Japan art and Yamamura Kōka (Toyonari): Meiji to Showa 

Japan art and Yamamura Kōka (Toyonari): Meiji to Showa 

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The Japanese artist Yamamura Kōka (Toyonari) was born in the Meiji Period (1868-1912) and died during the Showa Era. Hence, Yamamura witnessed the growing pains of nationalism, modernity, and the hope of more freedom during the Taisho Period (1912-1926). However, having died in 1942, his last years on this earth were impacted by endless war. 

His art is especially linked to kabuki and prints of maiko in the new Shin Hanga style (the modern version of ukiyo-e but more narrow in terms of artistic themes). He also produced more individualist styles of art. 

Scholten’s website says, “He studied with Ogata Gekko (1859-1920) and graduated in 1907 from the Tokyo School of Fine Arts in Japanese-style painting. In 1916, publisher Watanabe Shozaburo saw one of Koka’s actor paintings exhibited at Inten and asked to make a print from it. Watanabe subsequently published an important series of 12 okubi-e actor prints designed by Koka in 1920-1922.”

The kabuki style of his art points to the influence of Sharaku. Hence, the color scheme of his kabuki actors is extremely distinctive. 

The British Museum says he “Excelled at genre subjects. Produced designs for postcards, book covers, and prints; also produced designs for lacquerware and other craft objects.”

Yamamura isn’t the most famous Japanese artist of his day. However, he produced amazing art that highlighted a free independent spirit with enormous passion – when more experimental. Therefore, his legacy is higher than imagined for the lovers of Taisho art and the early Showa Period. 

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