Celebration Under Water

celebration under water mural.

Photographer: Hunter Ridenour (2022)

Artist: Harumo Sato (@harumosato)
Year: 2018
Commissioned by: POW!WOW! SAN JOSE now SJ Walls

Note from SJWalls: "In 2021, out of respect for the indigenous community, we updated our name to San Jose Walls." However, the organization that is responsible for bringing internationally-renowned artists to San Jose is POW WOW World Wide. (updated 4/6/23 with added information about POW WOW World Wide discovered by a Contributor/Tour Guide)


Produced by California-based Japanese artist, Harumo Sato, as part of the 2018 San Jose Walls mural program, this colorful abstract, painted on the side of 35-year old Dac Phuc Vietnamese restaurant, is a testament to the fact that public art doesn’t have to focus on difficult histories or moments of trauma to be a site of protest and action. Playful, joyful, energetic, colorful, Sato’s work uses pattern, mythology and biomorphic forms to explore the artist’s vision for a more healthy and peaceful world, one that embraces the fact that chaos and challenges are meaningful and unescapable.

These goals are mirrored in the larger San Jose Walls program, which brings contemporary artists to San Jose yearly in a live festival of art, music and community engagement. Working with and among the community, artists create work in their unique personal styles and their chosen subject matter. The resulting murals not only enhance and brighten the experience of locals and visitors as they make their way around the city, but serve as sites of resistance to narratives of urban decay. Instead, created as accessible and highly visible art spaces, these murals invite all to consider the thriving and diverse communities that make up San Jose.

Public Art as Resistance

“Celebration Under the Water” recognizes the story of Vietnamese Americans in the Bay Area in depicting the moves beyond the narrative of the Vietnam War to show that there is more below the surface. Vibrant colors illustrate the pleasure of life that occurs beneath the turbulence of the waves above. While the focus of the historical narrative may be on the conflict and trauma from half a world away there is a broader more complex story of life, joy, chaotic order, and community. The mural challenges the viewer to resist focusing on the strife of the rough seas to see the community that can flourish when diverse peoples come together in an ecosystem of respect forming a symbiotic society. 

Continue Your Walk

As you walk to your next location, contrast the effervescence of this mural with the freeway that divides the city and elevates the automobile above the urban landscape but underpasses can be gateways, too. On the other side of Highway 87 is Delmas Park, a small neighborhood, defined in part by presence of a major regional transportation, Diridon Station and the future High Speed rail terminal.

Consider the changes from the bucolic South Bay of the San Francisco Bay Area to a sequence of occupants and ultimate intensification and dominance of urbanization. The vision is to deliver a world-class expanded transportation hub that integrates smoothly into downtown San José and the surrounding community– including the planned Google transit village– providing regional and statewide transportation links.

The next mural is underneath you along the river walk.

Additional Resources