Utagawa Toyokuni (歌川豊国)

Toyokuni UTAGAWA (1769 - February 24, 1825) was an Ukiyo-e artist who lived during the Edo Period. His real name was Kumakichi KURAHASHI. Toyokuni was born to a puppeteer who lived near Shibashinmei Shrine, Edo. He learned under Toyoharu UTAGAWA, the founder of the UTAGAWA school, and gained enormous popularity for his yakusha-e (a print of Kabuki actors) and bijin-ga (a print of beautiful women) in which his ideal beauty was portrayed. His tomb was in Koun-ji Temple in Mita-Hijirizaka (present-day Tokyo), but moved to Kamitakada (present-day Tokyo) in 1922.


Toyokuni brought a prosperity to the UTAGAWA school by educating many disciples toward the end of the Edo Period. Although Hiroshige UTAGAWA (an Ukiyo-e artist famous for Tokaido Gojusan-tsugi) also asked to learn under Toyokuni, Hiroshige was not admitted as the school was full of pupils.

Kuniyasu UTAGAWA

Kunimaru UTAGAWA


Kuniyoshi UTAGAWA

Successors of Toyokuni

The second Toyokuni was Toyoshige UTAGAWA who was a disciple and an adopted child of Toyokuni, and upon the death of the first Toyokuni, Toyoshige succeeded to the name as the second Toyokuni.

The third Toyokuni was Kunisada UTAGAWA, also a disciple of Toyokuni, and Kunisada proclaimed as the second Toyokuni in 1844, although the second Toyokuni (Toyoshige UTAGAWA) was already established.

The second Kunisada, a disciple and a husband of the first Kunisada's daughter, designated himself as the third Toyokuni in 1870, shortly after becoming the second Kunisada. This mix-up on the succession caused a heated debate, but the second Kunisada was finally appointed as the fourth Toyokuni.

The Sixth Toyokuni UTAGAWA

The sixth Toyokuni UTAGAWA (1903 - November 13, 2000) became a high-school student at the age of 93 and an university student at the age of 96, making headlines.

The sixth Toyokuni was born in Azabu, Tokyo Metropolis. His father was the second Kunitsuru (an Ukiyo-e artist). When the sixth Toyokuni graduated from a primary school, his father told him 'a painter does not need any academic education', which made him to give up seeking after a higher education. He run an export company of cameras during the wartime and the postwar periods.

Although the sixth Toyokuni dedicated himself to the Ukiyo-e painting after retiring from the business in 1972, he never forgot his dream to receive a higher education, which encouraged him to enter the evening Momotani High School in Osaka Prefecture in 1996 at the age of 93. He passed the entrance examination designed for working people of the evening class of Faculty of Law, Kinki University in 1999 at the age of 96. He raised a high goal of 'putting all the knowledge he had about Ukiyo-e into a doctoral thesis' and aimed for passing the examination of a graduate school at the age of 100, but he was found dead by his acquaintance in his bathroom in Higashi-Osaka City, Osaka Prefecture due to an acute ischemic disease. His age of death was 97.


"Yakusha Butai no Sugata e" (Portraits of Actors on the Stage: The Actor Yamatoya [Iwai Hanshiro])

"Ehon Imayo Sugata": a colored picture book which portrays the custom and manners of women in Machiya (long and narrow wooden row houses) and Hanamachi (geisha districts in Kyoto) during the Kansei Periods.

[Original Japanese]