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Photo: Keisuke Inoue



Atsushi Watanabe


Contemporary artist and social activist.


Atsushi Watanabe is an artist whose practice highlights issues and people that may be treated as taboo or shameful by society, working through He withdrew from society after graduating from graduate school at Tokyo University of the Arts.


He withdrew from society after graduating from graduate school at Tokyo University of the Arts in 2009, staying shut up at home for a period that eventually Using that personal experience as a starting point.


Using that personal experience as a starting point, he now leads the “Iʼm here project” as a platform for creating art in Using that personal experience as a starting point, he now leads the “Iʼm here project” as a platform for creating art in collaboration with people who find it difficult to live in society or who are lonely or isolated.


He is pursuing the possibility of art intervening in social issues and having a direct effect toward solving them. As a social activist, he often runs peer support groups, practices care, appears in the media, and lectures. 2020-2022, he is a part-time lecturer at Musashino Art University.



Major awards and grants include the “Yokohama Culture Award for Culture and Arts Encouragement Prize” in 2020, the “Socially Engaged Art Support Grant” in 2021 (Kawamura Foundation for Arts and Culture), the “Creative Inclusion Activity Grant” in 2018-2020 and the 2016-2017 “Grant for Young Artists in Creative City Yokohama” (Arts Commission Yokohama).



>  Atsushi Watanabe website: 

>  I’m here project website: 

>  Instagram: 


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1978  Born in Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan.

2007  B.A. in Painting, Fine Arts, Tokyo University of the Arts.

2009  M.F. Painting Major, the Graduate School of Fine Arts, Graduate School of Tokyo University of the Arts.



Selected Solo Exhibitions and Project Exhibitions 


2023 “NACT View 03 I hate free hugs” The National Art Center, Tokyo, Japan

2021 “The Day We Saw the Same Moon” R16 studio, Kanagawa, Japan

2020 “Monument of Recovery” BankART SILK, Kanagawa, Japan

2019 “ATSUSHI WATANABE,” The Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation, UK

2019 “I'm here project Photo Book Publication Commemorative Exhibition ‘About the Gaze’”, Site-A Gallery, Kanagawa, Japan

2017 “My Wound / Your Wound” Roppongi Hills A/D Gallery, Tokyo, Japan

2014 “Stopped Room, Started Moving House,” NANJO HOUSE, Tokyo, Japan



Selected Group Exhibitions


2023 “How I feel is not your problem, period.” Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan

2022 “Aichi Triennale 2022”, Aichi Arts Center, Aichi, Japan

2022 “Setouchi Art Triennale 2022”, Takamatsu, Kagawa, Japan

2021 “TURN Fest 6” Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan

2020 “2020Asia Project-Looking for Another Family,” National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA), Seoul, Korea


2016 “Koganecho Bazaar 2016 - Asian Life,” Koganecho, Kanagawa, Japan



Selected Screenings


2023 “At the Table” Spazju Kreattiv, Malta

2021 “Dusseldorf Festival” Carsch-Haus Underground, Germany

2021 “At the Table” online exhibition, Germany




Selected Talk Events/Symposiums/Lectures etc.


2023 NACT View 03 “I Hate Free Hugs” Exhibition Related Event “Moyamoya Talk (tentative) Atsushi Watanabe and Ryoko Ishikawa 

2023 Toyoake City Hikikomori Lecture “To Imagine People Who Are Not Here” in 2023] Toyoake City General Welfare Hall, hosted by Toyoake City Council of Social Welfare

2023 “Talking Together about Peer Support: Hikikomori, Loneliness, and Support for Each Other through Art,” Art Studio I'm here

, hosted by Hikikomori People's Group “Hikizakura” in Yokohama

2022 “The 19th Annual Conference of the Japanese Association of Qualitative Psychology” (Symposium), Nagoya Campus, Aichi University

2022 “I Hate Free Hugs Online Talk Event” Guest: Natsue Onda (Coordinator, Peace Boat Global School / Co-chairperson, Hikikomori UX Conference, Inc.)

2021 “The 3rd National Summit for Community Coexistence in Kamakura” [How to connect with SOS voices and prevent social isolation] (panel discussion, video streaming) organized by Kamakura City

2021 “Atsushi Watanabe and Tamaki Saito ‘Hikikomori and Expression’” (dialogue, video available on the “TURN Fes 6” website)

2020 “New Forms of Welfare and Art -Practice with Hikikomori” (lecture), Hikari Community Center, Tokyo, Japan

2019 “Hikikomori in Japan and the UK” (seminar), Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation, London, UK

2019 “On the Violence of the Gaze - From the Field of Hikikomori Issues” (talk event) Guest: Masaki Ikegami (journalist) / Hikikomori parties Elevated Studio Site-A Gallery, Kanagawa, Japan

2019 “The 2nd Nagoya Trauma Study Group Lecture <Hikikomori and Art>” (Symposium), Nihon Fukushi University, Nagoya Campus, Aichi, Japan

2017 “Japan Society of Art Anatomy, Conference|Deviant Human” (academic presentation) <Why does a former social withdrawal continue to make contemporary art>, Tokyo University of the Arts, Tokyo, Japan

2016 “<Koganecho Bazaar 2016> Talk about Atsushi Watanabe's work ”Project <Please tell me your emotional scars. >(talk event), Taro Amano (Chief Curator, Yokohama Civic Gallery Azamino), Site-D Studio under the elevated railway tracks, Kanagawa, Japan

2015 “Makoto Aida's Monthly Bogus Bar” (talk event), listener: Makoto Aida, Art School Bigakko, Tokyo, Japan

2015 “Watanabe Atsushi no hanashi” (talk event), listener: Shingo Jinno (Associate Professor, Chiba University), Taisei Porch, Kanagawa, Japan


[Selected Articles & Media]


  • "Tokyo Newspaper": Tell me your emotional scars, Yokohama artist Atsushi Watanabe listens through art, September 29, 2016.
  • "Yomiuri Shimbun": Making art with emotional scars, September 27, 2016.
  • "Kanagawa Newspaper": Listening to people’s emotional scars, September 18, 2016.



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  • "Heart net TVBreakthrough, Emotional scars shine in the future, contemporary artist Atsushi Watanabe" (NHK) , Aired on June 27, 2016. website,   video
  • ”NEWS 930α” (TV Kanagawa): Special feature, listening to emotional scars with art, a contemporary artist’s desire, Aired on November 4, 2016. 




  • Awarded ARTS COMISSION YOKOHAMA’s Creative Children Fellowship (grant for emerging artist cultivation in Creative City Yokohama), 2016. 


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