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Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2006

WORDS TO LIVE BY

Kazuhiko Hachiya


Artist Kazuhiko Hachiya, 39, is president of PetWORKs, a small company with nine employees. According to him, they "do big things in a funny and cute way." His company is behind the popular mail software PostPet, in which animated characters deliver the mail; the hit doll Momoko; and it is now venturing into the wild blue yonder with Open Sky, a "personal flying machine" with a jet engine that is based on Nausicaa's plane in Hayao Miyazaki's book and film "Nausicaa of the Valley of Winds." Obviously, Hachiya's imagination knows no bounds.

Kazuhiko Hachiya
Kazuhiko Hachiya

Amateurs can make good professionals. Before PostPet, I had never made any software, but I saw the need for something to assist people in communicating via computers, especially because at that time software was made by tech geeks who had trouble talking, even through the Internet, so what they made was too difficult to use. This was back in 1995, when it was mostly guys who were using e-mail, and we definitely needed help. I wanted to make a fun software program for people new to the computer, especially my women friends, and that was PostPet.

My function as an artist is to guide engineers toward a better interface. Engineers are always thinking of functionality and since there is a lot of competition, they end up developing products that have way too many functions. I make those items easier to use.

The harder the challenge, the more fun it is. To test-fly my prototype airplane, I need government approval, but since only a few people have ever asked for such a permit, it might be difficult to get the OK. Still, I enjoy filling out every new piece of paper. This whole process makes the project all the more interesting, although I hope it won't be too much longer before take-off.

Nowadays, many people's personal goals sound exactly like corporate goals, like how to make more money or move into a bigger place, but real happiness is different. Dreams have variations; mine is to make fun things.

My job is to make art, not to talk about it. What I want to say, I make it into art. My message is inside each project, not on the surface but in their essence.

The Japanese political system is like a kindergarten. The average Japanese is more adult than any politician, even if we look and dress childish, we're more mature than they are. The difference is that while we are mostly cute, kind and innocent, they are egoistic and mean children.

The Japanese government has a childish mindset toward the U.S. government. They always want to know what the U.S. thinks of their behavior and they need constant approval. It is a type of self-imposed mind control.

If I died today, I would like to come back as myself, at this age, doing the same thing. I'm so happy in my skin that I wouldn't want to change a thing.

The best samurai never used his sword but was always ready to fight. He was prepared for the worst but maintained calmness at all times. This is me -- or at least how I want to be. The cool samurai of today, the true heroes, are the average working guys who take care of their families. But few people understand how hard these men work. I respect and admire them.

Artists leave a legacy of art, so in my works, my daughter will have a record of my life.

Through touching, we develop love. When I first saw my own baby, I actually didn't feel a strong connection. But the more time I spent holding and touching my little daughter, the more I loved her. I think most Japanese men don't spend enough time with their children so I wonder whether they can develop such a love.

Collecting art is about supporting artists, not investments or making money. I collect art, small pieces, because I want to share the artist's way of thinking.

Once technology is lost, it is gone forever. I'm afraid that most of Japan's aviation technology might already be lost because we've had too long of a break. The reason we can still build wonderful temples is because the special carpenters who know how to make giant wooden structures continue to pass their knowledge on to younger generations. Once this chain is broken, it might be impossible to reconnect.

Art's purpose is to provide happiness. The idea is the key, but viewers must feel happy when looking or thinking about a piece. Most of my works are cute, but all of them are about possibilities.

In the future, we will communicate pretty much the same way as we do now. I don't see big improvements in that area because ultimately what humans enjoy is sitting down with a friend, having a meal and talking. Now we have TV phones, but so few people use them. Not much will change, I think.

Japan should welcome more and more foreigners. With the graying population, we need new blood, and I am sure the mixing will do us good.

Judit Kawaguchi loves to listen. She is a volunteer counselor and a TV reporter on NHK's "Weekend Japanology" www.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/japanology_e.html


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