08/11/2017 16:52 GMT+7 Email Print Like 0

Toba Mika and Her Unique Katazome Paintings

A unique painting exhibition entitled “A Vietnam in Miniature” was recently held by Japanese painter Toba Mika in Da Nang. The exhibition, the fruit of her 20 years of diligently working, is a significant present to Da Nang where the APEC Economic Leaders’ Week is being held.
The exhibition of a Vietnam in miniature is an expression of her affection for Vietnam. During her 23 years of working in Vietnam, Toba Mika has never felt bored because it is a beautiful country with a great number of cultural and natural colours, the strong catalyst for her art. 

At the exhibition which lasts from October 20 to November 12, painter Toba Mika presents to the public 20 of her most beautiful paintings out of a total of 120 about the life and the picturesque landscape of Vietnam. All of the paintings were created using Katazome, or stencil dyeing. It is a Japanese paste-resistant surface design technique for cloth and paper. The complicated process incorporates elements of both printmaking and painting, and relies on simple non-toxic materials such as rice paste, natural pigments and soymilk. Katazome was used in creating samurai outfits, clothes of kyogen comic performing artists, or kimonos. Therefore, her paintings have high artistic value and are appreciated by Japanese artists. Today, only a few Japanese artists master the technique.

Painter Toba Mika has spent more than 20 years doing paintings of Vietnam using the
traditional Japanese Katazome technique. Photo: Thanh Hoa
The opening ceremony of the exhibition “A Vietnam in Miniature” at Da Nang Museum of
Cham Sculpture. Photo: Thanh Hoa

Toba Mika’s paintings draw much attention from the public. Photo: Thanh Hoa
Painter Toba Mika introduces her paintings to Vice Chairman of Da Nang People’s Committee
Nguyen Ngoc Tuan (white T-shirt) and Consul General of Japan in Ho Chi Minh City Kawaue Junichi. Photo: Thanh Hoa

Painter Toba Mika, Vice Chairman of Da Nang People’s Committee Nguyen Ngoc Tuan (white T-shirt) and
Consul General of Japan in Ho Chi Minh City Kawaue Junichi pose for a photo. Photo: Thanh Hoa

In her paintings, viewers see both familiar and new scenes, such as a small fishing hamlet with fishing nets in Da Nang, a lone boat on the Huong River in Hue early in the morning, the mystical Cham sculptures in My Son  Sanctuary, the typical yellow walls in the ancient town of Hoi An, electrical lines in Ho Chi Minh City and the railway track in Hanoi  that passes very close to a row of houses.

Shimizuy Yasutomo, a famous Japanese fine arts critic, said that Katazome is a complicated technique that requires a team to do it. It is unbelievable that Toba herself completed all the processes with preciseness and meticulousness on such large-size paintings.

At the exhibition, Japanese Ambassador to Vietnam Kunio Umeda emphasised that the APEC Economic Leaders’ Week held in Da Nang is an important international event that helps introduce the image of a developing Vietnam. He hoped that on this occasion many international guests would see the great changes of Vietnam through the wonderful paintings of Toba Mika.



 “After the Rain” depicting a canal in Ho Chi Minh City with the colour of cold blue is placed near pottery
vases of warm brown, creating a strange contrast in the Da Nang Museum of Cham Sculpture.  Photo: Thanh Hoa
“Japan Town” with yellow walls, typical of the ancient town of Hoi An, is the only painting with the presence
of humans. Photo: Thanh Hoa


“Monsoon” shows the contrast between a slum and high-rise buildings near the Saigon River. Photo: Thanh Hoa

“Early Morning – Hue”. Photo: Thanh Hoa
“The Other Side of the Scarf” is about contemporary houses built on canals in Saigon. Photo: Thanh Hoa 


“Japan Town” with yellow walls, typical of the ancient town of Hoi An, is the only painting with
the presence of humans. Photo: Thanh Hoa


“My Son – Heated Ruins” describes an ancient town in My Son Sanctuary. Photo: Thanh Hoa
“Leaving Da Nang” depicts a fishing hamlet on coastal Da Nang. Photo: Thanh Hoa   


Mika, who has a Masters degree from the Kyoto City University of Arts, has developed a new style of painting by using the traditional Katazome method. When she first came to Vietnam in 1994, the artist immediately felt an invisible connection between Katazome paintings and Vietnam’s scenery and cultural heritage, and this prompted her to make several trips to Vietnam. She has held five exhibitions in Vietnam, attracting great attention and admiration from Vietnamese art enthusiasts.  In 2005, she was awarded the Medal “For the Cause of Culture” by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism. In 2012, she received the Japanese Foreign Minister’s Award for her contribution to promoting friendship between Japan and Vietnam  through her works and cultural activities.


By Thanh Hoa