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Japanese Proverb Meaning

I grew up hearing stories about my grandfather, Sukeyasu Sugiyama, a man who was born of privilege and died an artist. He was a man adrift, an artist from another generation. My Grandfather had many professions before finding his calling. As a young man he served in the Japanese Army, proud to represent his country and his emperor. He was also a long distance runner, and qualified to be in the Olympics. For decades, my Grandfather provided for his family by teaching art at the local grade school. Later in life he became a sculptor, his final profession and the one he found most rewarding. My Grandfather was a very brilliant man, but never understood the concept of money. In fact, he would have only had to work one more month as a rail road worker in Manchuria, China to receive his pension, yet he decided to pursue his art. He may have been bored or dissatisfied with his job. Whatever his reasons, my Obachan (Grandma) was livid when she found out he had quit. There would have been no explanation that would have satisfied my grandmother. She had to find a way to feed four children with no income.

When my Grandfather quit his job as a school teacher, he began to pursue his work as a sculptor. He did not have money to buy wood for the kiln, so he would wake up my uncle in the middle of the night and they would gather old tires from the nearby junkyard. To this day, my aunt remembers the distinct smell of the burning tires. Occasionally, my Grandfather would manage to trade some sculptures for services. Once he made a sculpture for the local dentist’s office and in return, his family would receive free dentistry. The problem was he never signed a contract. My Grandfather was under the impression this barter would provide free dentistry for the rest of their lives, when in reality each child only received one cleaning. When my aunt recalls the receptionist reminding them of their last “free” checkup,

Japanese Proverb

she remembers her and my Obachan’s embarrassment.

Although my Grandfather had his faults and was not a perfect man, he was a talented artist and had a love for his heritage. His legacy has been passed down to me. In many ways, I am very much like him—whether I like it or not.


My Grandfather was of the 21st generation of the Sugiyama family, and he was very proud of his family legacy, just as I am. I honor my

Grandfather, Sukeyasu Sugiyama, through this book. I present these pictures which show him at his best and liveliest.

Pictures of my family from my last trip to Japan in late 2004. Photos from top to bottom left to right, Christmas Eve 2004: Me (Miki), (Mom) Yoko Noland, (Aunt) Kazuko Jones, (Cousin) Akiko Sato, (Uncle) Saki Sugiyama. Winter morning 2004: Me. My mom and I. My cousin Akiko Sato and I at the anniversary dinner of 1st year of my obachan’s death and the 50th year of my grandfather’s death. Our last family portrait: Uncle Sam (Saki), me, Akiko, Uchan (cousin), (aunt) Yachan, my mom, (cousin) Uta, (Aunt)Masako. At our family’s cemetery: me, my mom, Aunt Kathy, Aunt Masako.

I no naka no kawazu taikai wo shirazu

Japanese Proverb “A frog in a well does not know the great sea.�

Meaning People are satisfied to judge things by their own narrow experience, never knowing of the wide world outside.

Japanese Proverb Meaning

This is one of the earliest pictures of Sukeyasu Sugiyama. He is on he far left wearing a solid color kimono with some of his school friends. Late 1930’s

Mizu ni nagasu

Japanese Proverb “Let flow in the water.�

Meaning Forgive and forget; water under the bridge.

Japanese Proverb Meaning

Sukeyasu Sugiyama is pictured on the left with one of his buddies. He reminds so much of my Uncle and Cousin. The smile and mannerism are so like the two of them. Early 1940’s

Kaeru no ko wa kaeru

Japanese Proverb “Wake from death and return to life�

Meaning To come out of a desperate situation and make a complete return in one sudden burst.

Japanese Proverb Meaning

Sukeyasu Sugiyama is on the left with one of his friends from the military. Early 1940’s.

Japanese Proverb Meaning

Sukeyasu Sugiyama worked in Manchuria China during the Manchuria campaign in the early 1940’s.

Koketsu ni irazunba koji wo ezu

Japanese Proverb “If you do not enter the tiger’s cave, you will not catch its cub.”

Meaning Nothing ventured, nothing gained. You can’t do anything without risking something.

Junin toiro

Japanese Proverb “Ten men, ten colors.�

Meaning To each his or her own. Different strokes for different folks.

Japanese Proverb Meaning

Sukeyasu Sugiyama is seen here pretending to dive into the Sagami-nada Sea. My uncle always laughs when he looks at this picture. This picture was taken at high tide, and if Sugiyama were actually dive into the water he would seriously injure himself, since the water is only about 3 feet deep. Late 1940’s.

Nana korobi, ya oki

Japanese Proverb “Seven falls, eight getting up�

Meaning Fall down seven times, get up eight times. An encouragement to persevere.

Japanese Proverb Meaning

Walking along the coast of Sagami-nada Sea. Late 1940’s.

Japanese Proverb Meaning

I never thought that I inherited any features from my Grandfather, besides the streak of grey hair right in the front. However, my Aunt advised me that I also have his eyes, which I never noticed until looking more closely at this picture. I am the only grandchild that inherited this trait. Late 1940’s.

Ni usagi wo ou mono wa ichi usagi wo mo ezu

Japanese Proverb “One who chases after two hares won't catch even one.�

Meaning Trying to do two things at once will make you fail in both.

Gaden insui

Japanese Proverb “Pulling water to my own rice paddy�

Meaning Doing/speaking about things in a way to benefit yourself.

Japanese Proverb Meaning When I saw this picture I knew it would make a perfect New Year’s card that year, as it was the Year of the Goat. They cards were so well received so I have carried on the tradition every year. Late 1940’s.

Keizoku wa chikara nari

Japanese Proverb “Continuance is power and strength.”

Meaning Don’t give up. Just continuing to hold on will yield and reveal strength and power. Continuing on after a setback is its own kind of strength. Perseverance is power.

Japanese Proverb Meaning

Sugiyama is pictured here on the land that holds the ruins of Usami Castle, a castle once owned by my ancestors. Late 1940’s.

Japanese Proverb Meaning

It is very rare that a Japanese male can grow a beard let alone have wavy hair. My grandfather had both. The rumor is that my grandfather had these pictures for a publicity event. For whatever the reason these are just stunning photos of him. Late 1940’s.

Seiko udoku

Japanese Proverb “Clear sky, cultivate, rainy, reading”

Meaning Farm when it’s sunny, read when it rains.

Kaeru no ko wa kaeru

Japanese Proverb “Child of a frog is a frog.�

Meaning Like father, like son.

Japanese Proverb Meaning

My grandfather was commissioned to create a sculpture for the elementary school yard. The model he used for this sculpture was my uncle. When the school remodeled its grounds the school asked if he wanted the sculpture back. He declined to take it. Late 1940’s.

Mon zen no kozo narawanu kyo wo yomu

Japanese Proverb “An apprentice near a temple will recite the scriptures untaught.�

Meaning The environment makes our characters.

Japanese Proverb Meaning

This is one of my favorite picture of him. It appears that he is looking off in the distance possibly contemplating life. Late 1940’s.

Japanese Proverb Meaning

Overlooking the Sagami-nada Sea. The original Usami Castle would have been located here. Our house which is located at the bottom of this mountain is now called the ruins of Usami Castle. Late 1940’s.

Minu ga hana

Japanese Proverb “Not seeing is a flower.�

Meaning Things will never be as you imagine, so you're better off not seeing them. Reality can't compete with imagination.

Nanakorobi yaoki

Japanese Proverb

“Stumbling seven times but recovering eight.�

Meaning Perseverance is better than defeat.

Japanese Proverb Meaning

The pinnacle of sugiyama’s career was when he was asked to sculpt Prince Takamatsu-No-Miya bust. He is shown here on the left and on the left is Prince Takamatsu-No-Miya who is the Showa Emperor’s younger brother. Sugiyama was so proud of his heritage that he signed the piece and picture Sukeyasu Usami. Usami, was our last name and the name of the towm where our family resides. We gave up the right to that name many generation back when we lost a war with a neighboring clan.

S. Sugiyama had his faults and was not a perfect man. But he was talented and had a love of his heritage. His creative skills and his love of his heritage was past down to me. In some ways I am the most like him whether I like it or not. I honor him with this book of the picture that I believe show him at his best and liveliest. He was a man adrift. An artist from another generation lost in the modern world.

Japanese Proverb Meaning

Mind Adrift  

Book about Sukeyasu Sugiyama. My grandfather

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