Japan art and Adachi Ginko: Meiji artist and prison

Japan art and Adachi Ginko: Meiji artist and prison 

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The Japanese artist Adachi Ginkō was born in the late Edo Period. Hence, Ginkō was a Meiji artist. He was extremely active between 1873 and 1902 – while his last known print was published in 1908. However, it is unknown when Ginkō died – therefore, he might have given up on art or lived on his laurels – or passed away.

Interestingly, Ginkō refused to be silenced by the Constitution that sought to protect the ruling elites from satire or ridicule. Thus, in 1889, Ginkō was sentenced to twelve months in prison. 

His crime was to depict the Emperor of Japan disrespectfully. Hence, Ginkō’s depiction of the Emperor, a new constitution, and mocking of the representative government led to prison. Therefore, he was sentenced to a fine and one year in prison. 

Ginkō’s artistic themes include actors, bijin-ga (beautiful ladies), landscapes, the military, and contemporary triptychs connected to the Meiji Period (1868-1912). He also produced satirical portraits of the ruling elites. 

He studied under Goseda Hōryū and Ginkō’s earlier work highlights the influence of Toyohara Kunichika. His teacher Hōryū focused on aspects of Western art.

From a historical point of view, Ginkō’s art of the Boshin War, the Satsuma Rebellion, and the First Sino-Japanese War – and much earlier historical events – are a window into Japanese history.


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