Ambo Makoto Profile


Makoto Ambo was born in Saroma, a town on the north coast of Japan's northernmost main island of Hokkaido, in 1962. He moved to Chitose City where he grew up, and also met Ainu, the indigenous people of Hokkaido.

Makoto has been captivated by calligraphy and painting since childhood, and in 1981 he entered the Graphic Design Department of Hokkaido College of Art and Design. In 1993, wanting to learn more design, he became a freelance designer, and entered into a two-year contract with POLO B.C.S, designing logos and making cut-and-sew designs. In 1995 he became a master instructor at Nihon Shodo Hyoronsha, an association in Hokkaido for the promotion and study of calligraphy.

In 1996, observing and taking advantage of ink's propensity to bleed, Makoto discovered a completely new technique of ink painting that does not leave brush lines. Japan's national broadcasting company, NHK, introduced Makoto and his unprecedented technique on television as the "New Japanese Ink Painting." After that, he has worked as a modern Japanese black ink artist in Japan. Using Japanese paper and ink, he paints dragons and Mt. Fuji in ways that express the beauty of ink painting and the uniqueness of Japan, and he paints works with themes of environmental protection that also respect Ainu culture, such as owls and forests. In addition, since 2018 he has been active painting cats with the theme of "zero killing" as part of cat protection activities

From 2008 to 2019 Makoto has held a solo exhibition at the fashionable, upmarket Japanese department store Mitsukoshi in Sapporo. In 2010 he won the Japan-France Contemporary Art World Exhibition Award, and in 2019 he was selected for the 230th edition of Le Salon de la Société des Artistes Français to be held at the Grand Palais on the Champs-Élysées, Paris in February 2020.


Makoto Ambo


Contemporary Japanese Black-Ink Artist





 1962          Born in Saroma Town of Tokoro-gun, Hokkaido and grew up in Chitose


1981-1983  Attended and graduated Hokkaido Institute of Design’s Department of Graphic Design


1993-1996   POLO BCS Sapporo’s exclusive designer


1994            Began working artistically with a unique self-taught method of “bleeding” Japanese black ink


1995            With the foundation of his unique style of ink-bleed art in place, attention from NHK Sapporo and other mass media began bringing public recognition


1996            Established both domestically and internationally as a notable contemporary Japanese black-ink artist


2001            Designed Hokkaido International Airlines’ AIR DO Party 2001 logo




Makoto Ambo has been actively involved in solo exhibitions, seminars and workshops throughout Japan as a contemporary Japanese black-ink artist, calligrapher, designer and poet. Inspired by the Ainu culture, he is well known for artwork in the kotan-kor-kamuy—Blakiston's fish owlmotif. He is also an instructor of calligraphy with Nihon Shodo Hyoronsha and a member of the Hokkaido Design Association.





 Major Award History



 1995            10th Hokkaido Calligraphers Exhibition, Encouragement Award (Hokkaido Calligraphers Association)


1996            19th National Art Exhibition, Excellent Work Award (Tokyo International Association of Artists)


2007            76th Sakujitsukai Exhibition, Selected (Sakujitsukai Artists Association)


2007          11th National Kimono Design Competition, Japan Silk Industry Association Award (Japan Textile Dyeing Joint Association)


2008          12th National Kimono Design Competition, Selected (Japan Textile Dyeing Joint Association)


2008           Tokyo Ginza Music Beer Hall Lion 20th Anniversary Song Lyrics Section, Grand Prize (Tokyo Beer Plaza Lion)


2010          14th National Kimono Design Competition, Selected (Japan Textile Dyeing Joint Association)


2010            11th Exposition l’Art Actuel France-Japon, Exposition l’Art Actuel France-Japon Award (Club des Amis de l’Europe et des Arts)


2013           Setsuryosha Florence Exhibition, Selected (Setsuryosha Museum of Art)

2017           NEKOISM 2017, Excellence Award (NEKO-EXPO)                  

 2020          "230th LE SALON 2020",  Mention 




 Major Solo Exhibitions



 1996   Playing with Japanese Black Ink Exhibition, Royton Sapporo Gallery Salud (Sapporo International Arts Association, Sapporo, Japan)


1998   Owls and Forest Exhibition, Mitsukoshi Sky Gallery (Sapporo Mitsukoshi Department Store, Chitose, Japan)


1999   Owls and Forest Exhibition, Tokyu Art Gallery (2000 & 2007, Kitami Tokyu Department Store, Kitami, Japan)


2001   Makoto Ambo Exhibition, Yume Otaru Art Museum (Yume Otaru Art Museum, Otaru, Japan)


2004   Makoto Ambo Exhibition, Kobe Daimaru Art Gallery (2005 & 2007, Daimaru Kobe Department Store, Kobe, Japan)


2007   Makoto Ambo Exhibition, Roppongi Hills umuSanwa Giken, Inc., Tokyo, Japan


2008   Makoto Ambo Exhibition, Sapporo Mitsukoshi Art Gallery (2009, 2010, 2012, 2015, 2017 & 2019, Sapporo Mitsukoshi Department Store, Sapporo, Japan)


