“The rabbi at the South Hampton chabad reminds me it’s never too late,” he said cheerfully. “As many of the local tribesmen say, I’m 100% Jewish and only half Japanese.”
That he is planning a bar mitzvah came as news to his Jewish mother.
“If he’s made an appointment for this, dammit, I want to know about it!” she said over the phone. “Did he give you a date?”
I told her he was thinking late August, early September.
“Can you call me every week and tell me what my sons are doing?” she muttered, good-naturedly. “I have to find out from other people and news reporters.”
She is proud, of course, to have children in such demand.
“When he was six months old, I went to see a very powerful psychic and she said to me, ‘you have a young boy who is a very old soul and you will learn a great deal from him,’” she recalled. “After 32 years with this guy, I have to tell you she was spot on. He gives me guidance when I can reach him on the phone, but good luck with that.”
An artist known for her swift studies, Lynn was invited to Japan in 1973. She was drawn to emerging fashion designers like Rei Kawakubo and Issey Miyake and was soon under contract to American Vogue, which published her renderings of Japanese runway collections.
But it was her fascination with sumo that made her name.
“She was able to get access behind the scenes of that world, where she became famous drawing sumo wrestlers doing things that the outside world had never seen before—sleeping or training or eating,” Mr. Matsuoka explained. “Some of her most famous pieces are of top-ranked sumo wrestlers playing Gameboy.” A report on CNN described her as so well-known in Japan that her name was “synonymous” with sumo in that country.
Along the way, she married and had two sons with Kazutomo Matsuoka, a top-ranked sumotori. Fragmented years followed. The couple moved to New York to have their children, but split. Mother and sons returned to Tokyo, leaving their Japanese father to his new career on Long Island. She re-married.
“Then,” she said, “I moved the circus to Hawaii.”
Cue surf guitars.
“I feel like I became who I am today in Hawaii,” the strapping, 6’2″ Mr. Matsuoka said. “I studied Hawaiian language and dance and my brother and I were professional hula dancers when we lived there.”
“It just so happened that the only school in Hawaii that had a dormitory also had the best kumu—hula instructor,” he said. “All the coolest guys in school were hula dancers and it just so happened I fell in love with it.”
Mr. Matsuoka practiced traditional hula, sometimes wearing only a loin cloth that is “enough to cover your junk and your butt and that’s it,” he said. “Hula is a very sexual, sexy thing.”
So, is this a skill he might trot out for the bar mitzvah?
“According to the traditions of hula, you are only allowed to dance under the direction of your kumu,” he replied soberly. “So, the last time I danced was right before I left Hawaii.”
Given his bohemian upbringing, that seems kind of a let-down. His mother has a theory.
“Tora says all the time that I have helped him in life by showing him what not to do,” she said.