Inoue Yasuji (井上安治)

Yasuji INOUE (date of birth unknown, 1864 - September 14, 1889) was a woodblock artist in the Meiji period. There is a theory that his name is pronounced Yasuharu. Depending on his works, his signature was written as "安次", "安二" or "安はる". His real name was Yasujiro (安次郎).

He was born as the first son of Kiyoshi INOUE in Asakusa Namiki-cho (present Kaminarimon 2-chome, Taito Ward). His father was born to a brocaded fabrics wholesaler, and then moved to Edo from Kawagoe to run a kimono fabrics dealer. In his childhood, he was apprenticed to Yoshitoshi TSUKIOKA temporarily and then became a disciple of Kiyochika KOBAYASHI at the age of 15 around 1878. According to the legend, when Kiyochika was sketching a snowscape of the riverside of the Sumida-gawa River from Mukojima on a snowy day, Yasuji watched him sketching so intently for nearly two hours that Yasuchika spoke to him, which made Yasuji become a disciple of Kiyochika. Two years later, he made his debut as a woodblock artist and, like his master, did excellent works in Kosenga (a style of print that incorporated Western-style perspective, an effect of light and gradation of shadows in traditional ukiyo-e). His representative work was "Tokyo Meishoe" (Tokyo landscapes) (which does not have a formal name and is also called "Tokyo shinga meisho zukai"). After that, he turned to genre painting in 1884 and changed the appellation to Tankei INOUE. He drew Nishikie (colored woodblock print) on the themes of Imperial family and the issuance of the Constitution of the Empire of Japan, but did not do more remarkable works than in Kosenga. While his marriage to a relative of his family was arranged, he died of beriberi at the age of 26 in 1889. Mourning his death, Kiyochika made an offering of poem on the altar: "A stick got broken, I got weak, Moon in fall".

Moreover, "YASUJI Tokyo", the Hinako SUGIURA's comic was created in the motif of Yasuji's paintings.

Representative works

Tokyo Meishoe (Tokyo landscapes)
It has 134 pieces in total. After Kiyochika KOBAYASHI suddenly stopped drawing Kosenga in 1881, this was created by Yasuji who took over Kiyochika's work. The handover was successful and a large volume of paintings were created continuously for eight years. 60 pieces, i.e., nearly half of all the pieces, were basically copies of Kiyochika's works, however, Yasuji modified them to be simpler through omitting people and backgrounds since the painting size was reduced to about a quarter of the original painting size, the postcard size. Unlike Yasuchika showing vestiges of the Edo period, Yasuji devoted himself to realism capturing the beauty of landscapes directly from scenes viewed by himself, and succeeded in depicting Tokyo changed from Edo although his paintings were created in the early Meiji period.

[Original Japanese]