About Mas Nakajima (1948-2018)

Mas Nakajima

Masahiro Nakajima was born in 1948 in Gifu, Japan where he grew up as the middle son of a sake-brewing family. Mas studied sake-brewing at the Tokyo University of Agriculture where he received his BA in 1970. Before assuming his role in the family business, Mas came to San Francisco and studied restaurant management at City College. Short a credit to complete his AA, he signed up for an art class. Before long, he was brewing an entirely different career at the San Francisco Art Institute, where he studied sculpture and received his BFA in 1977.

After marrying and starting his family Mas set aside his artistic ambitions and opened Maruzen Construction, which he developed into a highly regarded general contracting and house building firm.

His artistic and creative needs were never far away, however. Around 1980 he met Mr. “Keiseki” Hirotsu.  Mr. Hirotsu was the first Bay Area teacher of suiseki, the traditional Japanese art of natural stone appreciation. Mas started visiting and learning from Mr. Hirotsu, and at his urging joined the San Francisco Suiseki Kai at its founding meeting in 1982. Mas actively participated in the club for the rest of his life, first as a student and subsequently as a president, leader, and valued teacher.

Mas was devoted to the practice of traditional suiseki, for which he was known to viewing stone enthusiasts around the world. In addition to the annual exhibits of his suiseki club, he regularly participated as a guest artist at the Bay Island Bonsai exhibit and the Redwood Empire Bonsai Society Exhibit.  Mas also developed his fine art sculpture and painting from this interest, exhibiting in both group and solo shows at the Triangle Gallery in San Francisco. He participated most recently in a group show devoted to suiseki at the Oakland Museum of California, and his piece titled “Lady Murasaki” is now on display as part of the museum’s permanent collection.

Mas was a skilled woodworker and carefully carved and stained each wood base to complement and embrace the stone. He always strove to create a beautiful suiseki that would “make the stone happy”.

Mas and Janet, his second wife, met through their mutual love of suiseki. They shared their joy with each other every day of their life together.

Artist’s Statement

My sculpture combines natural stone and wood to create harmony by integrating the life of wood with the simplicity and purity of natural stone. I begin by finding stones in riverbeds and mountains in California, and keep the stones until I am ready to integrate them with the chosen wood. The process of unifying these two materials, by specific selection and by accidental match, results in unexpected and endless possibilities.

Working with wood and stone is very familiar to me, having been born and raised in a traditional Japanese-style wooden house, in a small town near the Japan Alps, surrounded by mountains, rivers, and forests. Twenty-five years of building and designing houses in the Bay Area developed my aesthetic sensibility and my understanding of the relationship between an object and the surrounding space.

The use of natural rocks in my art originates from suiseki, a Japanese form of stone appreciation that has over a thousand years of history. We invite you to join us here to study and discuss suiseki art, both traditional Japanese suiseki and new forms of natural stone art.


1970 – B.S., Tokyo University of Agriculture

1974 – A.A., City College of San Francisco

1977 – B.F.A., San Francisco Art Institute


1978 – California General Contractor’s License

1977-2002 – Owner and Founder of Maruzen Construction


2002, Triangle Gallery, Group Show, “The Japan Show”

2003, Triangle Gallery, Solo Show

2004, Triangle Gallery, Solo Show

2004, Triangle Gallery, Group Show, “WoodWork”

2006, Triangle Gallery, Two Person Show

2006, Triangle Gallery, Group Show, “Recent Work by Gallery Artists”

2007, Triangle Gallery, Group Show, “New Work by Gallery Artists”

2008, Triangle Gallery, Group Show, “Time will Tell”

2015-2016, Oakland Museum of California, Group Show, “UNEARTHED: Found + Made”

2006-2018, Bay Island Bonsai Annual Exhibit, annual Group Show

1982-2018, San Francisco Suiseki Kai, annual Group Show

2017-2018, Redwood Empire Bonsai Exhibit, annual Group Show

Permanent Collections

Oakland Museum of California


2004, Golden State Bonsai Federation Convention, California

2005, Sacramento Bonsai Club, California

2006 International Stone Appreciation Symposium, Pennsylvania


1982-2018, San Francisco Suiseki Kai

2006-2018, California Aiseki Kai

Nodai Alumni Association USA


One Response to About Mas Nakajima (1948-2018)

  1. […] last few BIB exhibits featured suiseki art by Mas Nakajima. Nakajima’s abstract paintings and stone art attract a lot of attention and give visitors […]


%d bloggers like this: