Openly gay Shogo Kariyazaki is one of Japan's most flamboyant and outspoken authorities on beauty, and the owner of Kariyazaki Shogo school of flower arranging.
Since starting to study ikebana at age 24, the Tokyo native has risen to fame through his penchant for a sensitively decorative, yet often extravagant, approach to the traditional art of flower arranging. Now a colorful fixture on the nation's TV screens, as well as in magazines, Kariyazaki has also aggressively extended his reach to incorporate music and fashion, by combining his talents with those of such artists as pop singer Tatsuya Ishii, guitarist Kaori Muraji and fashion designer Hanae Mori.
Memorably, at a recent opening party for his annual exhibit at Meguro Gajoen in Tokyo, Kariyazaki showcased his latest "collaboration with music" to the hundreds of guests. While an angelic young woman sang a classic tune beside him, Kariyazaki quickly "threw" flowers and branches into a gigantic vase, completing a gorgeous arrangement just as the final bars faded.
The quick-tempered, fast-talking celebrity grew up by his own account as a shy, quiet boy in the northern suburbs of Tokyo. There - he writes in his autobiography, Kariyazaki Shogo: hana wo aishita otoko (A Man who Fell in Love with Flowers) - his father was a local public servant, while his mother had worked in an office in glitzy downtown Ginza.
From an early age, he says, he knew he had different tastes from other boys, who enjoyed things like baseball. But with his mother's encouragement for his preferred pastimes of playing the piano, gardening and cooking, he says he was able to find his "true calling" as a flower arranger.
During this recent interview at his Meguro Gajoen exhibition, Kariyazaki recalled his struggles as a youth, and how an encounter with veteran singer-songwriter Akihiro Miwa changed his life. He also openly shared his views on what some call the "feminization" of Japanese men - as well as his own sexuality.