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シカゴの声

I Was Born in 1962 in Tokyo.....

I was born in 1962 in Tokyo. I grew up just like an average Japanese. I went to junior high, high school, and to University. Unfortunately, I goofed off and did not study, dropping out at the end of the fourth year. I got a job at a children's clothing company doing accounting, sales, and production management. I learned a lot about business and it was fun, but after four years, I decided to change my job. My Dad asked if I wanted to go to America for a while since our family had hosted an exchange student from Chicago.

Yutaka at age 3 in Japan on " Shichi Go San"

The first day I arrived in Chicago, our friend took me to College of DuPage and I enrolled in English as a Second Language classes for a half year. With a student visa, I took many classes including Fashion and Art. I found that I was good at Fashion Design. They taught me how to make patterns, drape, and draw to express the ideas in my head. I met my future wife, Stacy, in Fashion class. She had already worked sewing and designing clothing as a career. She taught me how to sew my elaborate ideas and complex designs and how to think in three dimensions when sketching on paper. I actually won my school’s “Fashion Student of the Year” and then “Best Overall Designer” in a major fashion competition in the Midwest region. We married and have been working together in our business making fine custom clothing for clients. We make original designs and sew everything ourselves. Over the years we have had ready-to-wear clothes in local boutiques and trunk shows, as well as special one-of-a-kind designs displayed in exhibitions and galleries. One of our clients was a fashion stylist for a photographer who does print advertising for commercials. She spread the word about our good work. Ever since, we have had fun working on commercials in TV and magazines, on TV show and feature movies, some with celebrities and movie stars, that are seen nationally and internationally.

I enjoy making evening dresses. The design process is very interesting: to sketch on paper, drape fabric on a dress form, or just cut and sew and see how the idea develops. If an idea doesn’t work, I create a solution. Sometimes mistakes change into new designs; even the process of making clothes creates new ideas.

Stacy and Yutaka

When I told Stacy that I always wanted to learn to paint pictures, she gave me canvas, paint, and brushes and encouraged me to paint freely, not to try to paint a masterpiece. As I learned how to use the brush and paint, my colorful blob pictures evolved into paintings of cute animals that I saw at the zoo, on TV nature shows, or on the street. I was surprised when friends and clients liked and wanted to buy them. For fun, I entered the big local arts festival and was surprised again, to be chosen for the “Curator’s Choice” exhibition. I still amuse myself that I am self taught, and paint animals that make people smile.

When I was a teenager in Japan, I wanted to play guitar. I had several, but did not know I could take lessons to play them--I thought you could just pick it up and start playing! Here in Chicago, I thought about designing an electric guitar, but it was too big of a project. Then I thought about a smaller project: making a violin! My wife said “how will you know if the violin sounds good if you don’t know how to play one? Maybe you should learn how....” Here starts my musical adventure! During 2 years of violin lessons I learned how to read music for the first time. My wife was very patient with me and “Mr. Squeaky” the violin. Then I started guitar lessons at The Old Town School of Folk Music. I was amazed that hundreds of people of all ages were taking beginner guitar lessons with me! Through lots of practice, I can play pretty well. I learned how to sing, and I’m no longer shy about performing songs in front of people. Our “ middle -aged-guy” band gets together and plays blues and Beatles songs for fun. Here in Chicago, I have found a creative environment that nurtures talents I didn’t know I had. I have been able to live a creative life, in work and play, with the encouragement of my wife and friends. When I was growing up, my impression of Arts in Japan seemed very traditional, where you had to be a proven award winner and master craftsman in order to have a creative life.

I miss Japanese food very much-- the tiny restaurants with a few stools that have the best noodles, or barbecue eel, or yakitori. Even the Chinese food in Japan is delicious and cooked differently than what I’ve had here in Chicago. America has been the Land of Opportunity for me, filling my life with creativity that I don’t think would have been possible had I followed the traditional Japanese career path. Here in Chicago, I have my place. People buy my paintings, my clothing and other things we make because they like what we do, and understand that art and creativity are my life. Being an artist is not easy, it is lots of hard work, but I try to have fun doing it!

* This article was originally published in Voices of Chicago, online journal of the Chicago Japanese American Historical Society.

© 2009 Yutaka Fujita

animal chicago clothing costume designer designer painter

このシリーズについて

このシリーズに掲載されているストーリーは、もともとシカゴ日系人歴史協会のオンラインジャーナル、「シカゴの声」に掲載されたものです。シカゴ日系人歴史協会は、2004年12月からディスカバー・ニッケイに参加しています。

シカゴの声は、シカゴに住む日系人の体験を綴った私語りのコレクションです。シカゴの日系コミュニティは、第3波までの移民およびその子孫で構成されています。最初の波は、1899年のシカゴ万国博覧会の頃に到着した約300人でした。第2波のグループは最多の3万人から成り、第二次大戦後、強制収容所から直接シカゴに移住して来ました。彼らは「最定住者」と呼ばれ、社会奉仕団体や仏教またはキリスト教会、中小企業周辺でコミュニティを形成していきました。第3波はさらに近年となり、1980年代前半に到着した日本人のグループです。彼らは芸術家や学生で、その後、シカゴに留まりました。4番目のグループは移民ではありませんが、企業幹部の日本人とその家族で、シカゴに長期滞在し、場合により永住しています。

シカゴは、いつの時代も人々が安らぎを得られる場所であり、民族的に多様な人々が共に住み、働く町でした。「シカゴの声」は、先述の4グループそれぞれのメンバーのストーリーと、彼らがどのようにこのモザイク(寄せ集め)都市に適応していったかを伝えています。

シカゴ日系人歴史協会のウェブサイトはこちら>>