The story behind the birth of Heralbony told by the company's presidents, Takaya Matsuda and Fuminori. Podcast "Listen to the Museum #1"

"HERALBONY TONE FROM MUSEUM ~Listening Museum~" is a podcast that started this spring and focuses on the artists under contract with the welfare experimental unit Heralbony.

Sara Ogawa, an actor, filmmaker, and writer, and Takaya Matsuda, President and CEO of HERALBONY, will act as interviewers, listening closely to the art and touching upon the personality and life story of this "unique artist" that can be seen beyond his work.

The memorable theme of the first episode was the history of HERALBONY. Takaya himself, along with his twin brother Fumito, who is the vice president, talked about how HERALBONY came to be.

# Individuality, not lack

Sara Ogawa (hereinafter, Ogawa): "TONE FROM MUSEUM ~Listen to the Museum~" is a podcast that focuses on artists under contract with the welfare experimental unit HERALBONY. Hello, I'm Sara Ogawa. The first episode has begun! And let me introduce my partner.

Takaya Matsuda (hereinafter, Takaya): Nice to meet you. I am Takaya Matsuda, the representative of Heralbony. We are about to start a podcast, so please look forward to it!

All: Thank you very much. (Applause)

Ogawa: So today we have another guest, Takaya's older brother, Fumito. Fumito is the vice president.

Fumito Matsuda (hereinafter, Fumito): Thank you very much! I'm from Iwate, and I'm the vice president of Heralbony. I'm Fumito Matsuda. Thank you very much!

Takaya: Fumito lives in Iwate and took the Shinkansen today.

Ogawa: I see! Nice to meet you. You two are twins, right? I mean, it's obvious when you see it (laughs).

Takaya: That's right. Recently, I've been told that my voice sounds more similar to mine than my face. I wonder if that's okay to do on the radio (laughs).

Fumito: That's right!

Takaya: Well, I think it would be the same no matter who does all the talking, so I think two of us would be good (laughs).

Ogawa: You two are perfect buddies, and I feel encouraged! Today, I would like to start by asking you about "What is HERALBONY?" First of all, could you please tell us more about what kind of company HERALBONY is?

Takaya: Let me start. There are a lot of welfare facilities across Japan that specialize in the arts.

Ogawa: Yes.

Takaya: HERALBONY has a license agreement with the artists there. Using that art data as a base, we apply it to various things, events, and places. Our goal is to be a company that expands the idea that when people say "disability," they don't associate it with "lack," but rather with "difference" or "individuality," increasing new options and possibilities.

Ogawa: I see. I think you have a wide range of works and goods using data from works by people with disabilities, and they are all really wonderful. I looked at your website and I was really excited.

Takaya: I'm really happy. We don't write "disability" or "welfare" prominently in our stores, so even when you go to the hotel (that we collaborated with), there are no captions like that. I wanted to take on the challenge of changing the image somehow by spreading the idea that "these are drawn by people with intellectual disabilities" as people simply feel that they are beautiful, so I started it with Fumitou, my twin.

Fumito: Yes.

# My brother's notebook

Ogawa: First of all, what made you decide to undertake this initiative at your company?

Takaya: Well, it all started with us twins. We have an older brother named Shota who is four years older than us. He has autism with severe intellectual disabilities, so we were always familiar with disabilities from birth. My brother has some really interesting movements and behaviors. For example, recently he seems to really like the sumo wrestler Sanoyama.

Ogawa: Wow!

Takaya: I guess I just like the sound of "Sanoyama, the sumo wrestler!"

Fumito: For example, how it feels on the ears. Also, I came here on the Shinkansen today, and when we saw the Shinkansen, my family and I had to say, "It's so silent!"

Ogawa: Do you all say it together?

Fumito: That's right. But Takaya didn't say anything, did he?

Takaya: I say that too (laughs)! My brother has a lot of funny sides to him, but I also saw him shouting loudly on the train and people would scare him off, and in class I would be imitating him, so I've always had a big interest in changing people's perceptions of intellectual disability.

Ogawa: I heard that the company name "Heralbony" was inspired by your older brother, Shota. What does that mean?

Takaya: Thank you. The company name "HERALBONY" is a mysterious word that my older brother wrote in dozens of diaries and notebooks when he was in elementary school. When I was about 20 years old, there was a time when I really wanted to work hard at video, just like Sara-san. I went back to my parents' house, wondering what theme to film, and looked for traces of my older brother. Then, I came across a bunch of notebooks and diaries.

