Yoshitomo Nara was born in 1959 in Hirosaki, a city known for its traditional Edo Period (1603-1868) architecture and cherry blossom trees. The youngest of three boys of working parents, he spent much of his free time lost in Japanese comic books. ‘I was lonely, and music and animals were a comfort,’ he admitted. ‘I could communicate better with animals, without words, than communicating verbally with humans.’
In his teens, Nara moved to Nagakute to study art at the Aichi Prefectural University of Fine Arts and Music, eventually leaving Japan for Germany in 1988. At the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, where he studied until 1993, Nara became fascinated with Neo-Expressionism and punk rock; both of these movements would shape his artistic style, although he denies punk was his only musical influence.