“A passion for sketching whenever he had spare time”

By Michie Sasaki


Taiwa, my older brother-in-law, was a quiet gentleman. He was an artist, but he did not have the difficult personality stereotypical of an artist. If anybody met him for the first time, he/she would have had the impression of him as “a nice person.” He could not say “no” when asked to do something. He was on the heavy side when he was younger but lost a considerable amount of weight in his later years, partly due to a gastrectomy to treat his ulcer. Wine was his favorite drink, and I remember him drinking wine with his favorite botargo.


He was known as “Matsuoka the sketcher,” and his realistically detailed sketches were featured in fine-art textbooks for junior high and girls’ schools in the pre-WWII educational system. He used to say, “When others have spare time, they play mahjong, but I don’t do things like that at all. I’d rather sketch if I have spare time.” Like the “Tamamushi no zushi (the Beetle Wing Shrine),” the proclaimed oldest Urushi-e in Japan preserved at Horyuji, I think he was setting his goal of producing Urushi-e that could be viewed by many for hundreds of years.


The materials for Urushi-e available during Taiwa’s day as an active artist were quite different from those we find today. He was making considerable efforts and studying in order to achieve the colors for Colored Urushi, and I am certain that he would have enjoyed his artwork even more if he were alive today. Though he was commissioned projects such as wall paintings for the cabins on a cruise liner and the entrance hall of the Nara Prefectural Government Office (the details of which are outlined in the Profile section), my brother-in-law hated the thought of his artworks being scattered and lost. For that reason, I think the launch of the website is a perfect opportunity to reach a wider audience, and to introduce Urushi artworks. I am sure that my brother would be thrilled with this opportunity. I sincerely hope that one day you’ll have an opportunity to view his original artworks in person.