Koho Yamamoto, Sensei
KOHO Yamamoto is the founder and only teacher of the Koho School of Sumi-E. For 40 years she instructed students at 64 MacDougal Street (corner of Houston), before closing in 2010 and proceeding to conduct classes from her home in Soho New York City till this day.


At age 97, KOHO YAMAMOTO continues to produce her dynamic sumi-e brush paintings, while teaching and inspiring a new generation of sumi-e brush painters.

Her work, described as “fantastic dark landscapes” and “exceptionally beautiful” by Art News and Isamu Noguchi respectively, was profiled in a feature by The New York Times and is available for museum and gallery presentation or acquisition.

Her style of painting ranges from expressionistic landscapes to bold, energetic black & white abstractions displaying the artistry of an active and accomplished painter trained by Chiura Obata, whose own landscapes were recently displayed at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Yamamoto founded the Koho School of Sumi-e in Soho, New York, where she instructed students in traditional Japanese brush painting technique for almost 40 years until 2010. With the school’s closure, Yamamoto was featured in the Times’ articles, “An Endangered Japanese Art Form Loses Its Outpost in Soho” and “Reflections on a Stilled Paintbrush”. In 2013, Nippon Television Network (NTV) aired a documentary on her life and art.

Yamamoto has exhibited in numerous solo and group exhibitions over her long career, with her most recent solo exhibition showing at The Galleries at the Interchurch Center in 2012. She also taught at Columbia University, New York University, Parsons School of Design, the Japanese American Society, the Nippon Museum and other institutions.

Born in San Francisco in 1922 as Masako Yamamoto, she along with her family was forced to move to the Topaz War Relocation Center with the outbreak of World War II. At the Utah internment camp, she studied with the renowned artist, Chiura Obata, who was also confined there. In recognition of her skill and artistry, Professor Obata conferred upon her the name ‘Koho’, which is a Japanese tradition of denoting artistic lineage from masters to their outstanding pupils. Obata’s name translates to ‘A Thousand Harbors’ and Koho translates as ‘Red Harbor’. At the close of the war, Yamamoto moved to New York to study painting at the Art Students League and was awarded the Allen Tucker Scholarship. Many of her pieces reflect the abstract expressionist movement afoot at that time.

Koho School of Sumi-E is a personal, small class of sumi-e and calligraphy in the finest traditions of Far Eastern Art and Zen Philosophy. Individual guidance and instruction are stressed. Since the students have not experienced the Asian world, bamboo flute music is played to create a quiet and calm atmosphere in the class. Tea is served during the class and students are taught proper breathing and posture, as well as how to prepare the ink, hold the brush and finally back the paintings (ura-uchi). Classes average 4 to 5 students. The emphasis is on Notan; the art of achieving dark and light tones on white Sumi-E paper. This creates balance and rich emotional expression. Within a series of 10 weekly- 2 hour classes, the student can learn the basic techniques to paint the classic subjects, bamboo, pine, plum blossom, orchid and landscape.

With further study the student may intergrate watercolor with traditional ink painting and explore other expressive areas, such as abstraction.

Classes are held at Koho's private residence, so an advanced request to sign up for classes is greatly adviced as space is limited. The classes are held on Tuesday's and Sunday's, and can be easily reached by bus or subway and is in the Soho district.

All necessary supplies such as Sumi-E Papers, brushes, ink sticks, ink blocks, and brush holders are available for purchase at the school, but due to limited supply we advice you to purchase your own.


Sensei and several students
(Please confirm all classes a week ahead before attending)



 In the New York Art Review (1988), Koho Yamamoto was listed as one of the leading artists of New York. She has been commissioned by publishers, advertising agencies and television corporations for her distinctive style and skill in Sumi-E and Calligraphy.

For more information about Koho's work and the classes she gives, please contact her by email.

Email address: kohosensei@gmail.com