Especially in temples and castles, Japanese sliding screens are one of the main attractions, bringing art and color to what might at first glance seem spare quarters. Born at the end of the warring Sengoku period, at the end of the 1500s, Hasegawa Tohaku rose quickly in the ranks of temple painters, especially of the Kano school. But Kano screen paintings were bright, almost garish, using gold and floral designs. Tohaku, though he produced a few pieces in the Kano style, branched out into his own, more minimalist style. His Pine Trees, a National Treasure of Japan, conveys a feeling of a cool breeze running through a pine grove with only rough brushstrokes, depicting only four trees. In this way, Tohaku drew upon earlier traditions in Chinese art, showing how, in simplicity, one can still convey the majesty of a landscape.
Tohaku produced a wide array of art. In addition to his minimalist Pine Trees, Tohaku painted Buddhist scenes, portraits, animals and landscapes. He vied with his old master Kano for the favor of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, one of the great kings of the war-torn Sengoku era in Japan.