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STAY SALTY ...... people here

To be able to swim freely.

2.5 2022


Sanae Yamada

Painter, illustrator, and accessory artist

When I was in elementary school, I told my mother, "I like drawing, I want to be a manga artist in the future!" I told my mother, "Only a handful of people can make that kind of career, so why don't you draw as a hobby while working a regular job?" She told me.

Later, I told her, "I want to do what I love for the rest of my life." She replied, "it's impossible for you to do what you love forever because you have so many things to do after you get married."

When I was deciding on a career path in my junior year of high school, I thought about other options, but I knew I wanted to pursue art, so I made a promise to my mother that I would become an art teacher and took the entrance exam for art university.

As I studied art at university, I began to feel that I'm not really good at teaching others, and I would be happy if I could become an artist who can make a living by making what I want every day. However, I kept this thought to myself and didn't tell anyone about it.

Sanae Yamada

In junior and senior high school, I was in the art club and spent more time drawing than other people, so people said to me "Ms. Yamada, you are good at drawing " and I won prizes in art contests, so I had some confidence.

However, after entering an art prep school and an art university, I realized that there were many people who were better than me.

--- I knew my mother was right. There are a lot of people who are better than me, so I don't think I can make a living as an artist.

I gradually lost confidence in myself.

I decided to study sculpture at the University of the Arts, which was difficult to do on my own, so I majored in basic sculpture there where I was exposed to many materials such as wood, stone, ceramic, and resin.

Later, I majored in printmaking.
After experiencing silkscreen and etching, I tried to draw on a flat surface again, but at that time, I didn't know what I wanted to draw and somehow I felt like I couldn't continue drawing, so I decided to return to the free atmosphere of the sculpture major.

There, I learned to think more deeply about my work.

No matter how much I thought about it, I couldn't come up with any cool concepts, but I wanted to do something interesting and have fun with everyone! So I steamed 1,000 pieces of steamed bread in ceramic shells, and I had everyone at the university eat them, and then collected the shells to make a steamed bread shell mound.

I grew herbs at the university and made spaghetti for 100 people using the herbs I harvested, and everyone enjoyed it.

Everyone who ate the spaghetti would become my child, and we would have a family meeting over a cup of herb tea.
I've been working on a project called the 'Spaghetti Project' for four years.

I've also been involved in a number of projects, such as 'cookie hunting,' where we harvest cookies from the trees that bear them, and 'human hot pot,' where we bring out the umami stories of people.

The theme of my works was 'eating,' 'having fun with others,' and 'the continuation of life'.

After graduating from university, I worked at a restaurant and a gallery. The president who was a customer of the gallery was invited to join a kitchen equipment manufacturer in Osaka.

I joined the company in Osaka, the company philosophy is 'making products that contribute to the health of people and nature'.

What is work? What is life? My main job was to listen to the president talk passionately about these topics all the time, and to compose and illustrate text for company brochures and employee training.

Even after I came to Malaysia, sometimes I went to Osaka to work for him for more than 20 years.

Although I have many memories of him scolding me, he taught me many important things to live by, and I am still grateful to him.



In 2001, I married a Malaysian whom I met at the same company.

Our son was one year old when we moved to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

I worked for a printing company for three years but was still not good at English or Malay.

After that, I made accessories at home while working as a designer and illustrator for a Japanese free magazine.
After the birth of my daughter, I was busy for ten years raising my two children and working.


--- Your mother is right after all.

   Once you get married, you're too busy to do what you want...

Even I was somewhat dissatisfied, I keep convincing myself and continue struggling to get through each day.

After about 9 years of living in Kuala Lumpur, my husband started to look for a house.

Life in the city was busy in Malaysia, and house prices were getting higher, so we bought a house in the suburb of Negeri Sembilan. It takes about an hour from Kuala Lumpur, somewhat close to my husband's parents' home in Johor.

I decided, "I'm going to paint when I'm 40!"

I made up my mind and announced it to my close friends.


When I first turned 40, I was still too busy to paint right away, but after moving to the suburbs, I had a little more time on my hands, so I started painting tropical plants around my house.

In 2014, I was able to participate in an art expo in Malaysia with people from Japan, which led to me being approached by an art gallery in Kuala Lumpur to have a solo exhibition, and a group exhibition in Singapore with friends from art college, which gradually led me back to the art world.

By joining an art group in Malaysia, I was able to make more friends who were painting there, and I also participated in an art exchange in the Philippines, which gave me the opportunity to get to know artists in Southeast Asia.

Just before the start of Corona, I held a group exhibition with artists from Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, and Japan at a gallery in Osaka with the help of my university friends and seniors.

After Corona, I participated in art camps and exhibitions supported by the National Art Gallery in Malaysia, where I made more and more friends who were painting and received a lot of good inspiration.

In 2019, I was asked by Asami Yamauchi, who lives in Singapore, to illustrate a picture book, and for my first picture book production, I went to Yusof Gajah, a famous picture book author and artist in Malaysia for advice.

After discussing with him about various aspects of picture book production, he agreed to support us in publishing the book, and although it was postponed a little by Corona, we published the book in Malaysia in 2021.


In Ms. Ito's column, "The Story of Nature," in the Japanese language free magazine "SENYUM," which I had been illustrating for many years, I was impressed by the diversity of Malaysian flora and fauna, the uniqueness of their shapes and characteristics. I became more and more interested in the animals of this tropical country.

When I was asked to draw a picture that incorporated Malaysian flora and fauna, I began to research what kind of picture I should draw. In the past few decades, Malaysia has developed greatly and become much more convenient, but at the same time, the rich natural jungles are diminishing and many animals are in danger of extinction due to being forced to leave their homes or being poached.

I am aware that I am a part of this deforestation, but I can't be a vegetarian because I like to eat meat, and I want to turn on the air conditioner because I can't sleep when it's hot.
But what can I do?

It would be better if I could do it with someone who has the same goal as me, instead of doing it alone.

It would be nice to learn more about the nature of the rainforest from people who know more about it.

By collaborating with like-minded people, I have also developed a desire to preserve the rich nature of Malaysia, even a little.

Just over a year ago, I went on a trekking trip organized by the sculptor, Ismadi.

I had the opportunity to learn about various Malay herbs from herb guides and herb doctors.

After the program, I showed my sketches for a year to a publisher, and they agreed to let me have a solo exhibition at the GMBB Mall in Kuala Lumpur.

There are many types of Malay herbs that I want to continue studying.

While thinking about how I would like others in other countries to know the wisdom and old knowledge of Malaysians abound, I came across someone who studied Orang Asli (Malaysian natives) at university and published a book on forest medicinal herbs.


I also met a friend’s sister who knew a lot about herbs, and more bonds are connected.