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Emperor The changes in Japanese society, accelerated during the war with Russia (1904-5) became really profound during WWI. There was an economic ôwar-boomö between 1915 and 1920, and in twenty yearsĺ time Japan was transformed from an essentially agricultural society into an industrial one. In 1895 12% of the population lived in the cities, whereas in 1920 more than half lived there. Japan had become an urban society. Different standards of living developed: urban vs. agricultural, but also rich vs. poor. In both cases the differences were huge. Japan had become a capitalist society, where the poor masses were exploited and the rich became richer and more powerful every year. The poor did not take all this situation lying down: in 1918 there were rice riots because the price of rice had quadrupled in ten yearsĺ time (and the wages had not!). The power exercised by the government was so big and efficient that the example of the Russian Revolution couldnĺt be followed, although all the ingredients for a revolution were there in abundance. An example of the governmentĺs efficiency was that just enough reforms were implemented to keep revolution at bay.
Japanĺs growing power and influence met with a lot of resistance abroad. For Japan it was very difficult to be accepted as a major player in international politics: during the Versailles conference at the end of WWI Japan failed to obtain the Racial Equality Clause in the Covenant of th League of Nations. Japanĺs growing influence in Korea and in the Chinese mainland was resented and obstructed wherever and whenever possible. Japan became more modern every year, but its problems grew proportionally as well.
This decade also witnessed the death of the Meiji emperor (on July 30th 1912), and the start of a new era, the Taish˘ (Great Righteousness) era, which would last until 1926. The Taish˘ era is often seen as a kind of Golden Age, comparable to the Roaring Twenties in the West. It is true to a certain extent, especially with respect to art and culture. A cynical comment might be that the rich are always well-off, in whatever era they live.

Artistic developments

This decade of course witnessed the birth of S˘saku Hanga as an art form. A lot of different factors and developments coincided: in 1910 a group of young intellectuals started the magazine Shirakaba (White birch), which continued publication until 1923; primarily a literary magazine it was also a meeting point for all people guided by idealism, individualism and liberalism. In the same year Minami Kunz˘ (1883-1950) returned from a period abroad, and undertook a series of woodblock prints, which he carved and printed himself. These were exhibited in 1911, and this was the first exhibition of ôcreative printsö ever held in Japan. In 1915 there was en exhibition of German Expressionism, mainly consisting of woodblock prints. It had a huge impact on all young Japanese artists. A few very young artists, Onchi K˘shir˘ (1891-1955), Fujimori Shizuo (1891-1943), Tanaka Kiy˘kichi (1892-1915) had started the magazine Tsukubae in the previous year, while they were still students at the Tokyo Art School.

Tobari Kogan, Student girl

The ranks of these talented artists had been joined by Tobari Kogan (1882-1927) and Takehisa Yumeji (1884-1934), who also made hanga in this decade. In 1916 Ishii Hakutei (1882-1952) and various other artists of the H˘sun group started with an ambitious project, Nihon fűkei hanga (Japanese landscape prints), consisting of 10 sets of 5 prints each, which were published beteen January 1917 and April 1920.
Hirafuku Hyakusui, Naruko, 1917 Morita Tsunetomo, Kawakami Onsen, 1917

Then, in June 1918, the Nihon S˘saku-Hanga Ky˘kai (Japan Creative Print Association) was founded by Yamamoto Kanae, Tobari Kogan, Oda Kazuma and Terasaki Takeo. In the following year an exhibition of 189 works was held in the Mitsukoshi department store, which was very successful.
Since the first exhibition of Minami Kunz˘ĺs work in 1911 only eight years had passed, and in that short period S˘saku Hanga had established itself as an art form, and woodblock prints were no longer looked upon as simply a means of reproduction, performed by a skilled craftsman. However, among the artists there were differences of opinion from the start: one of the points of disagreement was if an artist had to personally perform all the steps necessary for the production of a print: making the design, carving the block(s) and making the print. Some of the early pioneers thought it quite acceptable to use professional printers and block carvers when it suited them. This issue was never completely resolved. The orthodox, purist view that an artist was responsible for the entire print process was often abandoned, both before and after WWII.

