Kikuchi Yosai (菊池容斎)

Yosai KIKUCHI (November 28, 1788 - June 16, 1878) was a Japanese-style painter from the end of the Edo period to the beginning of the Meiji period. His original family name was Kawara. His actual name was Ryohei or Takeyasu.


He was born as the second son of Senzo Takekichi KAWARA, a samurai in low class of Nishimaru of bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun), in Shitayachoja-machi of Edo. His father was an adopted son from the Kikuchi family and it is said that he was a descendant of Taketoki KIKUCHI, a vassal of the extinct Southern Court, according to the genealogy. He succeeded the Kawara family instead of his brother who had died early at the age of fifteen, but when his father's family lost their heir at the age of twenty-eight, he regretted the abolishment of this important family, made his sister take a husband, and made him succeed the Kawara family and restored the Kikuchi family at the age of thirty-eight after his retirement. After that, he began to identify himself as Takeyasu KIKUCHI. It is said that he adopted the name 'Yosai' as his go (byname) in order to admonish himself for his character, which was too strict to show mercy to others.

While he had loved to draw since he was a child, his father would not allowe him to learn how to paint. But after seeing the portraits of his parents which he drew at the age of sixteen, his father recognized his talent for the first time and gave him permission to study. He learned from Enjo TAKADA since 1805 and also learned painting from the Kano school and Nanpin style. After the death of Enjo, he did not learn from any teacher and tried to pick up the techniques from various schools while keeping with what he had been taught. His life was not easy, but drew big pieces such as 'Picture of Abokyu Heisen' and 'Ryogo Jintei wo Tsukuru E' (picture of making Ryogo jintei) through financial support from Kugai, hatamoto (a direct vassal of the shogun) and the governor of the Inaba Province who recognized his talent. Kando HAKURA was a fellow student of the arts.

He began to produce the work "Zenkenkojitsu" (Ancient Wisdom and Old Customs) from 1825 and completed it in 1836. This consists of ten volumes and 500 distinguished people's portraits in Japanese history from the era of the Emperor Jinmu to the era of the Emperor Gokameyama with a short biography or poem above each portrait. This is representative of Yosai's interest in history and his sprit of reverence for the emperor and patriotism. It was published on September 1868. When the Emperor Meiji changed the capital to Tokyo, Sanetomi SANJO, udaijin (minister of the right), and Michitomi HIGASHIKUZE, Sachujo (Middle Captain of the Left Division of Inner Palace Guards), showed it to the Emperor, and Yosai was given the title of 'nihongashi,' or painter of Japan. According to a theory, it was presented to the Emperor Komei before publishing, which triggered him to give the title of god to WAKE no Kiyomaro. In 1874 he drew the two volumes of 'Tosa Nikki Emaki' (picture scroll of The Tosa Diary). He contributed his work to the National Industrial Exhibition in 1877, and was given the best Ryumon hosho (Ryumon prize). He died at home in Kanda Otamagaike.

Fuko MATSUMOTO and Seitei WATANABE were his students.

[Original Japanese]