Nagano Prefecture, the region which has most nourished my art and which might be described my spiritual home. The result of my seemingly abrupt request which we see here today is due to the strong affection for the abundant natural beauty of Shinshû developed in my heart over the years.
I do not have enough words to thank the government of Nagano Prefecture for accepting my proposal so graciously and preparing this beautiful building.