What can Tomioka Tessai teach you about work-life balance?
Look after your dear ones, bake, and don’t worry about business too much.
It is the winter of 1902. Imagine Tessai, who is this giant of art, this supreme artist, and this ingenious calligrapher. He has to put away the paper, put down the brushes, and put aside the Sake. Instead he has to take care of Haruko his wife. Haruko is sick, but getting better. Taking care of her could take all of Tessai’s attention. But he finds time to bake himself a cake; and he finds time to write this elaborate letter to Kondo Buntaro (1839-1918), one of his oldest friends, one of his major patrons, and one of his big collectors – and Buntaro is the manager of a sea food company. It may be surprising or not, that Tessai for once did not worry about his business at too much. – Look after your dear ones, bake, and don’t worry about business too much. That is what this letter stands for.
“The winter is rather warm at the moment. We enjoy such a season. At your home, your family must be fine… this is because of your good deeds, congratulations! My wife has been very sick, and she still is. However, gradually, she seems to be getting better. I am concerned that she doesn’t eat well. I have just received your kindness in the timely delivery of your presents. Everybody is happy. The other day, my older sister came to my house to see my wife. On her way home, so I heard, she visited you. Then, through her, you sent me a letter. Thank you very much. Kyoto is silent. As usual, I am busy. I have to take care of a sick person and I am spending my days in a tizzy. So, for now, quickly, I am writing this letter to thank you.” – With best regards, this 25th day of the 12th month, Tomioka Hyakuren.
The funori [glue plant, an edible alga] you sent, I have used it thankfully. The fish-shaped sponge cake was just splendid. I showed it to the one who is ill [Haruko, Tessai’s wife].
Regarding Mr. Ishizaki [Ishizaki Heihachiro, the owner of the sea food company Kondo Buntaro was working for a the manager] and his query about folding screens, I explained the method to him. Was he satisfied or not? – He never let me know. I don’t mind.