Takashi Yokoyama, a director of Yokoyama Taikan Memorial Hall
We talked with Takashi Yokoyama, a director of Yokoyama Taikan Memorial Hall. This interview was conducted on October 28, 2016.
About Yokoyama's living in Izura, Ibaraki Prefecture
Q: You are a grandchild of Taikan Yokoyama. Could you tell me about his anecdotes when he stayed in Izura?
Yokoyama: He said that he went through the hardest time in Izura (1906-1908).
Q: I heard that Yokoyama occasionally visited Izura even after settling in Ueno Ikenohata. Did Yokoyma take his family to Izura?
There was his villa in Izura. He used to create paintings that would be exhibited at the Inten exhibition held in every September. He finished creating paintings a month prior to the exhibition, and rested quietly in Izura. He sometimes invited friends and acquaintances to the villa. Although we also went to the villa with Yokoyama, we stayed there for at most a month. We usually spent about two weeks in Izura. When I was a child, Yokoyama took me to Izura during school holidays. I heard popular songs for the first time during my stay in Izura. One of the songs was "Akagi no Komoriua" sung by Taro Shoji.
Q: Did Yokoyama have records?
He was a music lover. He had records, including those of "Tennessee Waltz" by Chiemi Eri and "Kaimono Boogie" by Shizuko Kasagi. He seemed to like singers who sang enthusiastically. He liked a type of singers who sang with their whole bodies. He did not have many classical music records, but listened to classical music on the radio. His records are still kept in a warehouse.
Before Yokoyama entered Tokyo Fine Arts School
Q: I heard that Yokoyama was enrolled in Tokyo English School before he began to study Japanese-style painting.
He took an entrance exam for the Preparatory School of the University of Tokyo after graduating from Tokyo Prefectural Junior High School (present-day Hibiya High School). He tried to become an architect. However, the examination system was changed. At that time, there were two schools in the University of Tokyo at that time: the Preparatory School and the English School. As a result of the system change, students could not take entrance exams for the two schools at the same time. He, whether knowingly or not, took an exam for the Preparatory School after taking an exam for the English School and passing it. There was a student who quarreled with another student at the examination venue. An examiner remembered the student when he took the exam for the Preparatory School, and revoked his qualification for taking the exam because the student also took the exam for the English School, which was the infringement of an internal rule of the school. However, the student claimed that there were also other students who took the exams for the two schools. As a result, all students, including Yokoyama, who took the two exams were deprived of their qualifications for taking the exam. Once he was jinxed, he never did it again. So he entered Tokyo English School. The school is now located in Setagaya City, and renamed Nihon Gakuen. Kafu Nagai and Shigeru Yoshida also attended the English school.
Q: Was Yokoyama interested in art and painting when he attended Tokyo English School? Did he enter Tokyo Fine Arts School because of his interest in art?
I think he had no interest in art. He heard that a national art school (Tokyo Fine Arts School) opened when he graduated from the English school. He thought his parents were also satisfied because it was a national school, so he decided to enter the art school. It was a mixed motive. I think he was enrolled in the art school because it was a national school, and he had no intention to study art. He had not studied art before deciding to enter the school. However, he seemed to like painting. I heard that he studied drawing under a Western-style painter called Bunzaburo Watanabe for two to three months. He planned to take an entrance exam for the department of drawing, Tokyo Fine Arts School. However, students who took the exam were very skillful. He thought that he had no chance to pass the exam, so he took an exam for the department of Japanese-style painting after hastily studying brush-and-ink drawing under a Japanese-style painter called Masaaki Yuki. Fortunately, he passed the exam. I heard directly from him that he was very surprised when he met other students in that department. Besides disciples of Hogai Kano, who were called the big four, there were many talented students in the department. Students were divided into the first and second classes. The first class was for skillful students, and the second for unskillful students. Of course, he fell into the second class. Tenshin Okakura became the president of Tokyo Fine Arts School after Yokoyama studied art in the school for about two years. Yokoyama asked Okakura to allow students in the second class to transfer to the first class. Yokoyama requested Okakura to conduct a test for transferring to the first class. Okakura accepted his request, and conducted an exam. As a result, he could be enrolled in the first class. Although many of students in the two classes were replaced after that, he continued to stay in the first class. Then, an exam for a special school, which is the present-day graduate school, was conducted, and he passed the exam as one of 16 examinees.
He created a painting titled "Sondo Eno wo Miru," or village boys and an old man look at a monkey, as his graduation work. In that painting, he depicted Gaho Hashimoto, a professor at the school at that time, as a monkey trainer, and his classmates as young boys. The painting earned the top award. Although it was called the top award, it got 80 points out of 100 points. It was very rare to get 90 points or higher. Tokyo University of the Arts (former Tokyo Fine Arts School) has still purchased art works that win the top award, and kept them. The painting created by Yokoyama is also kept in Tokyo University of the Arts. The painting is occasionally displayed at some exhibitions.
