Yoko Toda was born in Mie, Japan, not far from the ancient capitals of Kyoto and Nara. There is a very important Buddhist temple in her hometown. As a child, she often played in the temple and its garden instead of the kindergarten playground preferring to explore its grounds.
Toda also spent much of time with her grandparents. Her paternal grandfather was an amateur painter, and maternal grandfather used to take photographs with glass film in the 1920s. Being around them encourage her creativity. The camera became her first vehicle of expression. As an art student at the age of 19, she was enthralled by the conflict of the Vietnam War. Photojournalists such as Robert Capa fascinated her, and she was determined to travel to Vietnam to embark on her own documenting the project.
On Toda’s first photographic adventure, she travelled through Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), and continued her expedition to Cambodia. In the jungle, she found the peaceful and powerful atmosphere at Angkor Watt to be reminiscent of the hours she spent at the Buddhist temple in her childhood. The pictures she took at this time, she can say “capture the unique spirit of the place”.
This would ultimately lead to the beginning of her artistic career. As she looked back at how Angkor Watt suffered through the Cambodian massacres of the 1970s, she lived the weight of their tragedy in a place such important memories. Seeing the way her camera became a witness to peace before a time of horrific. She was inspired by the significance art could have.
After Toda finished her university studies in Japan, she started traveling the world, eventually settling in Milano, Paris, and then in New York. It was at this point that she also began to channel her energies into the medium of painting. She has been painting ever since.