Kaji Aso (25 April 1936 — 11 March 2006)

“Art does not come from art. Art comes from life.” Kaji Aso

Kaji Aso was born in Tokyo, Japan in 1936. He received BFA in Painting and MFA in Printmaking at Tokyo University of Art. But he was not only an artist; he was also a teacher, singer, adventurer, poet, and philosopher. All those who speak of Kaji Aso use the words “Renaissance man” to capture his many accomplishments and his boundless spirit.

In 1972 he founded the Kaji Aso Studio Institute for the Arts in Boston, MA. Here he brought together Japanese and Western culture - visual art, music, poetry, philosophy, theatre, good food. He also designed and built the first Japanese teahouse in Boston where he presided as tea master. For thirty-three years Kaji Aso was also a professor at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. His art is part of the permanent collections of many museums around the world, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo;  the Museum of Modern Art, NY; National Museum of Czechoslovakia;  the State Pushkin Museum, Moscow and Padua Museum of Fine Arts, Italy. Thirteen of his works are registered as Japanese National Properties.  

As a talented tenor, Kaji Aso performed opera and Italian and Japanese songs. He ran in thirty-six Boston Marathons and led kayak expeditions down some of the longest rivers in the world including the Mississippi, the Nile, and the Volga.

Although haiku was just one of his many special gifts, Kaji Aso very often expressed the wisdom of his beliefs in haiku and did a lot of haiku illustrations. He organised and took active part in many seminars and lectures about Japanese art, haiku, sumi painting and calligraphy.


spring snow
a little remains
on the stolen car


voice of the peeper
on the spring breeze


summer afternoon —
lifting up my bottom a little
then going back to sleep


harvest moon
spider too,
gazing at it quietly



Dance Crabs
Under the full moon
Until you become skeleton

Kaji Aso 1997


Kaji Aso was a true “Renaissance man” man and he will be remembered by the many people whose lives he deeply touched with his generosity, unfailing sense of humanity, and inspiring art.

Some of Kajo Aso’s many distinguished awards:

1980 - Proclaimed by the City of Boston, Distinguished Bostonian in honour of Boston’s 350th Jubilee Birthday

1986 - Receives plaque from the Internal Revenue Service for his cultural contributions to society

1996 - Certificate of Recognition as one of most important international calligraphers of the world, Beijing Art Academy, China

1997 - Medal of Honour from Mayor of Lisbon, Portugal in honour of successfully leading expedition of artists down Tagus River

1998 - One of “2000 Outstanding People of the 20th Century”, International Biographical Centre, Cambridge, England

Some publications and illlustartions:

-“Proteus: Poems”, Nature & Temptation (1977)

-“The Spring of My Life: And Selected Haiku” by Kobayashi Issa (Author), Kaji Aso (Illustrator), Shambhala Publications (1997)

- “The Sound of Water: Haiku by Basho, Buson, Issa, and Other Poets” by Sam Hamill (Translator), Kaji Aso (Illustrator), Shambhala Publications, (2000)

-Thoughts Passing By, tradition of Kenko, (Philosophical essay A.D. 13 Japanese)

-“The Majestic Crane: English & Mandarin” by Richard F. Thorpe (Author), Kaji Aso (Author), Wes Nickerson Cover Art (Author, Illustrator), Booksurge (2008)

- “The Majestic Crane: African American Girl's Journey to Asian Culture: 2” by Rochelle ONeal-Thorpe (Author), Richard Thorpe (Author), Kaji Aso (Illustrator), Wiggles Press (2010)