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On John Matsudaira

“Times Square, Seattle,” 1952.


John Matsudaira 1922 2007


By David Yamaguchi

The North American Post

With the arrival of September, most of us find that some of the things we had planned to do during the summer just didn’t get done. For me, penning something about the “Against the Moon: The Art of John Matsudaira” exhibit, which was at the Cascadia Art Museum in Edmonds all summer, is one such item.

Still, sometimes the adage, “Better late than never,” applies. In this case, the extra time let me mull over what I saw there, on a day when locals were enjoying ice cream and basking in the warmth of the sun at the beach nearby.    

The main thing that struck me was Mr. Matsudaira’s talent. Why had I never heard of him before?

A wounded-in-action Nisei veteran, later a Boeing draftsman by day, Matsudaira was the kind of ordinary-extraordinary person that I would have liked to have met.

As with many Northwest Nikkei artists, Matsudaira’s talent was fostered by having spent time growing up in Japan. There, the art-rich culture fosters a higher level of development of art in the average schoolchild than happens in the United States.

John Matsudaira was the kind of sensitive thoughtful person that should not be forgotten. If nothing else, he provides a tangible example of the men who served in the famed 442nd infantry battalion. Under fairer circumstances, his skills should have precluded him from serving in combat. Certainly the U.S. Army could have found a way to harness his talent.

As a Nikkei artist, Matsudaira is one that I would point out to current young people and say, “Here is an example of the kind of person who came before you. This is the level of skill that existed in the Seattle Japanese community before you were born, before there were such things as graphics software like Adobe Illustrator.”

If a few words here will help the name “John Matsudaira” live on Northwest Nikkei history, then I will have earned my keep for another week.

High Mountain Sleep Both oil on canvas


With Nisei artist peers 1952 From left Paul Horiuchi George Tsutakawa John Matsudaira and Kenji Nomura Zoe Dusanne an art gallery owner sits beside Matsudaira<br >All photos taken at the Cascadia Art Gallery exhibit by David Yamaguchi