I have built a traditional japanese string instrument: a Satsuma Biwa
and this is the story how it was stolen from me by:
Jhon Victor Miura Hardy

If you have any information, help or contact ...,
please let me know!


In the first weeks of my stay in Japan from 1992 to 1993, which had been supported by the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service), I became acquainted with a young man, Jhon Victor Hardy-Miura, and we quickly got along with each other and became friends. Jhons mother is Japanese and his father is from the USA. Jhon was student of one of the most famous and world wide known Biwa players of Japan, whose name is Ms. Tsuruta Kinshi.

The Biwa is a traditional string instrument, remotely comparable with the Lute. Its origin goes back to Gautama Buddha, it is said that he presented this string instrument to a blind student in order to spread his teachings, the sutras, accompanied by the biwas sound and music.

During my one and a half year stay in Japan, Jhon and I saw each other often, extended our philosophical discussions, and became good friends. Jhon and I opened my Art-exhibition in Japan with an experimental music performance (look at: Tan - The Golden Mirror in www.silent-light.de), and Prof. M. Radt opened the exhibition with an introducing speech. At this time the idea grew in Jhon to come to Stuttgart as a guest student at the State Academy of Art and Design Stuttgart, in order to build a Biwa of his design. Professor M. Radt and I wanted to support him in that. After my return from Japan in autumn 1993, I received a two year state scholarship for a project, and at the same time started to look, together with Prof. M. Radt, for an official approval for Jhons' stay as a guest at the Academy starting spring 1994. Jhons intention was to stay in Stuttgart for a couple of months to build a Biwa; we wanted to support and teach him the necessary craftsmanship.

Shortly before his coming, Jhon told me that he could only stay for three weeks; however, he wanted to build a Biwa in order to get a scholarship for a longer stay, which had been promised him. His attitude was that if Musashi (Miyamoto Musashi 1584-1645), a well known Samurai, was able to build a Biwa in three days, he himself would of course be able to build a Biwa in three weeks' time.

Right after his arrival I spoke with Jhon about how to carry out that project and asked him to draw an exact draft, including the front elevation of the Biwa. It was quite disillusioning to see that Jhon was not able to draw any draft, nor had he any clear vision of what he wanted to do and how. It was foreseeable that he would not be able to perform it by himself. The first day in the wood working studio of Mr. Lutz at the Academy was again disillusioning; Jhon had no skills and experience in woodworking which he had told me while in Japan, he does. He clearly did not have any talent in working with wood and, in fact, appeared to have two left hands in this craft.


To help him receive a scholarship and because of my sincere feelings of friendship to him, I took it up to build the Biwa.

I built the Biwa in two and a half weeks completely alone. Jhon was not even able to produce the most simple parts of the Biwa, he excused himself, for example, by telling me that he would have to spare his fingers because he would have a concert right after coming back to Japan. His interest was more on the young female students of the Academy, while I built the Biwa.

I generated the Biwa alone and gave it to Jhon as a loan to take it to Japan and permitted him to play on it. We prearranged that he would have to bring my Biwa back to me to Stuttgart any time on my wish. Jhon wanted to show my Biwa to his teacher and present it together with his application for the scholarship. By the way as far as I know, the production of Biwa it a dying trade in Japan; at the present there is only one master left who can built this instrument. Jhon left Stuttgart with my Biwa in spring 1994, then a wicked web of lies, calculated tricking and finally outrageous assertions and impudences began.

Since summer 1994 I try to get my Biwa back, after I succeeded to look through the pack of lies. Jhon came back to Stuttgart a couple of times to learn in the wood working studio of Mr. Lutz at the Academy. I constantly urged Jhon to bring my Biwa back. He avoided this duty with contradictions, excuses and unreliability. In September 1994 I received a letter from him; he wrote: " ...This Biwa is shit!! It sounds like shit!! It looks like shit!! Waste of time! ...", he stated these were the words of his teacher Ms. Tsuruta Kinshi.

Please note that before Jhon left Germany in spring of 1994 with the completed Biwa, he examined the instrument and was satisfied and delighted about its sound, its tone, colour and volume.

All the letters I wrote since 1994 to him were replied with excuses and later on with impudent statements; at the end he didn't answer and warded them off and had them sent back to me. Some of my letters I sent via registered mail; they came back, too, partly with Jhons handwriting on the unopened envelope. I still have these letters.

In 1996 during his stay in Stuttgart, I finally confronted Jhon in front of the house of a friend of mine. In the ensuing debate I asked him frank and clear questions regarding his personal behaviour and wanted to know where my Biwa is. He became impudent, insulting, intimidating, continuously trying to belittle me with arrogant and insulting words. He stated that he would have built the Biwa and said it would be his instrument and I would have no more rights to it and, furthermore he alone would decide on the Biwa, not me. I had a human being in front of me that I did not know anymore, his face was a greedy distorted mask which became alien to me.

I again let time go by and relaxed from that experience and tried to get in contact to other Biwa players who had been students of Ms. Tsuruta Kinshi. I received a hint and found a student of her in Amsterdam, whereby I learned the name of the teacher of Jhon who succeeded Ms. Tsuruta Kinshi after her death. It is Mr. Yukio Tanaka from Tokyo. I was told that my Biwa is in the house of Mr. Tanaka. I was able to get two names of other high ranked students of Ms. Tsuruta Kinshi, so: Ms. Kakujo Nakagawa and Mr. Kakujo Nakamura. I wrote to them, informing them of this problem and asking for their help, requesting a reply. I complied to their request for more information about me and my artwork, so I send them information (catalogues and CD) to Tokyo.

I never received any reply from the above, nor the letters and emails I had also sent to Mr. Tanaka.

When I threatened to inform all Biwa schools and further museums in Japan and on international scale about this story, I finally received a reaction from an English speaking student of Mr. Tanaka, that Mr. Tanaka has not had any contact with Jhon, does not know his whereabouts, nor where my Biwa is.

That's the present state.

A disillusioning experience with Japanese tradition and human consciousness.

This information will be sent to schools for Biwa playing, Biwa masters and museums in Japan and international. I want this to be known to all related institutions and people, and would greatly appreciate your help in disseminating this very unfortunate story to all parties you feel should know about this. Thank you much.

If you have any information about my Biwa or have other helpful information, please contact me.

Stuttgart, 20. 12. 2000

Stefan Laug

Information about the State Academy of Art and Design Stuttgart: www.abk-stuttgart.de