About Me: Russell Stutler
I live in Tokyo. I was born in Japan to an American father and Japanese mother, and was raised in Ohio.
I earned an Associate's Degree from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh in Visiual Communication and worked as a graphic artist in America. Then I earned a Bachelor's Degree in Christian Ministries from Malone College (now called Malone University).
In 1987 I was sent to Japan by a small missionary board. I was their only missionary assigned to Japan, and my task was to find a place to live, learn Japanese, and find a way to work as a missionary here.
I found ways to use my particular gifts in ministry in Japan, mainly by giving gospel presentations through puppet shows at various Churches throughout Japan. It was a rewarding and fruitful ministry.
However, after a few years in Japan, the home office was unable to send adequate financial support, and my missionary career came to an end. I chose to stay in Japan and work at a regular job while trying to do missionary work on the side. However, I gradually found myself spending more and more time just trying to earn a living.
I have always believed that God has called me to Japan. Even with all the challenges and frustrations, I have never for a moment doubted that this is where I am supposed to be.
For more details about my life and missionary work in Japan, see this article.
This woodblock print is called Nagagawa Guchi (mouth of the Nakagawa River) by Hiroshige, part of his "One Hundred Famous Views of Edo" series done in the 1800s. Edo is the old name for Tokyo.
Next to the print is a photo of the same scene I took from my veranda.
I can see the exact same view from my window on the eleventh floor, and I have this print framed and hanging near the window. Hiroshige had to draw from this high viewpoint from imagination since there was just a field here in those days.
Today the Nakagawa is smaller than it was in Hiroshige's time, and this intersection of two rivers has become a T shape.
I have traveled all over Japan, performing evangelistic puppet shows in churches. The puppets (and voices) also appear in the Praise World videos Joy and Challenge. I have also trained puppet teams for various churches in Japan.
In 1989 we published a book in Japanese on making and using puppets and puppet stages, mainly for Sunday school and Christian outreach. It's called Ningyo Dai Katsuyaku.
The book has gone into its second printing, and has been translated into Korean to help train Christian puppeteers in Korea.
My main work these days is teaching English at a junior and senior high school, and I've gotten pretty good at it since I can use my puppets, guitar, and art ability (plus an odd sense of humor that appeals to kids that age).
Here are my current tools of the trade, or shall I call them my assistants? They are complete body puppets with arms and legs, and about the size of small children. Each has its own unique voice and personality.
Puppetry has served me well through the years. It has been a great tool in evangelization, has opened doors of opportunity (the puppet book, the published music and even a few apperances on TV) and also helps me to earn an income.
By the way, these were all sewn by me using my own patterns. There was a time when we were flooded with requests to make puppets for others. It kept us busy and was one of the reasons for writing the book so others could make their own.
I have written a few songs over the years, and have had one song published. It's called Zenchiyo, and is based on Psalm 100 in Japanese. It can be found on the CD and video called Challenge, which is part of the Word of Life Press' Praise World series. See the sheet music and listen to the sound file (MP3 2.2 MB).
I have audio files of some unpublished music as well. These were recorded on very cheap equipment, and the sound quality isn't great (Please pardon the bad singing and strange chipmunk voices). If you have any inclination to use any of these songs in your worship service, please feel free to do so.
Sono megumi wa (MP3 1.6 MB) Recorded live during a worship service.
Shu no Inori (MP3 2.9 MB) The Lord's prayer.
Watashi No Ashi Wa (MP3 1.5 MB) From Psalm 26:12.
Kami No Kohitsuji Ni (MP3 1.5 MB) Has a fun bass line.
I also play electric bass and guitar, and most of my "gigs" in Japan have been with church bands. Of all the musical activities I can think of, there is nothing more gratifying than playing bass in church, and the audience is so forgiving if you make a mistake!
I learned to play bass mainly from books and tapes by the legendary bassist Carol Kaye. I even had the privilege of taking a bass lesson from her at her home in California. Here are some photos from that visit.
In my devotions at home, I especially enjoy singing the Psalms.
On August 14, 2011, I joined the Catholic Church. I had previously been a member of the Anglican Church and was a non-denominational evangelical Protestant before that. Why did I do such a crazy thing? I wrote an explanation for those who are curious.
After I joined the Catholic Church in Japan, I discovered that my interest in Japanese history, culture, art and Christianity all came together when I read about the Japanese Kirishitans. Here is an article I wrote which focuses on the Kirishitans in Tokyo.
I was trained at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh in the 1970s, and worked for many years as a professional graphic artist in America and even managed to resume my career for several years here in Japan. I've also illustrated several books and magazine articles here in Tokyo as a freelance illustrator. It is very gratifying to create this kind of art, but my day job is no longer in this field, and freelance illustration jobs are few and far between these days.
Ever since I was in high school in the early '70s and saw a television series on the life of Leonardo Da Vinci, I have had a passion for sketching. (I now own a set of the videos of that series).
Now that I have lived in Japan for a while I have added a new name to my list of art heroes; Katsushika Hokusai. Like Leonardo he was crazy about drawing. Hokusai's main tool for sketching was brush and ink, and many of the places he sketched can still be seen in Tokyo. If you visit Tokyo and would like to see a few Hokusai landmarks, be sure to check out my Hokusai Landmarks page first. Finally, for no particular reason I have cut up and re-assembled one of Hokusai's most famous works, turning it into 3D art. I have uploaded it here for the fun of it.
I sketch almost exclusively with ink and watercolor. A few sketches of these can be seen in my online sketchbook.
I started a forum in 2005 called the Sketching Forum which is a place where you can get to know other sketchers from around the world and also share your work.
Ever since I was a child, I have always been fascinated with pen and ink, both for drawing and also for writing. I don't think I have gone a day in my life without ink on my fingers.
I love dip pens and fountain pens, especially ones with wonderfully flexible nibs. They are great for sketching, writing letters, or journaling.
One of the nice things about living in Tokyo is having the opportunity to visit various pen clinics sponsored by Japanese fountain pen makers. I have written about several of these events in the Tokyo Fountain Pen Scene pages.
When I was in elementary school, I received good grades in every subject except for handwriting where I got consistent "F's" (failing grades). My handwriting was too fast and undisciplined.
Like most people, after high school I gave up cursive writing altogether, and settled for printing (manuscript), but even this style has been illegible for most of my life.
So in 2002 I set out to slay this dragon from my childhood, and began to study and practice handwriting. I studied calligraphy, copperplate, Cursive Italic, and various styles of cursive handwriting including Spencerian.
I often use a dip pen when writing letters and journal entries at home. Although I am not yet totally satisfied with my handwriting, I have made progress. Here are some links to Web sites related to Penmanship.
I come from a long line of Stutlers who apparently came from Switzerland and moved to America in the 1700s, possibly after spending time in Germany.
My great grandfather was one of 12 brothers, the sons of Isaac Stutler (almost sounds like a Bible story). The Stutler family now has at least one branch in Japan (I have heard there is at least one other Stutler in Japan whom I have not met, possibly more). If you would like to see my family tree you can find it here.