Daniel Wiltshire was born in Buffalo, NY, USA in 1956, and studied painting and art history at California State University, Northridge, in Los Angeles. He worked as an illustrator, mechanical designer, and businessperson.
Now content learning as much as possible about the many aspects of Japanese culture, and guided by the saying, “Let not to get a living be thy trade, but thy sport”, he is occupied selling books about Japan. He is married, with one adult son.
1. Can you describe a turning point in your career?
My career turned in 2002 when I relocated to Japan. Until then I was in technology marketing, but after coming to Japan I developed an interest in katanas and ukiyo-e. With that I learned of people overseas who wanted specific reference materials on these topics which were unavailable in their countries. This fact, and a business opportunity, led me to one of my favorite time-killing places, Jimbocho, the “old book” district of Tokyo. I now make frequent trips there to find cultural publications, and eat unusual curries.
2. What question are you currently exploring in your work?
What is the function of human unhappiness in first world cultures, where survival is rarely a matter of life or peril? Philosophers and less-modern cultures have floated many practical and effective ideas that confine unhappiness to specific moments such as mourning, or physical afflictions or threat, but these solutions are largely ignored by people in contemporary cultures, which makes me think unhappiness is an irrepressible biological driver of human behavior.
3. Which artist or writer has had the most influence on you?
The writer Henry David Thoreau – I think his aphoristic words are useful guides for contemporary life. He inspires me to question all ingrained ways of thinking or presumptions of truth.
4. What do you think is the value of the humanities?
The humanities represent and validate human consciousness, and express its most meaningful experiences, such as awe, love, aesthetics, self-reflection, and moral imperatives.
5. What does the future hold for your field?
I believe worldwide interest in Japanese culture will increase at an accelerated pace. Many people outside Japan are attracted to it because of its breadth of topics, and attachment to tradition, refinement, and discipline. These qualities are not unique to Japanese culture of course, but observers and fans seem to find them here in abundance. This will keep me busy sourcing materials for their education and enjoyment.