Taikan, whose grandfather and father worked as surveyors and cartographers, had intended to pursue the same career path. However, hearing that Tokyo School of Fine Arts, a state-sponsored educational facility for training artists, was to be established, he became interested in a path to become a painter. It was then that he held a Japanese painting brush for the first time, and in 1889, entered the school as part of its first-year class.
Under the tutelage of the school’s first directer, Okakura Tenshin (1863-1913), Taikan experimented with a technique of expressing light and air without using outlines. Although this style was harshly criticized and called mourou-tai (“blurred style”) within the art world at the time, Taikan, along with Hishida Shunsō (1874-1911) and Shimomura Kanzan (1873-1930), contributed to the innovation of Japanese painting.
Taikan was known as a big drinker. His three daily meals consisted mainly of sake accompanied by small side dishes. During his prime, he is said to have drunk one sho (1800ml) of sake a day. In 1956, he fell gravely ill, but recovered when he had a sip of sake through a straw. For two years that followed, until his death at age 89, he created a few dozen more paintings.