Taikan Yokoyama tried to create a new type of Japanese-style paintings.


A monument in honor of Taikan Yokoyama, which was built by Taito City, commemorating the 100th anniversary of renaming the capital as Tokyo, stands in front of the Yokoyama Taikan Memorial Hall. (erected in 1968)

International exchanges
 
Q: When did Yokoyama visit Rome?
 
  He visited Rome in 1930. He went to Rome in order to hold a Japanese-style painting exhibition. The exhibition was funded by Baron Kishichiro Okura. Baron Okura was a businessman who run Okura Shoji and other trading companies at that time, but it seems that Baron Okura had no contact with Italians. Baron Okura thought that it was a chance to introduce Japanese paintings and cultures to Italy, and tried to begin trading with Italy. So Taikan Yokoyama and Gyokudo Kawai, representing Nihon Bijutsuin and Nitten (former Bunten), respectively, chose paintings that would be exhibited in Italy.
 
Q: Did Yokoyama speak English when he visited Rome?
 
  He delivered a speech in English. There is a draft for the speech. I think Yokoyama was not confident about it, so he asked Yoshisaburo, a son of Tenshin Okakura, to revised the draft. Yokoyama also wrote letters in English. He used to write English words on his sketchbooks However, he did not say even to his friends that he could speak and read English. For example, when Ikuo Hirayama, an assistant at that time in Tokyo University of the Arts, and Seison Maeda, a professor in the same university, visited Yokoyama, they found English newspapers and magazines, including "New York Times," "Life" and "Reader's Digest," under his desk, and wondered why he had such magazines. Yokoyama talked about those newspapers and magazines, so they were surprised to know that Yokoyama could speak English. Later, I heard from Hirayama that Maeda talked to his students that they should study at least two foreign languages because Yokoyma who was born in the first year of the Meiji Period could speak English.
 
Q: Although Yokoyama was a Japanese-style painter, was his lifestyle Western-style?
 
  Not at all. He did not have even one suit. He said that, since there were excellent clothes, "Kimono," in Japan, it was appropriate for Japanese to wear Kimono. However, he used foreign-made painting materials even in wartime. All materials that he used, including pencils and sketchbooks, were made in foreign countries. He might be called "an unpatriotic man" at that time. However, he said that, if Japanese manufacturers could make painting materials that had the same quality with foreign-made ones, he used Japanese-made ones.
 
Q: Did Yokoyama always wear Japanese clothes?
 
  He went everywhere wearing Japanese clothes. When he went to the United States with Tenshin Okakura and Shunso Hishida, as well as when holding the exhibition in Rome, he wore Japanese clothes. Only exception was a full court dress. When he was invited to a ceremony held in Kyushu, he wore a full court dress because it was specified. However, he rushed to his friend's house, and threw off the dress, saying that there was nothing more stuffy than this. Then, he borrowed an informal cotton kimono from his friend, and went home, leaving the dress there.
  On the other hand, he socialized with many foreigners. For example, he formed a friendship with Tagore, an Indian poet, Blunden, an English poet, Claudel, a French diplomat, and Aixinjueluo Pujie, an Emperor of Manchukuo. However, when he invited them to dinner, he served them Japanese meals and sake. I saw him drinking wine or Western liquor, but not beer. As Yokoyama himself said, he could not drink at all when he was young. Okakura said to Yokoyama that Okakura did not teach art if Yokoyama did not drink sake. So Yokoyama, together with Shunso Hishida, a close friend of Yokoyama, practiced drinking sake. Okakura used to discuss art with his pupils, including Yokoyama and Hishida, while drinking sake all night. On such an occasion, when Yokoyama drank even 0.4 pints of sake, he felt ill, and vomited at a bathroom. When he returned to the drinking party, Hishida got out of the room in order to vomit, and came back to the room. As a result, Yokoyama became a heavy drinker.
  When Okakura was expelled from Tokyo Fine Arts School, Yokoyama was not still a heavy drinker. However, he said that he felt anger towards the Ministry of Education because they unduly dismissed Okakura, so he became desperate and temporarily drank a lot. Although all members of Nihon Bijutsuin resigned from Tokyo Fine Arts School, only four members, that is, Taikan Yokoyama, Chunosuke Niiro, Kogetsu Saigo and Kogyo Terasaki, were dismissed by way of disciplinary punishment. The other members took voluntary retirement. There is a record in a material stored in Tokyo University of the Arts that Hidemaro Yokoyama was dismissed in disgrace. It suggests that Yokoyama was an instigator who enticed the other members to resign. He deeply trusted Okakura. He said that, thanks to Okakura, he could create paintings.
  Michiaki Kawakita, an art critic, used to visit this house. Although Yokoyama did not like a critic, he met Kawakita, and used to drink together. Kawakita said that, on such an occasion, Yokoyama talked about Okakura in a dignified manner, so Kwakiwa actually understood how Yokoyama respected Okakura.
 
Q: Yokoyama had friendly relations with Indian people, didn't he?
 
  When Tagore, an Indian poet, visited Japan for the first time, he stayed in this house that was small at that time. He stayed overnight in a Yokoyama's studio. Since this house was too small, Tagore moved to Sankeien. When Tagore came to Japan for the second time, he visited this house again, and met Yokoyama.
 