2008   Makoto Ambo Hometown Exhibition, Saroma Town Center~2019, Saroma Town Board of Education, Saroma, Japan


2018   Makoto Ambo Exhibition, DIAROOM (Environment Network, Osaka, Japan)


2018   Makoto Ambo Exhibition, Omotesando Hills Gallery WAKO (Environment Network, Tokyo, Japan)


2020   JCAT Online SOLO Exhibition-Makoto Ambo-







 Major Group Exhibitions



 1997   Instigator of A Street Corner Canvas Exhibition, Sapporo Art Park (Sapporo Art Park, Sapporo, Japan)


1999   Northern Design Exhibition, Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art (Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art, Sapporo, Japan)


2000   GCC International Art Exhibition, War Memorial of Korea (2007 & 2009, GCC, Korea)


2000   Finland International Art Exhibition, Virastoalon Gallerir (KCAA, Finland)


2000   Seoul International Art Festival, Kwanghwamun Gallery (KCAA, Korea)


2002    Universal Communication Art Festival in Sapporo, Sapporo Art Park (Sapporo Art Park, Sapporo, Japan)


2007   International Art Festival, Chosunilbo Art Museum2009, ICAA, Korea


2010   11th Exposition l’Art Actuel France-Japon, Aoyama Spiral Hall (Club des Amis de l’Europe et des Arts, Tokyo, Japan)


2010   41st Exposition d’art Contemporain Japonais, Chateau de I'Hermine (Club des Amis de l’Europe et des Arts, France)


2011   12th Exposition l’Art Actuel France-Japon, Aoyama Spiral Hall (Club des Amis de l’Europe et des Arts, Tokyo, Japan)


2011   43rd Arte En Manos Japonesas, Puerto Vallarta International Convention Center (Club des Amis de l’Europe et des Arts, Mexico)


2012   Artexpo New York 2012, Pier 92 (Redwood Media Group, USA)


2013   Flanders Expo Gent Belgium 2013, Gent (Art Gent, Belgium)


2014   Sapporo Design Festa, Sapporo (Hokkaido Design Association, Sapporo, Japan)


2015   The Origin of Beauty Exhibition, Tokyo (The Origin of Beauty, Tokyo, Japan)


2017   NEKOISM 2017 Exhibition, Kamakura (NEKO-EXPO, Kamakura, Japan)


2019   1st Festival d’Art Sacré de Senlis (Les Poissons du Ciel, France)


2019   Marugoto Neko Festival 2019 (Hanshin Department Store Umeda Main Store, Osaka, Japan)


2019   Marugoto Neko Festival 2019 in Kobe (Hanshin Department Store Umeda Main Store, Kobe, Japan)


2019   Marugoto Neko Festival 2019 in Hakata (Hanshin Department Store Umeda Main Store, Hakata, Japan)


2019   iPhone Design Contest, Japan Festa (Japan Art Business Association, France)





Reasons behind Makoto Ambo’s Passion for Kotan-Kor-Kamuy



The indigenous Ainu people of Hokkaido call the Blakiston's fish owl kotan-kor-kamuy and worship them as their paramount god. A native son of Hokkaido, Makoto Ambo recognizes that no discussion of Japan can be complete without consideration of the Ainu culture and has therefore dedicated himself to making the endangered Blakiston's fish owl his lifelong motif in tribute. His art has also led him to ponder and reconsider such diverse issues as man’s coexistence with nature, the environment, racial discrimination, utopian society, the meaning of life and our reason for being. The Ainu culture has thus become an integral part of his art and is an identity that Ambo cherishes.



Art in Action



Techniques and Characteristics of Bleed Pictures


 1.Water is dripped so as to increase surface tension.


2. Black ink is placed to create shadows and lines.



3.The amount of black ink is adjusted.

4.Excessive water is absorbed and drawn away.


    Depth and solidity can be depicted by repeating this process over and over after drying.



Makoto Ambo’s innovative, unique bleeding technique is completely different from traditional wet-in-wet drawing methods. Generally, bleeding refers to how water or ink seeps into textiles, whereas Ambo creates bleeding within individual drops of water and then lets the ink settle and affix to the paper. However, the most significant difference that distinguishes his work is that it embraces a time-consuming, repetitive process with multiple layers of bleeding. This unique process creates shadows and sense of solidity even as it maintains transparency, which all contradict traditional Japanese black-ink drawings. This feature forms the essence of Makoto Ambo’s deep, mysterious world of black and white. In addition, even though it is a bleeding technique, delicate details are expressed so clearly and sharply that his works are often mistaken for prints. Makoto Ambo’s bleeding works of art are thus truly unique and unrivaled by any other type of black-ink drawing.




                                                Mitsuhiro Kondo


                                                Art Writer