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In Memoriam: Taku Sakashta

In Memoriam: Taku Sakashta

December 11, 1966 – February 11, 2010

by Tom Ribbecke

Originally published in American Lutherie #101, 2010

Besides making world-class guitars, Taku Sakashta was part of our local community of artists. In the blink of an eye he is gone, at the hands of a brutal career criminal. Nothing prepared us for the loss of our friend like this. It can really test one’s faith. He is survived by his wife Kazuko. As she worked with Taku, she now is bereft of an income as well as a husband.

Taku came to America and achieved the respect and admiration of his peers. As my former apprentice Isao Abe said about the Japanese culture, “The highest nail is hammered down first.” But here, Taku was an unstoppable lutherie force. He developed his own aesthetic and created extraordinary designs. As Rick Turner pointed out, Taku achieved his dream. Losing him is not easy. When an artist of his stature dies, so do the many guitars he certainly would have left to the world had he lived.

Taku would come to visit without warning. I would turn around and he would be standing in my shop in his apron, usually with one of his students or an assistant in tow. I used to tell him he looked like my grandfather Hideo (who later became Henry) and he would laugh. He would round up the Japanese apprentices from Ervin’s and my shop, and take them camping, or out for beers. He was really caring for this group of men, and was always there for them.

Photo by Jonathon Peterson.

So there we sat in the front row at Taku’s memorial service at the request of his family: Larry Robinson, Steve Klein, Ervin Somogyi, Rick Turner, and myself, with our 200 years of collective instrument making experience. I was honored to be in the company of these outstanding people, who all share the same love of the art and the craft of lutherie. My apprentices call us the “old Gs” of guitar making. It felt like we were burying one of our children.

The family did not want the media there. It was a small and lovely service, half in English and half in Japanese, honoring his life. Tuck and Patty performed, and we were treated to slides of Taku as a wild young man and as a little boy. This was the story of his life outside of guitars.

Taku was a remarkable, brilliant, unstoppable, unflagging force for lutherie. But I will always remember him as a better person.