For all of us in the small world of suiseki, we lost our good friend Suzuki Koji today. To his family, close friends and many admirers our best wishes go out to all of you. He will be missed.
We want to take a moment and share our fondest memories of him.
If you have participated in suiseki anywhere in the world you might know his name but most likely you have seen his ubiquitous artist mark found upon hundreds, if not thousands, of daizas.
We still recall turning over a few nice stones to find this mark. At the time, we had no idea who made this daiza but we wanted to know because the workmanship was beautifully done.
We began to do some research and we found a short bio on Koji Suzuki in the book Suiseki-II An Art Created by Nature: The Sen-En-Kyo Collection of Japanese Viewing Stones published by BeeBooks in 2008.
“Suzuki Koji – he is a craftsman of bases born in 1939 in Hammamatsu City, Shizuoka. His pen name is “Koju.” After graduating Shizuoka University, he was teaching for a while. He became ill and when he was recuperating, he came across suiseki and started to make bases. He learned under the craftsmen working at the quarry sites of the Furuya stone in Wakayama and the Fujieda stone in Shizuoka, and became an outstanding craftsman today. He is a Director of the Japan Suiseki Association.”
A few months later, via a friend in Japan, we made contact with him and arranged to have a number of stones sent to him for daizas to be crafted. Our friend, Jefferey Stern, and I sat in our greenhouse cataloging stones to be sent to him excited that the Japanese master of daiza making was going to hold our stones and craft a base for them.
Here Mr. Suzuki is studying the photos we sent with our stones in his home. Over the years, many a bubble wrapped stone made its way from the West Coast of America to his home in Japan.
Over the years he crafted many daizas for important and not so important stones. We loved to see how he shaped the wood to caress the stone. He did this so eloquently.
Finally in 2010, we headed to Japan and had the opportunity to meet him at the Green Club in Ueno Park.
KJ was kind enough to take this photo with included Mr. Suzuki, Jeff and Mary Stern and even Peter Tea in the background! It was a memorable moment for us. We had admired his work, spoken to him through a third-party but to finally met him was an event. For us it was like meeting Claude Monet, Diego Riveria or Pablo Picasso.
Having made a few daizas ourselves we came to appreciate the difficulty in taking a raw piece of wood and turning it into a work of art. How he could work so quickly in making them still astounds us today.
So few people make an impact on so many. Suzuki Koji was one of those that touched so many lives across many geographical boundaries. He will be missed by all of those whose passions he shared.
Little did we know when this picture was taken of him and KJ in February 2010 this would be the last time we saw or spoke to him. This creates sorrow in our hearts. I think he knew how much we appreciated him and what he had done for our love of suiseki; at least we hope he did. There is more that we wish we could say to him but now that opportunity is lost.
In closing, what is in our heart today is to say thank you to those very special people who had impacted our love of stone collecting. We urge you to take a moment and do the same before it is too late.
To Mas Nakajima and Janet Roth, thank you for igniting in us the passion of stone collecting. For Mas’ patience in answering ours thousands of questions and for quietly evaluating the dozens of absolutely terrible stones that we found while collecting with him in the early days. For he and Janet in opening up their home to us, and yes backyard, to see what comes of a lifetime of collecting stones from dozens of rivers. I guess if we needed someone to “blame” for loving this art form it would the the two of you. You are very near and dear to us.
To Wil in Japan, a friend of so many suiseki lovers over the world. Thank you for your patience, your willingness to correspond with us, your assistance in building our library of wonderful stone books and for helping us ship stones in and out of Japan so that daizas could be made by Koji.
To Tom Elias and Hiromi Nakaoji whose passion for stones takes them all over the world as ambassadors of the art form. Many thanks to you both for your excellence in collecting, writing and communicating about suiseki and viewing stones. Your friendship to us means a great deal.
To our friend Paul Gilbert and brother in Christ, whose passion for stones runs as deep if not deeper than ours. Thank you for all the times we have written each other as we continue to explore this art form. How many evenings have we sent emails back and forth discussing a stone, a suiban, etc? Thank you for your friendship.
To David Sampson, thank you for your passion for Japanese suiseki and your willingness to share it with so many of us.
To Jeff, Peter, Rusty,Brent, Randy and all the others who have helped us collect stones, share them or purchase them. Thank you for being in our lives. We hope to see each one of you again soon.
And lastly, to Hideko Metaxas who on one cloudy Saturday afternoon in her home opened my eyes to what it meant to hold a “mountain” in the palm of my hands and to contemplate its place in the universe.
To each of you our words have likely never conferred our love and appreciation and we doubt these few paragraphs will adequately do so now.
To Koju and all the rest, our very best wishes.
Sam and KJ Edge