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He was brought up in Tokyo and lived there all of his life. His workshop was in his home and all of the work was completed there.
In 1947, the first National Exhibition of Folk Art was held at the Folk Art Museum in Komaba, Japan. It was a black and white print in which the story of Ruth and Naomi was carefully depicted-- it began his interpretive journey of Biblical prints. Watanabe became the first recipient of the Japan Folk Art Museum Award.
The event sowed the seeds of Watanabe's artistic endeavor.
A few years later, Watanabe attended a study group in which Serizawa taught his katazome technique of stencilling and dyeing, which originated in Okinawa.
Watanabe was famous for his biblical prints rendered in the mingei (folk art) tradition of Japan.
As a student of the master textile dye artist Serizawa Keisuke (1895–1984), Watanabe was associated with the mingei (folk art) movement. He dropped out of school at an early age and became an apprentice in a dyer's shop.
During his adolescence, he worked as an apprentice in a fabric dyeing shop under the renowned textile artist Keisuke Serizawa.