Upon hearing the news of musician Seiji Ozawa’s death, one image flashed through my mind: a picture of the conductor playfully sticking his tongue out at me during a photo shoot.

It was for a Japan Times interview with him back in 2017. I was asked to take pictures for a feature by classical music writer Chiho Iuchi, and I can still remember how nervous I was in the days leading up to it. My then-new mother-in-law was a huge admirer of Ozawa’s, and I worried that I’d never live it down if I blew the opportunity.

Weeks of mounting anxiety immediately evaporated upon entering his office in a quiet corner of Tokyo. Instead of the flurry of press agents laying down guidelines and requesting to review photos as I took them, as is often the case with high-profile subjects, I was greeted by a friendly assistant and led to a small room with an old piano and beautiful window light.