Prints made in this decade:

Morita, Tsunetomo

Minami, Kunz˘

Fujimori, Shizuo

Hori, Yoshiji (堀義二)

Fujimori, Shizuo

Onchi, K˘shir˘

  Artists active in this decade,
who can be found on this website:

Fujiki, Kikumaro
Fujimori, Shizuo
Fukazawa, Sakuichi
Hiratsuka, Un'ichi
Ishii, Tsuruz˘
Kitazawa, Shűji
Koizumi, Kishio
Morita, Tsunetomo
Oda, Kazuma
Onchi, K˘shir˘
Tsuruta, Gor˘
Tomimoto, Kenkichi
Tobari, Kogan
Tanaka, Ky˘kichi
Sakamoto, Hanjir˘
Minami, Kunz˘
Hori, Yoshiji (堀義二)
Prints by artist
Abe, Sh˘ko  
Akiyama, Iwao  
Aoyama, Masaharu  
Asada, Benji  
Asaga, Manjir˘  
Asano, Takeji  
Asano, Yuichi  
Azechi, Umetar˘  
Binnie, Paul  
Brayer, Sarah  
Dantsuka, Gyor˘   
Ebata, Yoshiichi  
Fujiki, Kikumaro  
Fujimori, Shizuo  
Fukami, Gashu  
Fukazawa, Sakuichi  
Hagiwara, Hideo  
Hashimoto, Okiie  
Hatsuyama, Shigeru  
Hayashi, Waichi  
Hiratsuka, Un'ichi  
Hiroshima, Shintar˘  
Homma, Rie  
Hori, Yoshiji (堀義二)  
Id˘, Masao  
Inagaki, Tomoo  
Inatsugi, Junz˘  
Ishii, Tsuruz˘  
It˘, Kennosuke  
It˘, Ryosaku  
Ito, Takayoshi  
Izumida Koji  
Johnson, Lois  
Kadowaki, Shun'ichi  
Kamei, T˘bei  
Karhu, Clifton  
Katase, Kazuhiro  
Kat˘, Tetsunosuke  
Kat˘, Yasu  
Katsuhira, Tokushi  
Kawakami, Sumio  
Kawanishi, Hide  
Kawano, Kaoru  
Kawano, Sachi  
Kawasaki, Kyosen  
Kikuchi, Zenjir˘  
Kitaoka, Fumio  
Kitazawa, Shűji  
Kobayashi, Haruki 小林春規  
Kodama, Takamura  
Koga, Misao  
Koga, Nobuyoshi  
Koizumi, Kishio  
Konishi, Seiichir˘  
Kozaki, Kan  
Kristensen, Tom  
Kume, K˘ichi  
Kuriyama, Shigeru  
Kuroki, Sadao  
Kusaka, Satomi  
Lyon, Mike  
Maeda, Masao  
Maeda, T˘shir˘  
Maekawa, Senpan  
Makino, Munenori  
Matsubara, Naoko  
Minami, Kunz˘   
Miyao, Shigeo  
Miyata, Masayuki  
Miyata, Sabur˘  
Mori, D˘shun  
Morita, Tsunetomo  
Moritani, Rikio  
Murayama, Kank˘  
Mut˘, Kan-ichi  
Nagare, K˘ji  
Nakagawa, Isaku  
Nakano, Yoichi  
Nakayama, Tadashi  
Nara, Enami  
Nemoto, Kagai  
Nitta, J˘  
Nunomura, Shin'ichi  
Oda, Kazuma  
Ogawa, Tatsuhiko  
Ohtsu, Kazuyuki  
ďkubo, Yutaka  
ďmoto, Yasushi  
Onchi, K˘shir˘  
Ono, Tadashige  
Sait˘, Kimiko  
Sakamoto, Hanjir˘  
Sakamoto, Isamu  
Sasajima, Kihei  
Sat˘, Ch˘zan 佐藤 朝山  
Sekino, Jun'ichir˘  
Sewai, Koichi  
Shiba, Hideo  
Shima, Tamami  
Shimizu, Masahiro  
Shimozawa, Kihachir˘  
Shinagawa, Takumi  
Suzuki, Atsuko  
Tagawa, Ken  
Takada, Kazuo  
Takagi, Shir˘  
Takahashi, Shin'ichi  
Takeda, Gentar˘  
Tanaka, Kuniz˘   
Tanaka, Ky˘kichi  
Taninaka, Yasunori  
Tobari, Kogan  
Tokuriki, Tomikichir˘  
Tomimoto, Kenkichi  
Tsukamoto, Shigeru  
Tsukamoto, Tetsu  
Tsuruta, Gor˘  
Uchida, Shizuma  
Ueda, Gagyű (上田, 臥牛)  
Ueda, Yoshifumi  
Wakayama, Yasoji  
Watanabe, Yoichi   
Yamada, Akiyo  
Yamagishi, Kazue  
Yamaguchi, Gen  
Yamaguchi, Susumu  
Yamataka, Naboru  
Yasui, S˘tar˘  
Yorozu, Tetsugor˘  
Yoshida, Hodaka