From the time when Yokoyama stayed in Kyoto to the time when he became an instructor at Tokyo Fine Arts School
Q: I heard that Yokoyama stayed in Kyoto, and studied art for several years.
Although Okakura and Hashimoto recommended Yokoyama to be an assistant professor at Tokyo Fine Arts School because he received the top award for his graduation work, Yokoyama was worried about living as an artist. Yukihiko Yasuda, a Japanese-style painter, said that the worst occupation by which one could not make a living is a painter, and that, if one became a painter, one would be disowned by one's parents. [continued in the right column]
Yokoyama also thought that, if he became a painter, it would be difficult to make his living. Therefore, he took a certificate exam for teacher. As a result, he made Okakura and Hashimoto angry about it, his standing at graduation was lowered to the second place from the bottom.
After that, he spent about two years looking for a job. By chance, he became an assistant professor at Kyoto Municipal School of Arts and Crafts (present-day Kyoto City University of Arts). He, along with Seiho Takeuchi, taught students at the school. However, he was commissioned by Kyoto National Museum to reproduce ancient pictures, so he left the teaching of students to Seiho Takeuchi. He wrote in his autobiography, "I put Takeuchi to trouble." "Kannon Enkaku-zu" and Buddhist paintings that he reproduced at that time are still kept in Kyoto National Museum. His reproductions compare favorably with the original pictures. I think the practice of reproducing old masterpieces sustained his career as a painter.
Q: Under what circumstances did Yokoyama come back to Tokyo?
Mugyu Enaka, a painter and friend of him, suggested him that it was better for him to get married because he taught at the municipal school and received an enough salary to make a living, so he met a girl who worked at a tea store with a view to marriage, and associated with the girl. However, the president of the municipal school also worried about him, and showed a picture of another girl, suggesting him to get married to the girl. He said to the president, "Thank you. But I was already introduced to a girl who is working at a tea store, and am now dating with the girl," but the president got very angry about it. As a result, he wrote a letter of resignation, and returned to Tokyo, thinking that he should find a marriage partner by himself. The president told Okakura that Yokoyama was an outrageous man, and that he quickly wrote a letter of resignation and returned to Tokyo. Okakura extremely worried about him, and appointed him as an assistant professor at the Department of Design, Tokyo Fine Arts School, because the post fell vacant by chance.
Q: Compared to Japanese-style and Western-style painting, design had a short history at that time, hadn't it?
Since he taught at the design department for the first time, he studied design, and created cover art and illustrations for books. I think this brought positive effects to composition of his paintings. Other professors, including Shunso Hishida, also created illustrations. This is a book on Rekko Mito published by Hakubunkan. Yokoyama was born in Mito, and his father and grandfather were clansmen of the Mito clan and engaged in drawing maps.
About paintings displayed in the memorial hall
Q: Could you tell me about a painting exhibited in Shokodo?
That painting is titled "Yujin Yochiari" (1914), which was created on the theme of a cook called "Hotei" who appeared in the story about Chuang Chou, an ancient Chinese thinker. Originally it was a pair of paintings. A cow and Hotei are depicted in the left painting. A kitchen knife is called "Hocho" in Japanese. It is derived from Hotei. The painting was created based on an anecdote in which, when Bunkeikun, an ancient Chinese king, was moved with admiration at Hotei's cooking skill, Hotei said that he did not cook with skill, but with spirit. As a result, Bunkeikun was further impressed, understanding the true way of life. Yokoyama also created this painting, bearing in mind he should not paint with skill, but with his heart. Okakura died in 1913. One of Okakura's wishes was to revive "Nihon Bijutsuin," or the Japan Art Institute, so Yokoyama exhibited this painting at the first exhibition of the institute.
Yokoyama did not make rough sketched of paintings. Generally, Japanese-style painters make small rough sketches in the first place, and then make full-scale sketches. When they create paintings, they copy the sketches. Yokoyama only made small rough sketches because he thought vigor of paintings was lost if he made full-scale sketches. So he drew directly with charcoals on Japanese paper or fabric. He recreated paintings if he could not express what he wanted. He used to touched up paintings little by little. He recreated "Yujin Yochiari" two times. There are some paintings that he recreated ten or more times. He destroyed paintings that he was not satisfied with. This painting is left because he forgot to burn it. I think, if he is still alive, he gets angry saying that a failed painting should not be exhibited.
Q: Did Yokoyama also create illustrations for the book that you mentioned earlier?
Yes, he did. He drew all illustrations for the book. He also drew illustrations of flasks and beakers for science textbooks.
Q: A rough sketch of "Seisei Ruten" is kept. Is it a rare case?
He always drew rough sketches, but they were small ones. Many Japanese-style painters make large sketches based on small ones, but Yokoyama never made large sketches. However, he made many drawings because he had studied drawing. He created some drawings when he visited Rome. [continued in the next page]
Takashi Yokoyama, a director of Yokoyama Taikan Memorial Hall