This Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we asked five teachers from the Skillshare community to identify a word of personal significance from their culture and create new artwork based on that word. We invite you to experience these powerful introspections in our month-long series and celebrate these creatives by learning more about their respective backgrounds.

Discover how a word, a memory, a tradition can manifest into something uniquely meaningful for each individual — and maybe even spark your own idea along the way.

Meet Kaho Yoshida

Kaho Yoshida is a director and illustrator from Japan who has a special passion, and uncanny talent, for blending worlds in her mixed media animations. Through her unique process, which she breaks down in her Skillshare class Mixed Media Animation: Blending Stop Motion and Illustration, Kaho finds that “mixed media is the perfect way to achieve fresh aesthetics using the best of both mediums.” Once you see these stop-motion marvels, we think you will agree.

In our conversation, Kaho talks about embracing her Japanese heritage, that special moment of unspoken appreciation between two people, and the right way to appreciate Asian cultures.

Use the slider to go between one of Kaho Yoshida’s animations and a behind-the-scenes look of the mixed-media process that brought it to life.

What word did you choose to share for this project?

The word I chose for this project is “お疲れ様 (Otsukaresama).”

This word is very hard to translate to English. The literal translation would be something like “you must be tired.” But we use it to mean everything from “thank you for the hard work/your effort,” “I see that you’ve been working hard,” “I see that you have a lot on your plate,” “you did well,” to “hello,” “bye,” and like something you would say when you don’t know what else to say. I once saw on TikTok that someone translated it to “Bye bit**” and it made me laugh. It’s a very versatile word. 

I chose this word because it is something people in Japan say at least five times a day. And though I often say it without thinking much about it, it is a very kind and considerate thing to say to honor and recognize others.

“To create this illustration, I made a miniature playground, photographed it, and then painted a digital illustration on top of it. I love mixing tangible objects with digital illustration.”

Tell us about the illustration you created for “Otsukaresama.” What inspired this scene?

I wanted to illustrate a quiet, kind scene of two girls being there for each other.  In Japan, people are often not so vocal about their feelings and emotions. We often show love by simply being there for someone, listening, or doing a simple act of service for loved ones. There is no grand gesture or declaration, but you can feel seen and appreciated. I think Otsukaresama is a word like that: a simple, casual word that makes you feel seen and recognized. I want to say Otsukaresama to my API community. It’s been a tough year, but I see you and appreciate you. 

“I want to say Otsukaresama to my API community. It’s been a tough year, but I see you and appreciate you.”

How has your heritage influenced your creative process and style?

Photo of Kaho Yoshida, courtesy of the artist.

I grew up in Japan and moved to Canada by myself when I was fifteen. I think the core of my artistic sensibility was created in Japan: from all the books and mangas I read and cultural events, I experienced. As an adult, I tried to stay away from “typically Japanese” aesthetics because I didn’t want to be categorized and fetishized as “oriental,” “exotic,” or “kawaii”. I wanted to be seen just as an artist with depth and dimensions.

But when I was reading these interview questions, I got to reflect on why I was avoiding and denying expressing part of my culture. I wore the sailor uniform every day in junior high school, why shouldn’t I be able to draw that? So, thanks Skillshare — I think I will start embracing Japanese aesthetics that I know are inside of me.

In what ways can our community celebrate the creative contributions of API makers and artists this month and beyond? 

Please don’t fetishize us and our culture. Please don’t appropriate our culture for your aesthetics. We aren’t props. Get curious and do your research. If you want to have Asian aesthetics, hire artists from that culture.

What we see in the creative work is important, but who is behind the artwork is just as important.

Join Kaho in Class!

Mixed Media Animation: Blending Stop Motion and Illustration

About the author

Evan Neuhoff (he/they) is a non-binary Filipino-American writer living in Houston, Texas. Evan writes at the intersection of gender and racial identity, generational trauma, and the queer experience.

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Evan Neuhoff