The art we hang on our walls at home may become personal and meaningful. It may even deepen understanding of who we want to be.

The other day, I had a Proustian flashback of my earliest memory of looking at art as a child.

The Gleaners by Jean-Francois Millet (1857)

The Gleaners by Jean-Francois Millet (1857)

I was born in my maternal grandparents’ house and lived there until the age of six, when my parents built their new house a short walk away. My grandparents’ lived in a modest, traditional Japanese house with a huge Japanese garden. I vividly remember every tidy corner. The floors of…


My Accountability Buddy

“Your mother’s last moment was a sublime culmination. She gave us the gift of courage,”

said my uncle Tetsurou, my mother’s youngest brother, over a video call. He lives on the other side of the Pacific, one click away on my iphone.

“I know. She was strong and noble,”

I replied, my eyes glistening and my throat constricting. It has been a year and a half since I lost my mother to cancer, but each time I remember her last days, raw emotions erupt.

“A victorious ending,”

I whispered. Her words, movements, facial expressions, even her breathing were a gift…


What is art for?

Untitled, watercolour, 2020, by Keiko Honda

We are repeatedly reminded that, in times of crisis, we turn to art. From everyday aesthetics to political art, like the examples seen from BLM, it’s inspiring to witness how the act of making generates so much interest around the world. I, for one, find refuge in painting and exploring Goethe, Kant, and Nietze this year. As 2020 comes to an end, I am reflecting on what the pandemic has taught me about the community I work in. What questions emerged during the pandemic that are worth pursuing next year?

As all the world’s a stage…


What is the value in learning to draw portraits? This question goes, unexpectedly, to the heart of the shared roots of art and science. In this essay, I aim to fertilize the soil for growing a new dialogue on the role emotional engagement plays in the relationship between art and science.

I have recently been watching YouTube videos on portraiture. It is fascinating to watch master artists create portraits out of a blank sheet of paper, with only a pencil or stick of charcoal. If done well, the artists can explore their own feelings about the human condition. …


How can we cultivate energy and harmony in late life? What does it mean to flourish? Now I am in my early 50s, wondering what I still need to learn.

By Konosuke Masuda

I will start by summarizing and integrating my reflections and revelations concerning the creative life of my grandfather, Konosuke Masuda (1916–2000), to find — and share — inspiration. Curious about Masuda’s construction of a beautiful, involved, and extensive worldview, I discovered certain sustained practices of his that act as missing pieces of my puzzle. These involve the development of creativity in late life by applying a core assumption of embodied…


Vincent van Gogh, Forest trail

“Just try going outside and painting things on the spot! All sorts of things happen then. I had to pick off a good hundred or more flies from [my] canvases … not to mention dust and sand [nor] the fact that if one carries them through heath and hedgerows for a couple of hours, a branch or two is likely to scratch them … and that the effects one wants to capture change as the day wears on.” (Letter to Theo van Gogh, July 1885)

Plein air painting has been on my mind since late last summer, when I joined…


Ms. Goldwynn wrote:

Hi, Keiko, I am happy to know you are getting the 2nd [COVID Vaccination] shot, I get mine next Monday… if you can’t come to my place then please let me come to visit you and we can make palettes together. I think you might enjoy all the fun one can have with a tin and some oven bake clay… Here is my latest one… I am going to fill it with the colours that Van Gogh used for his landscapes…”

As soon as I saw the email from Ms. Goldwynn, my heart overflowed with warmth. It…


Me: “お背中流しましょうか? (Osena-ka, nagashi-mashou-ka?)”

May I wash your back?

Random woman: “お願いします(Onegai shimasu)”

Thank you very much

How many times have I had this exchange in my life, starting from childhood? This is a normal everyday conversation and practice of Japanese people engaging with their family members, as well as total strangers, in every public bath and onsen (hot spring) for over a thousand years. And it is a key to a perennial question:

How can we cultivate the body and the senses to learn intrinsic values of understanding and respect between generations and, consequently, foster community cohesion?

This question…


『お母さんの最後は、本当、凛としてて、素晴らしかったよ。俺たちに勇気を与えてくれたね。』

私の亡き母の一番下の弟である叔父が、テレビ電話先で、しみじみと話す。私が生まれた時からよく可愛がってくれた叔父とは、兄弟の様な仲だ。日本を離れ太平洋を挟んで遠くに住んでいても、携帯電話を指一本クリックすれば、今こうして、いつでもすぐに繋がれる時代の恩恵は大きい。

『そうだね。お母さんは、強かった。そして、偉かった。』と返事を返しながら、喉の奥がグッと詰まってくるのを感じる。母が亡くなってもう一年半以上経ったのに、まるで昨日のことの様に、母の最期が思いだされ、また、涙が出てくる。

『あれ以上の最高の最期なんてないよ、お母さん。』と心の中で呟く。彼女が見せてくれた言葉、態度、しぐさ、表情、そしてかすかな息づかいにさえも、皆に勇気を与えてくれるほどの、命がけの優しさと愛が込められていた。どうしたら、あんな風に、末期癌の苦難に耐え貫けられたのだろうかと、何度も考えてみたが、私の想像もおよば無い。叔父と私は、亡き母や祖父母の思い出話に、よく延々1時間ほど費やすことしばしば。まるで、勇気の源に辿り着きたいかのごとく、話に熱がこもる。2019年の夏に母が他界して以来、叔父の長電話なるたるものが、始まった。最近、叔父の存在は、私にとってさらに貴重な物となってきている。人間は誰しも、常に変化変容を遂げている。でも、なぜこの変化が起こっているのか、そして、それは一体私の人生にどういう意味を持っているのだろうか、ふと考える。私の潜在意識が何を必要としているのか、あるいは、何を起こそうとしているのか、わからないなりにも、知りたいと思う。おそらくいつかは自分も将来立ち向かわなくてはならぬ死を意識しているのは、間違い無いであろう。でもそれだけでも無い。


My grandmother, Tamiko, collage by Keiko Honda 2021

“The inside has to be white,” said my beloved grandmother, when choosing a cup to serve me sencha — everyday green tea. Most of my fondest childhood memories involve my grandmother, whom I grew up with and loved dearly. Although she is no longer with us, I continue wanting to become like her.

The other day, I suddenly remembered how she used to routinely soak all the teacups in bleach to remove tea stains. In my youth, I used to wonder why she bothered. I had never really thought her effort had any meaning, other than expressing her habitually clean…

Keiko Honda, Ph.D., MPH

Scientist (Ph.D. in Public Health, NYU & post-doc in Cancer Epidemiology, Columbia University), Founder of Vancouver Arts Colloquium Society, & Social Artist.

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