Born in Edo, Shosai learnt maki-e from Kobayashi Kozan, chositsu [lacquer carving] and inlaying mother-of-pearl from Gamo Morikazu and lacquering from Tochikura Toyojiro. He began his career as an inro artist at the Kiritsu Kosho Kaisha company. In 1890 he received a silver medal at the Universal Exposition in Paris, followed by the appointment of professor at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts. In 1906, he was chosen as an Imperial Artist.
His works are especially praised for their delicate togidashi-e and have entered a number of public collections including Tokyo National Museum (reference number: H-354, H-3492), the National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto (reference number: Lc0019, Lc0032) and the Baur Foundation, Geneva.
His son, Shirayama Shunpo (1886 - 1961) studied under Hashimoto Gaho (1835-1908), becoming a painter.