This is the sixth in a 10-part series on influential figures in the Heisei Era, which began in 1989 and will end when Emperor Akihito abdicates in April. In Heisei, Japan was roiled by economic excess and stagnation, as well as a struggle for political and social reform. This series explores those who left their imprint along the way.

"You'll have seen his work, even if you don't know who he is."

That's pretty much how people who do know the Japanese artist Takashi Murakami end up explaining to the unenlightened just who he is — especially in Japan, where he should be a household name, but isn't.