Lost in Translation

In my work I have been using traditional Japanese techniques of wood carving in the process of making works which focus on the differences and disjunctions between the religious practices and cultures in the West and in the Orient, and the `mis-readings' that occur between the two cultures.

I first explored in a work that I made in 2008, which was titled F%?K B%?H. The work combines traditional carved Buddhist sculptures with Western hand-signs that have offensive meanings. In Japanese culture, pointing a middle finger upwards has no real meaning-it is simply seen as a `cool' hand-sign used by rock stars and their like.

My more recent works relate to my interest in the homeless people who beg for money on London's streets. I am very interested in them because I feel that they reflect one of the ironies of British culture. Their lives are supported by the Christian virtue of charity. In Christian cultures, it is a virtue to help those who are suffering and those who are poor. I too believe in this Chiristian virtue of charity which has indeed helped many people, but also realise that it can be problematic-there is the risk that beggars may use the money that they are given to buy alcohol or drugs, which may worsen their situation.

After I came to London, I was very conscious of the presence of beggars holding out their cups for money on the street. Just after the war, people begged for money in Japan, just as beggars do now in London, but it was always unusual. They were mostly those who had lost parts of their bodies in the war and were very unlike the more healthy beggars I see in London. In Japan, in general, to receive something as a charity is regarded as shameful; In the West, the spirit of charity is regarded highly, or at least the activity of giving money to others in need. I believe this is because of the Christian religious beliefs that influence Western culture and society.

I am particularly intrigued by the way the beggars sit all day without doing anything else. They just sit still and beg. This reminds me of how the Zen monks spend their time. Monks seek enlightenment by sitting still for long periods as part of their practice in the temple, and they make their living through other people's donations because their meditation is respected. The circumstances and differences between these two groups of people are great, but interestingly, there are similarities in the way they spend their time. By creating a work depicting beggars, I want to draw attention to the lowest class of people in society, and to place them in one of the most respected cultural contexts-the world of contemporary art.

By placing my sculptures of beggars at art galleries or museums, where things are looked carefully, I would like the audience to have a think about what those beggars are thinking and looking in the streets since we usually tend not to take a look at them.