Otaru museum to feature art by local condemned in Teigin Incident

by Keiji Hirano

Kyodo News

An art exhibition featuring watercolors by the late Sadamichi Hirasawa, who was sentenced to death over a 1948 mass-poisoning case known as the Teigin Incident, will open Saturday at the Otaru City Museum of Art in Hokkaido.

The highly acclaimed artist lived in Otaru, known for its canal, during his youth and influenced local watercolor painters there before his arrest over the notorious incident in which 12 people were poisoned to death at a Teikoku Ginko (Imperial Bank) branch in Tokyo.

“While it has been known that the art world in Hokkaido was created by those who were trained by Hirasawa, we could not present the historic fact through his real works” because many of them were scattered and lost following his arrest, said the museum’s curator, Nanae Hoshida.

Hirasawa’s adopted son, Takehiko, has sought and found some of the lost works over the past two decades with the aim of restoring Hirasawa’s name as a painter, and offered them for the exhibition. “Hirasawa depended mainly on realistic representation in drawing, for example, landscapes when he was young, and he gradually turned his eyes to those who live on the edge. Then he was influenced by techniques adopted by impressionists and Japanese-style painters,” Hoshida said. “We will be able to present his transition in successive periods in the upcoming exhibition.”

“It is good news that my father will be introduced in Otaru, his hometown, as a pioneer of the art world in Hokkaido, although many of his works still remain passed over in silence,” Takehiko Hirasawa, 51, said.

Takehiko Hirasawa has filed the 19th appeal for a retrial with the Tokyo High Court to prove the innocence of his father, who died in a prison hospital in 1987 at age 95 after spending almost 40 years on death row.

Hoshida said the museum will focus solely on the artistic aspects of Sadamichi Hirasawa’s life, aside from the Teigin Incident itself and the ongoing attempt to reopen the case.

After he was arrested in August 1948, Hirasawa confessed to the crime during questioning but recanted and pleaded innocent in court.