Sugita has overcome numerous challenges to rise to the top of Japan's
bamboo art world. At 13, he lost his hearing in an era when disabled people
were not well integrated in Japan's public schools. Despite his handicap he
pursued an education, eventually studying at a newly established
institution for the deaf. He graduated, became a teacher at the school, and
earned an art degree through a correspondence course. Sugita is fluent in
Japanese, English, and sign language.
An early memory of a farmer making a bamboo basket stayed with him into
adulthood. He admired the delicate, hexagonal plaiting style of bamboo
master Tanabe Chikuunsai II and copied Tanabe's work to learn technique.
Gradually, he improved the structural soundness of his baskets and
developed a restrained, subtle aesthetic that rewards viewers who are
willing to spend time with his pieces.
In addition to achieving full membership in the Japan Craft Arts Association, Sugita has won numerous major prizes and his work is in
permanent collections at the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo, Museum
of Modern Art in Shiga, and San Francisco Asian Art Museum. He was also
selected as an Intangible Cultural Asset, the local equivalent of Living
National Treasure designation.
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