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Biography of Kiiko Nakahara

Kiiko Nakahara was born in Japan almost simultaneously with the end of WWII. From elementary school on, forward she impressed her entourage with her precocious skills in painting and an early stage was given a scholarship to a school for gifted children at the Hiroshima state (1913-1918), which is indicating the recognition in the arts. Right when she was graduating from college, she was noticed by Junichi Nakahara (1913-1983), who is considered the godfather of Manga/Anime art. He enlisted her as his only ever apprentice, and she also became his daughter in law. Kiiko then went on a career as an artist, illustrator, dress and costume designer. She moved out of Japan in 1993, and has lived in Hawaii since 2000.


Junichi Nakahara, who was himself inspired by Yumeji Takehisa (1884-1934), painted young, pure, innocent, cute girls. But Kiiko is painting adult women shear from the inside through the eyes of a woman. And after living outside Japan for over 20 years, she could capture the sensuality and the beauty of the Japanese woman more clearly than when she lived in Japan.


Her last collection around the sensuous, elegant, Japanese woman which exudes femininity or what the French call “avoir du chien” and the Americans “ironic femininity”, is encapsulated in an exhibit called “Iroka”, Japanese for “captivated by woman’s charm”, which is growing every month, and was already shown in London, Kyoto, Tokyo, and soon in Paris at “L’Espace Culturel Bertin Poirée”.


Critics who know both Nakahara’s noticed Kiiko’s undeniable roots, but asserted that she has developed her own style, and her paintings are very different. The eyes are very striking, the use of colors, intricate details, texture, kimono’s impressions all make for a very unusual and sensitive style focused around the subtle and overwhelming beauty of the Japanese women.

History and Honors

1948 Started painting by herself and in school.


1953 to 1963 due to her very early talent, was assigned to several private art teachers at least twice a week.


1956 to 1962 attended and graduated from Joshibi High School of Art and Design in Tokyo (Affiliated with Joshibi University of Art and Design), Joshibi is the first art institution for female students in Japan and is the oldest private art school.

1962 to 1966 attended and graduated from Bunka Fashion College. While in College, she worked for:

1963 Tsuburaya Productions (TBS): Special effects and Techniques TV productions: Ultraman series (more than fifty years later she still goes to lunch with the two main characters and members of the cast).

1965 Singer Galley Exhibition in Ginza “Sole artist exhibit”


1965 to 1975 Worked as an illustrator for: several publishers of children books


1966 to 1967 Keizo Horon Publishers…Illustrator for magazines, records, and book covers.


1967 to 1969 “Gosen Shuppan (weekly publication) “Fashion Poem Kiiko” had a weekly column which consisted of a fashion illustration and a poem.


1968 to 1969 was introduced to Junichi Nakahara because her style and his seemed to have a connection. She subsequently adopted Kiiko as his sole apprentice, and he became her tutor until his health deteriorated. She got the name Nakahara from him…marrying his son.


1969 Exhibition at the Copa Cabana in Rio de Janeiro Brazil. Painted in Brazil for 6 months at the request and with the help of members of the Japanese consulate.


1973 3D Illustration show for Seibu Department Stores in Shibuya.


1974 Chief Designer for “629 Fashion Building” on Ginza.


1975 to 1993 opened and operated her own design studio in Roppongi, Tokyo.


1975 Sony Gallery in Ginza: Kiiko’s solo exhibition.


1976 to 1986 produced two fashion shows per year at her Roppongi studio.


1977 Fashion show and exhibition in Aoyama Tokyo.


1977 Japanese Artist show in Miami Florida “Seeing inside Japan”.


1978 Sole costume designer for the production of Shakespeare’s Pericles, Prince of Tyre.


1979 Designed for three movie productions one of which was “Naomi”


1980 to 1982 Sogo Department Stores: One of three Japanese artists selected for annual exhibition.


1985 Expo ’85 in Tsukuba, Japan: designed all the costumes and uniforms for American pavilion. Theme was space travel. Received an award from the US Government.


1989 Bunka Gallery at Bunka Fashion College: sole exhibitor, Bunka college requested some of Kiiko’s art for their permanent collection.


1993 to 2000 Kiiko lives and paints in Europe.


1996 to 2000 Galerie Donghy in Paris, multiple exhibits.


1998 Palais Royal Galerie Siret in Paris.


1999-2000 Figuration Critique 1) Paris-La Defense; 2) Portugal Sintra, Quinta Das Cruzadas.


2000 to 2012 Hawaii “Sunrise Theme”, various exhibits.


2002 Honolulu Japan Cultural Center, awarded Governor’s prize.


2005 Honolulu Art Board Gallery “Hawaiian Sunrise Exhibit”.


2008 Bishop Street Gallery: “Retrospective exhibit”


2013 London Exhibition, sponsored by Tokyo Bike; Kiiko goes back to her original impulse and connection to Junichi Nakahara with “Iroka”, and concentrates on painting “The beautiful, mature, elegant, and sensuous Japanese Woman”.


2014 Kyoto Art Forum Gallery (Japan Art Forum), Second Exhibit of “Iroka”.


2014 Association Culturelle Franco-Japonaise de Tenri, Espace Culturel Bertrand Poirée. “Iroka exhibition”