Located in a mountain village beside a man-made lake two and a half hours drive north of Tokyo is the Tomihiro Museum, dedicated to the works of local poet and illustrator Tomihiro Hoshino who used to teach physical education at the local middle school until an unfortunate spinal injury sustained while coaching extracurricular gymnastics activities left him paralysed from the neck down. During extensive rehabilitation that followed, Hoshino taught himself to paint again by holding the pen and brush in his mouth. His first paintings were inspired by the well-wishing bouquets left in his hospital room and wildflowers growing just outside. The limpid naturalistic watercolours with poems written in simple unaffected language were a celebration of the joy of being alive.
Since 1991, when the Museum first opened on the refurbished premises of a disused home for the elderly, an average of more than 1,000 persons a day have made the trip here, for a ten-year total of over four million visitors – a surprising number considering the remote location! Moreover, the staggering number of visitors to the Museum is a testament to the popularity of Hoshino's art and its profound heartfelt appeal.
A decade on, the Museum was long overdue for a new home and an international design competition was launched in 2002. A surprising total of 1,211 entries were received from 53 countries, out of which 637 entries were from Japan and 574 from abroad! Short-listed entrants from among the many submissions were then interviewed and the winning design proposal was selected: a grouping of small circular rooms inspired by soap bubbles.