April, 2017

This page is written monthly
by Harumi Okochi.
Sometimes Harumi's friends join.
We'd be happy if you look at
our previous issues.


Rohei's Nihonga of Sakura (Cherry blossoms)
part of Kakejiku

Artist of Nihonga
Rohei Tanabe

 「Nihonga (a Japanese type of painting generally using crushed mineral pigments mixed with a natural liquid adhesive and applied with sumi ink outlines on top of Japanese paper or silk)」

Trees and grass are fresh green swaying in the spring breeze.
This month I will show you some of my favorite paintings.
We have a hundred Kakejikus(a hanging scroll with a painting or a work of calligraphy) in Yoyokaku, since it is Japanese culture to hang a scroll on the alcove of the guest rooms. At each season, or depending on an occasion of happy or unhappy, we change Kakejikus. These paintings are Nihonga, Japanese paintings.
Now, I hang Cherry blossom Kakejikus in some of the rooms.
Soon I will change them to Peony in May, and then to Iris in June.
Huh! I am busy!
I believe that the Kakejiku is the greeting from the host to the staying guests, just like we do in Tea ceremony to welcome the guests.
That is a silent message."Shall we share this important moment of this splendid season?

Among the many, I have eight Kakejikus painted by Rohei Tanabe.
Masaru Tanabe (art name Rohei Tanabe) was born in Karatsu in 1900, graduated from Karatsu Highschool , and went to Tokyo Art School, that was the only National Art School at that time of Meiji Era. (founded in 1887)
He was doing well as a Nihonga artist, but Destiny did not smile at him. He lost his beloved wife Yuki, and to save his three children from the air-raid of B29 in the war, he returned to Karatsu with his children.
He taught painting at his mother highschool for a short while, and by the re-marriage to Saka Noda in Kyuragi, a small town near Karatsu, his family lived a quiet life of countryside.
After the war, everything changed and was westernized. Painting of traditional Japanese style did not sell well.
His wife Saka, a midwife, worked day and night to support the family.
After highschool, two sons Kentaro and Yasuo went to Tokyo to live their own life, and the youngest girl Michiko also went to her brothers.
Kentaro died young to Rohei's great grief.
Rohei died at the age of 70 in 1970. His wife Saka survived him 27 years.
Now Rohei and Saka sleep together in Kanagawa Prefecture where Rohei's second son Yasuo lives.

My husband's father, the late Hitoshi Okochi, was a highschool friend of Rohei's about a hundred years ago.
Father bought some Nihongas from Rohei probably at Rohei's hard time
These were made into Kakejikus, which I love so much. Rohei's green, a traditional Japanese green, attracts me deeply.
Please enjoy meeting Rohei's green (Malachite green) of Nihonga.
*Sorry for the poor skill of photograph. I can not do lighting in a proper way. The real painting's green is much bright.
This is how we hang a scroll in the tokonoma Alcove
A scroll, incence burner, flower
A mountain of legend
Hirehuri-yama in Karatsu is called Kagami-yama now.
Niji-no-matsubara Pine forest in Karatsu,
near Yoyokaku
Roses and cockerels
Rohei's sign and seal
The place where Rohei was born is a flat land now.
Matsuura River and Mt. Kagami
The legend mountain Hirehuri-yama
The brush washing water container which Rohei used.
Kentaro's Suzuri (Ink-stone)
Rohei carved Kentaro's name at the bottom of this Suzuri.
This suzuri, Rohei used until his last days
as the memorial of his dead oldest son.
This house was Rohei's residence 50 years ago.
Rohei's wife Saka lived here until 1997.
It was sold to the new owner.
 Rohei, Saka (in Kimono), Saka's brother's wife,
and three daughters of Saka's brother.
Rohei was a heavy smoker, but not a drinker.

At Rohei's funeral
The left person is Rohei's second son.
He is with his family here.
Saka (center in mourning kimono)
Saka's brother Hatsutaro (next to Saka) was the person who supported Rohei's family much.

Storks and pine tree
This work is now at the Kyuragi Branch
of Karatsu City Office.

Peony (part of Kakejiku)
The river and a bird
This picture is decorated
at the Community Center of Kyuragi
Manabu Ikeda's Exhibition Sign Board
at Saga Art Museum.(until March, 2017)
Saka Tanabe's niece Noriko's son Manabu Ikeda
is a world renowned artist now.
 A Nihonga artist dreamed a world, but the time was changing. Nihonga was not in fashion any more in the rapidly westernizing society after war. Japan tried to follow America in every detail of life style. Nihonga, Kakejiku, Byobu, these became now useless things.
 He came back to his home town Karatsu, and at this moment, his ambition as a painter was crushed down.
Now, a young artist, who was born in this district, was suddenly spot-lighted, and even before he realizes, he has become a sensational world topic of art.
Rohei Tanabe's dream was handed over to the younger generation. Saga Prefecture is proud of this new-born genius.
I hope I can introduce Manabu Ikeda's painting in a proper way someday.
Thank you for meeting Rohei Tanabe. I hope you are now a fan of Nihonga.

Thank you very much for joining me.
I hope you will visit us again next month.

 Mail to Harumi Okochi