Fumito: Yes.

Takaya: At the time, my brother was really hung up on the "Brought to you by your favorite sponsor" thing on TV. So even his diary and notebook were covered in logos. I was watching it and thinking it was funny, when I noticed that the mysterious words "HERALBONY HERALBONY" were appearing in various places, mixed in with the logos.

Ogawa: Have you ever asked Shota what it means?

Takaya: My brother said, "I don't know!" My mother didn't know either, and when I searched for it online, there were zero results. So I thought it would be nice to make something out of this word someday. But when I told Fumito, "Let's name the company HERALBONY," he said, "That's lame!" (laughs).

Fumito: I didn't say it that strongly (laughs)!

Ogawa: At first, Fumito was puzzled by the word "heralbony" (laughs), but today I actually had a composition that he wrote when he was in the fourth grade of elementary school.

Fumito: Thank you.

Ogawa: It's a wonderful composition, so may I read it aloud?

Takaya: Thank you.


"People with disabilities are human beings just like us"

First Elementary School, Fumito Matsuda

My older brother goes to Maezawa Yogo School.

Although he has a disability, it's not that he has problems with his hands or feet, but that he has autism. My brother only understands simple words. Even when I ask him about school, he doesn't say much. He only talks about things he likes. But I want to talk to him more, so I try to talk to him a lot.

My brother is very particular about things. Whenever we are in the car, he always sits in the passenger seat. When we eat, he has a set seat, and even what we eat and the order are set. He loves taking pictures, but he never shows them to me when my brother is around. If I try to pick a picture, he pinches me so hard that my skin peels off, so I pinch him back and we end up fighting. Even though my brother is like that, there are times when I think he is amazing.

The first is helping out. My older brother cleans the bathroom by himself. I think he does a great job, even though it's a pain. I wash the teacups with my mom. My three siblings help with hanging out the laundry.

Secondly, he writes a diary every day. From my perspective, it only seems like he writes about four lines, but he's doing his best as an older brother.

Every time my mother reads my brother's diary

"Yes, you did well," I said with a smile, and my brother


he said, clapping his hands in joy.

The third one is that he walks two or three kilometers to the station by himself and takes the train to Maezawa Yogo School. I remember watching his older brother's class's performance at the school's learning presentation last year. He and his older brother were playing the melodica together, and it was so good that I thought it was amazing that they could do it at school without practicing at home.

There is something I always find annoying. When we go to a department store or a restaurant, there are people who stare at my older brother.

"He's a strange guy."

I told the child,

I tell them, "It can't be helped, it's a disability," but they don't understand.

When we went to the pool with my brother's Yuyu group, a gathering for people with disabilities, I saw some boys about my age pointing at my brothers and laughing, and it made me feel angry as if it were me.

There's something I always think about at times like this.

"People with disabilities are human beings just like us."

That is what I want. I want people to see us as normal people, just like us.


Ogawa: So that's wonderful.

(Everyone applauds)

Takaya: It's so amazing I can't believe it was written by Fumitou.

Fumito: Hey!

Ogawa: First of all, isn't this an incredibly well-written piece of writing for a fourth-grader?

Takaya: Yes, that’s true.

Fumito: I was surprised myself.

Ogawa: When Fumito wrote this essay, I'm sure there was a reaction in the classroom, but I wonder how the mothers felt when they read it.

Fumito: I wonder how it was? You must have been happy.

Takaya: I think it was featured in a pamphlet published by an organization in Iwate Prefecture that brings together people with disabilities.

Fumito: Was that the case? I don't remember. (laughs)

Ogawa: It's wonderful that you've kept it so carefully and that these feelings are now connected to your current activities.

Fumito: Yes. I certainly still have a lot of thoughts about it, but rather than loudly telling people with disabilities not to be discriminatory or prejudiced, I still think it would be good if they could encounter society through the beautiful filter of art, which could lead to a gradual change and become a beautiful form of awareness-raising.

Ogawa: Now that you're raising your own children, what do you think about the way your parents raised their children? How did they treat your three siblings?

Takaya: I think I was allowed to take on challenges. And speaking of my disability, my mother had a very strong belief that it was something you shouldn't hide. So when I was in elementary school, it was normal for me to play with my friends, including my older brother.

