EGAKU Participant Interview

Ryoko Miyamoto
Human resources company

I realized that I can only be me


At first, I was expecting to discover a completely different person in myself. There was a part of me that was hoping to discover something awful about myself, or hoping that perhaps I’d draw something I wouldn't recognize as my own.  But I realized that even if there are times when I’m a bit far out, it’s really just an extension of myself.  

Even as I had these feelings, I found other participants works, words and actions, and the atmosphere of the sessions so open and comfortable, I found myself looking forward to the sessions.

Expressing myself and acting on my emotions is actually easier than I thought

Looking back, one of the sessions that particularly stood out was when I painted a picture on the theme of “Anger,” the title was “Mukanshin” (Indifference).  I feel it came from some very deep part of me.  I think this particular theme “Anger” stirred something inside me and made me realize that perhaps anger is what drives me.

There’s a side of me that’s laid back and always smiling – people mention it, and that’s the way I’d like to be but as I was painting this picture I remembered how I was as a child.  If I saw another child being bullied, I was the kind of child who’d go and help them.  But because I felt that anger wasn’t a good emotion, as an adult even when I felt something was wrong, I found myself acting less and less on that feeling.  I simply didn’t have the confidence to act on that feeling.

In the process of doing TOTSUKITOKA and pursuing the practice of painting, I think I’ve changed.  I’ve realized that expressing what I feel, saying what I feel, and acting on my emotions is actually easier than I thought. I think it’s a feeling that’s unfolded over the course of the 10 sessions, through the process of reflection and expressing myself through various themes like “Anger.”

Freedom through taking responsibility for my own mistakes


Up until junior high school I think I had a strong sense of justice.  But when I entered senior high school, perhaps in part because it was an all-girls school, I became more interested in having fun, being cheerful and light-hearted.

However, since I started TOTSUKITOKA I no longer feel like I always have to act cheerful and look like I’m having fun.  I don't always have to smile and look like enjoying myself. I don't have to constantly be thinking of ways to be cheerful.  If I’m feeling angry, it’s ok to be angry.  If I’m sad, it’s ok to feel sad. And of course, there’ll be times when I’m simply not in the mood to join in with the crowd.  That’s how I’ve come to feel and I think realizing this has given me a huge sense of relief.

In EGAKU, what colors I use and what I paint – it’s totally up to me.  This idea that I can do anything I want - it’s such a relief.  When I make a mistake, I acknowledge it, but that’s all there is.  All I have to do is take responsibility for my own mistakes and that’s incredibly liberating.

Just going ahead and doing it, even though I wasn’t sure it would go well – that was pretty radical for me


Around the time I painted the work “Kuuki Manto” (Air cloak) on the theme “This year’s me,” I started to have this desire to paint something concrete and I could sense something inside me had changed.  Although having said that, my skills hadn’t quite caught up!  I’m not really sure where this feeling came from.  It’s funny isn’t it?  Perhaps this is how it feels to be free.

In the last work I painted in the TOTSUKITOKA Course, “Hitori, hitori, hitori” (“hitori” roughly translates as one person, alone, by myself), I wanted to paint a dragon but I wasn't really sure what a dragon looked like, so this is what I ended up with.  If I’d had the idea of painting a dragon at the beginning of the course, I think I would have looked up images of dragons.  But the more I continued to paint, I more I felt that regardless of what anyone else said, if I said it was dragon, then it was a dragon – end of story.  Looking back at the kind of person I was, I realize that doing something simply because I wanted to - regardless of whether I thought I could paint it “well” - that was pretty radical for me.

I’ve learned to stop and pause if the timing’s not right


On the other hand, I’ve found I’ve stopped trying to force things needlessly.  I’ll act on my beliefs, but I’ve learned to stop and pause if I feel it’s not the right timing.

There are many incredible women at my company, full of energy and vitality but working with these women day-to-day there were moments I felt like I was being left behind.  However, over the 10 sessions I think I’ve managed to shift my perspective, to see things differently.  I’ve become able to think for example that I’ve had two homeruns, this time I’ve managed to hit the ball but this one wasn’t so good.  I’ve become able to focus on myself, rather than compare myself with others.

I’ve stopped comparing myself with others.  I’ve become stronger and more open.


I have a tendency to compare myself with other people or else do the opposite and try to escape comparison by trying to come up with a differentiated approach.  Perhaps there was a part of me that convinced myself that this was simply my “personality,” but now I think they were my deeply entrenched beliefs.  But when I found myself having to act and put on my “personality,” then it started becoming stressful.  Still, it’s hard to give up playing that role and the idea of doing so scared me, after all, it’s how I’ve lived my life all these years. However, once I stepped out of that role, although I felt vulnerable I think it also made me stronger.  I think it’s made me much more open.  To be vulnerable and yet to become stronger – I think that’s wonderful.

I think it was incredibly meaningful to encounter EGAKU at this age.  I guess people never stop learning, we can always change.

*This article is a translation of the original Japanese interview.