Watercolor Painting of Oita Castle in May

Today, I had a few hours to go painting. I got on my bicycle and was half-way down the street when there was a loud bang; I looked around with shocked puzzlement but then I felt the problem – my rear wheel was flat. 

This is the second dramatic puncture explosion I’ve had. On the first occasion, I was about 5 kilometers away from home and cycling by the river. I was just beginning out an all day painting trip. So it was a bit of a bummer. But I guess I’m lucky that it didn’t happen when I was 25 or 30 kilometers away from home.

So now I was going to walk to my painting spot but then my wife suggested I use my daughter’s bicycle. Time being in short supply I readily took up this offer.

What an experience it was to ride this bicycle – a comfortable seat, a feeling of being so tall and upright that I felt like the statue of liberty on wheels. 

At the same time, with my very wide brimmed and very floppy hat and this feminine style bicycle, which I call a granny bicycle, I also felt like a grand-ma. But, to be honest, it felt great to ride this bike, it felt relaxing.

This is the same kind of bicycle my mum had once ridden upon to greet me when I was coming home from school; I was so embarrassed I ignored her all the way home and then when I got in the house I was so friendly towards her but then my mum ignored me!

It’s tough to be a young male right – so self-conscious and you’ve got to be cool – what a joke. If only young men knew how cool very quickly looks stupid. I remember some bright, flashy orange, yellow and red sneakers I bought when I was about 15.

They were so expensive. I spent all my accumulated savings of 10 years to buy them. How stupid. And I thought that I looked so cool.

I just looked stupid. 

But this need to be cool leads to a certain self-consciousness that makes life almost unbearable. 

I think the reason that life was so fun when I was a young boy was because I was so lacking in self-consciousness. I remember when I was a little boy at school one of my friends, another boy and a great character, used to dress up as an old woman, putting on a floppy hat and wearing a long dress and carrying an umbrella and then he would chase us – it was such a laugh.

One of the things I loved most about Japan when I first came here was losing my self-consciousness. I no longer thought about how I looked, how I moved and what people thought of me – which is probably a good thing – this state is called freedom and it’s nice.

But to return to the subject; today I had decided to paint around the castle and I found a wonderful shaded spot under a large tree with a marble slab for a seat.

It was such a balmy day today and I enjoyed every moment of it because soon it will be the rainy season, which the Japanese call Tsuyu. I just call it the soggy season, which is when it becomes very wet and humid; not nice; in fact, distinctly uncomfortable.

There was also a walking event going on and so there were many people in hiking gear, the Japanese are always equipped, walking past me and I painted some of these figures for the focal point of the painting.

The focal point is like the main point of the painting and hopefully the spot that the painting leads the viewer’s eye to.

I’m really happy with this painting. 

I think though that the castle wall needs to be darker and perhaps the pigeons need to look a little more pigeonish and a little less brickish. 

But I’m really happy with the tree leaves in the top right hand corner and the shadow in the foreground.

I even received some compliments from passersby such as yasashii (soft), rippa (great) and kirei (pretty/ beautiful).

So all in all, I had a very nice painting time and a very nice bicycle ride.


I originally wrote this story in May of 2014, I am editing it in April of 2021. This story needed very little editing. Sadly, I no longer have the original painting. As I look at the image of this painting, I actually think that it looks pretty good but at some point in the mists of time I thought it was not good enough and threw it away. Alas! But at least I have the image and I can share that with you.

Gareth Naylor

I am an Englishman living and painting in Japan. I have now been here for over 17 years and have been painting for all that time. I love to travel around the Japanese countryside and find beautiful places to paint.

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