39.Kawakami Shiro  At a Coffee Shop 2010

Kawakami Shiro painted the cover image of Vincent van Gogh for my book on the joys of solitary aging, Dokkyo Rojin Style (2013 Chikuma Shobo/Chikuma Bunko). He was born in 1930 in Asakusa Kiyoshima-cho, around the current Inaricho station, and worked for many years at the National Diet Library. He kept constantly busy with hobbies, and lived alone near Yokohama following the death of his beloved wife, Chieko, in December 2010. He did his own cooking, washing and chores, took classes in painting and calligraphy, sang in a choir and made oil paintings and photographs.

Kawakami was also a fifth dan in Japanese calligraphy, which he studied in Yokohama. However, he said: “Calligraphy is all about black and white, and that’s how I got hungry for colour and the female body. Until then, I had always thought figurative painting was too difficult, but after I started classes, I found I was getting pretty good.” When I first met Kawakami in 2012, he was already passionate about his painting. He held a series of solo exhibitions every couple of years around Yokohama, and published several books of his work at his own expense. Kawakami moved from his apartment into a care home a few years ago. He continued to enjoy his hobbies, but in September 2022 passed away from pneumonia caused by the coronavirus.