Toru Oba was born in Minazawa, Yamagata prefecture, Japan in 1945 into a family of land owners and artists. Toru spent his childhood surrounded by the inland mountains, rice fields, and fruit orchards of rural Yamagata. He completed his early schooling in Yamagata and later finished his education in Tokyo.
Toru was always restless and interested in the world outside of Japan. He was particularly attracted to the great architecture and artists of Europe. In 1967, he left Japan and traveled by Trans-Siberian railroad across Siberia and the former Soviet Union into eastern and northern Europe. He traveled from country to country working in various occupations whenever and wherever he could.
In 1969, Toru found himself in southern France in an 11th century stone village, LaRoque sur Ceze. Here he apprenticed with the local stone masons and learned basic stone structure, lime based mortar techniques, and stucco and roof tile installation techniques while repairing and restoring the ancient architecture of the village. He lived here with his wife and first born child until 1972 when he moved with his family to the US.
Toru continued working with stone and brick, eventually settling in the mountains of West Virginia, where he continued to hone his craft creating fireplaces, walls, patios and gardens and eventually Russian and Finnish style fireplaces and the original Rumford designed fireplace; all environmentally friendly, clean, warm and efficient designs.
In 1984, Toru was honored to be invited as an instructor in a stone masonry workshop at the Lama Foundation, near Taos, New Mexico. This was an acknowledgement from his peers of his ability as an outstanding stonemason. Several other workshops followed and eventually the beginnings of the internationally known Stone Foundation of which Toru is a founding member.
In 1985, Toru moved with his family, which now included another daughter, to central Virginia, where he currently resides, and where he continues to work in stone and brick in and around Albemarle County. Read an article about Toru in the Charlottesville weekly, “The Hook”. Toru has a notoriety for his honest unrelenting work ethic, for his attention to details, his fine craftsmanship and his uncompromising standards of artistic integrity.
Toru’s work in the past ten years has included a shift towards landscape features and sculptural structures such as ponds, waterfalls, fountains and gardens and large sculpted stone benches and tables and more recently, free standing contemporary sculpture. Toru has been influenced by the works of the Japanese-American artist, Isamu Noguchi and the Spanish artist Antonio Gaudi and this can be seen in his use of organic forms and flowing lines, and the juxtaposition of rough surfaces with smooth highly polished ones. Toru describes himself as having a Japanese aesthetic nurtured by European influences.
Toru is a builder/designer and does his best work when he is given free rein to offer his own designs within a project. He enjoys and encourages collaboration with his clients to come up with designs as well. He accepts both private and public commissions and is also available as a consultant.
You can find articles and books featuring Toru’s work, by visiting here.