Born in Matsumoto City, Nagano Prefecture in 1888 (Meiji 21). His real name is Keiichi. He was introduced to woodcarver Yonehara Unkai in 1905 by his father, a puppeteer who saw his talent. At the age of 21, he was given the name “Nankai”. Okakura Tenshin, the leader of the Japan Art Academy, also recognized his talent for painting, and he left behind a wide variety of works, including not only sculptures but also Japanese paintings. He was highly trusted by his master, and after graduating from Unkai Juku in 1912, he continued to be a mainstay of Unkai Studio. He was involved in the creation of the head and other major parts of the statue of Nioh at Zenkoji Temple, as well as the finishing touches of the huge cavalry statue of Naomasa Matsudaira.
In 1930, he moved his base from Tokyo to Matsumoto, where he continued to exhibit his works at the Bunten and Teiten exhibitions while creating Buddhist statues, portraits, and festival stages. He continued to be active in Matsumoto until his death in 1959 at the age of 70, and devoted himself to the promotion of local art by establishing an organization for local artists and encouraging them to exhibit their works.
This is a large hall for wedding receptions that celebrated brides and groom’s new departure and it was designed and supervised by Nankai Ohta. The floor pillar on the left was carved by Nankai’s hand, with a hermit and a nymph placed around a peach tree. Based on the Chinese legend of the Queen Mother of the West, who is said to live longer if she eats peaches, the pillar is said to wish for long life. The floor pillar on the right depicts a carp climbing up a waterfall, a symbol of success in life, and it is said that Nankai added clouds to the top of the pillar to match the height of the pillar he received from a shrine carpenter in Suwa. The fans at the top of both walls are decorated with ornamental carvings of pine, bamboo, plum, and four noble families, and every corner of the hall is decorated with auspicious motifs suitable for celebrations.
The paintings that decorate the entire hall were done by Yokohama-born Japanese painter Reikyo Kaneko, who stayed in Japan for three years and eight months and painted the entire hall by himself. A picture of a crane is placed on the coved ceiling, and a picture of a turtle is placed on the waist board of the braided shoji. The center is covered with 106 ceiling paintings on the theme of “Hundred Flowers and Hundred Birds”. A white phoenix is painted on the ceiling of the stage at the entrance, and the background of the pine paneling is designed to change into a picture of cherry blossoms in full bloom when reversed. It is said that in the past, banquets were always accompanied by geisha, and the ryotei culture of Matsumoto has been handed down to the present.