However, when I entered junior high school, the difference was ridiculed. For example, the word "supe" became very popular at my junior high school. It was an abbreviation of "autism spectrum". Just like idiot or moron, if you got a bad score on a test, you would be told "Aren't you a supe?" That kind of thing.

At that time, it was very difficult for us twins to tell our brother that he had an intellectual disability. But our mother had a strong belief that "(disabilities) are not something to hide," so she brought our brother to sports days and club activities. So, we twins had a very strong desire not to let our brother be seen, and sometimes he would not come back until lunchtime at sports days. And our mother would get angry and go home. I remember there were difficulties like that in junior high school.

# Lumbini Museum

Takaya: At first, I really wanted to target my local friends. I'm from a town in Iwate with a population of 10,000, and even if I combined the words "welfare" and "art" and delivered them to my local friends, to be honest, welfare doesn't really matter to them, and to be honest, there aren't many people around me in Iwate who would buy art.

Takaya: When I thought about it in Iwate, I thought that my local friends would aspire to drive a car of that brand, or, how about, go to a department store like that, and I thought that there is something about brands that people aspire to. So I thought that by including welfare and art under the umbrella of a brand, my local friends would start saying things like, "That's cool!" and so I feel very nostalgic about the fact that we made it a brand.

Ogawa: I think it's a wonderful idea to think of the local people and deliver that to your target audience, and I heard that the trigger for this was a visit to the Lumbini Museum in Iwate Prefecture when you were 24 years old. What was that incident?

Fumito: It was originally Takaya.

Takaya: Yes. I was working in Tokyo, and when I was about 24, I went back to Iwate for the Obon period, and my mother said to me, "There's a museum in Hanamaki, Iwate called Lumbini Museum, which displays art made by people with disabilities. Would you like to come and visit?" I thought that sounded really interesting.

Fumito: Now that I think about it, I wonder why I wasn't invited (laughs).

Takaya: (laughs). I think I hadn't come home yet because I was working. So I went to the Lumbini Museum, and there were all these works lined up, like a piece with just a string of black circles drawn with a ballpoint pen, or a piece with a brush marker in red, blue, and other colors. I was so moved by how cool they all were, that I called my twin brother Fumitou and said, "This is an amazing world, so let's do something, something." I think that was the beginning of HERALBONY.

Takaya: If you search for "art by people with disabilities," you'll still find a lot of that today, but in one corner of city hall, next to nursery school children's drawings, there's an exhibition of art by people with disabilities. I remember thinking that there's really no need to change the artists themselves, and that it's not about educating them or anything presumptuous like that, but rather that the works are truly wonderful, and if we can do something very simple like displaying those wonderful works in wonderful places and outputting them to the world in wonderful conditions, then we might be able to create a system that properly circulates the economy even in this capitalist economy.

Michiyo Yaegashi "Origami"

Ogawa: I think the term "art brut" is gradually emerging to describe art by people with disabilities. Do you have any thoughts about this kind of thing?

Fumito: The term "art brut" itself is often referred to as "Japanese art brut" in Japan, but in reality, overseas, "art brut" is a general term for "art by people who have no artistic education whatsoever." However, in Japan, the current situation is that "art by people with disabilities = art brut." So, from an overseas perspective, it seems that Japanese "art brut" has a slightly different value system.

Ogawa: Wow.

Fumito: So, to me, there are various names for art by people with disabilities, like "art brut" or "outsider art," but more than the question of what to call it, I think there are also forms that can only be achieved by a private company like us, where we can truly make a breakthrough in the work itself, in the artist's values, and in what they want to convey. I hope that new concepts will be born from that.

Ogawa: With that in mind, the gears have started to move, so I would love to hear more about what happens next in the next episode. Thank you!

Text by Tomoyo Akasaka/photo by Jozo Suzuki

The podcast "HERALBONY TONE FROM MUSEUM" is now available for free

Based on the concept of "imagining the history of an unconventional artist through his art," this program listens closely to the art and touches upon the personality and life story of one "unconventional artist" that can be seen beyond his work.

The two MCs are Sara Ogawa, an actor, filmmaker and writer, and Takaya Matsuda, CEO of HERALBONY. Each episode focuses on a writer under contract with HERALBONY, and welcomes intellectually disabled writers, their families and welfare facility staff as guests.

It is available every Sunday on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and Amazon Music.

You can also enjoy back issues for free.