From a fishing village to Towson

This week the Thriving Tiger takes a slightly different focus. We asked Kanji Takeno, our beloved University Photographer, to share his words of wisdom and encouragement with our students as they ramp up for finals. Enjoy his storytelling and photos.

KANJI1 I was born in a small, quiet fishing village. When I was a kid, I used to go to the concrete harbor and look down into the water. I enjoyed looking at the creatures living there. One day I went there with my brother and friends. During low tide time, seaweed and shellfish attached to the concrete wall are exposed. They were fascinating to me.  High tide came back swiftly.  I noticed my shoes were getting wet. I got up quickly and started moving to the stone steps to go up. The wet seaweed was very slippery. So I fell. I immediately panicked. My brother and friends did not know what to do. I struggled to get out of the water in vain. All of sudden I saw an elderly fishing man trying to grab my hands. I still have the vivid image…my aimlesslyKANJI2 struggling hands, the man’s face, and his hand, trying to grab my hands. He saved me. I stood drenched on the edge with my face up. I saw the blue sky.  I learned something from the experience. When you are in trouble, struggle, struggle and struggle. Do not give up.  If you keep trying hard, you will be pulled out of the trouble.  

My father worked for the Japanese railway system after he graduated from middle school.  My mother was a dressmaker. She was also a hard worker.  I am the first one who went to college among all my relatives. My parents worked hard for my college education. My mother used to tell me, “Find out how far you can go.” The village had two huge attractions: the ocean and mountains. I always wondered what was beyond the horizon.   While I was a student, I started working as a freelance photo assistant for many established photographers.  The experience made me pursue my career in photography.   During these days I met several “fishermen” who saved me and led me in the right direction.

On Sept. 23rd, 1996, my life at Towson University started. It was a beautiful day. I looked up at the blue sky. A year later I started teaching Japanese language.  My two major dreams came true. I was not very much of a “people” photographer then. I set my goal: “happy, positive, smiley” images. I struggled. Then I realized I needed to be “happy, positive and smiley” first, before I could translate that into my photography. My photographs now are very close to my goal. I will never forget good photographs are the result of wonderful TU students, our beautiful campus, and helpful faculty and staff. I know I am no “fisherman” to you, but I would love to make you smile and make this day a little easier to live. By the way, do me a favor. When you travel to somewhere in the middle of nowhere, meet a little kid and you hear him saying, “One day I will study in your country and make a difference to the world”, you say looking at the eyes, “You have everything you need to make your dream come true. Good luck”.

Have a great day. Keep smiling. Thank you all.



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