Q: Did Yokoyama also visit India?
 
  Yokoyama was asked by Okakura to go to India, and study Indian art, so Shunso Hishida and he visited India, and stayed in Tagore's house. Yokoyama got knowledge of Indian art through Tagore. He stayed in India about one year, and then went to the United States.
 
Q: Did Yokoyama hold any exhibitions in the United States?
 
  Yokoyama and Hishida held an exhibition through the intermediation of Ina Thursby who was well-acquainted with Okakura. Thursby was also close to President Roosevelt. Yokoyama and Hishida's paintings sold very well. There is a catalog of the exhibition, in which prices of paintings and names of purchasers are listed. Although Yokoyama and Hishida were unknown artists even in Japan, their paintings sold at high prices, for example, Yokoyama's painting for 200 dollars, and Hishida's for 300 dollars. I wondered why people in Boston (even though they were wealthy) bought their paintings. Later, I found an essay about Yokoyama that was written by Victoria Louise Weston, a female graduate student in the United States, who studied art in Japan for about two years and obtained a doctor's degree at the University of Michigan, and understood the reason why their paintings sold well. The essay contained the catalog of the exhibition. It is common to add honorific titles to names of purchasers, but honorific titles were not used in the catalog. Since purchasers were acquaintances of Ina Thursby, they bought the paintings at their limits. With the help of Thursby, Yokoyama could sell his paintings at high prices, and obtained about 2,000 dollars. Yokoyama gave 1,000 dollars to Okakura. It seems that Okakura used the money to publish "The Book of Tea."
  Then, Yokoyama and Hishida went to Europe, held an exhibition and created some paintings before coming back to Japan. They published an essay about painting after coming back to Japan. They wrote in their joint names that, although our paintings were ridiculed as "Moro-tai," or hazy style, our paintings could be compared favorably with Western paintings.
 
Q: Did they establish "Moro-tai", being affected by Western paintings?
 
  I think so. Three-dimensional objects are depicted by lines in the traditional Japanese-style paintings. However, Okakura taught them to depict the atmosphere. I think they took a process of trial and error in order to find a way to depict the atmosphere. They scumbled colors and lines, and expressed perspectives using a scumbling technique. Although it was rare for Japanese-style paintings, they shaded objects. In such a way, they utilized the advantages of Western paintings. I think they tried to express, for example, the fragrance of flowers and something behind flowers rather than realistically depicting flowers. Once Okakura gave sutras to Yokoyama, Hishida and Shimomura, and told them to render the sutras in paintings. To create such paintings, they needed to study sutras. In such a way, Yokoyama and Hishida's paintings were upgraded.
 
Q: Yokoyama did not return to Tokyo Fine Arts School after moving to Izura, didn't he?
 
  He established Nihon Bijutsuin, which was equivalent to a present-day graduate school, so he did not come back to Tokyo Fine Arts School. Instructors who left Tokyo Fine Arts School and Gyokudo Kawai also participated in the foundation of Nihon Bijutsuin, and they tried to create a new art movement.
 
After settling in Ikenohata
 
Q: Did Yokoyama stay in this house in his latter years? Who were his family members at that time?
 
  Yes, he did. Since his house in Izura was totally destroyed by fire in 1908, he temporarily lived in a house in Shichiken-cho, Ikenohata. Then, he built a new house in Kaya-cho, Ikenohata (the site where this house stands now) in 1909 Although he rebuilt the house in 1919, it was destroyed by an air raid in 1945. The present-day house was reconstructed in 1954.
  Originally, Ochi (Genichiro) Fukuchi, a journalist, lived in this site. Although Ochi was very rich, he spent money wastefully, so he sold this land. Then, Masabumi Asada, a manager at Mitsubishi Shokai, bought the land. Yokoyama obtained about 990 square meters of the land, and built a house. Later, he bought another 400 square meters of the land. 
 
Q: Did you used to visit the first house in Ikenohata?
 
  No. It was during the Taisho Period, so I was not yet born. My family lived in Nishikata-cho. Only Yokoyama and his wife lived in this house. In the Meiji Period, Yokoyama's parents lived in Morikawa-cho, Hongo. I heard that Yokoyama and his wife lived in the same house as his parents in a certain period. [continued in the right column]

Q: Did only Yokoyama and his wife live in this large house? Did his pupils also live in this house?
 
  He did not take pupils throughout his life, saying that his paintings were not yet perfect. A pupil of Nanpu Katayama lived in this house as a receptionist.
 
Q: Was Nanpu Katayama not a pupil of Yokoyama?
 
  Nanpu Katayama looked up to Yokoyama as his mentor. Katayama's painting was shortlisted for the second prize at the Bunten exhibition held in 1913. Since no painting was selected for the first prize at the exhibition, examiners and personnel from the Ministry of Education, which sponsored the exhibition, checked on Katayama's past record, and found that Katayama's paintings had been never accepted for any exhibitions. As a result, they made a motion that Katayama did not deserve to be awarded the second prize, and that it was better to award the third prize to him. However, Yokoyama resolutely opposed the motion, saying that a prize for painting should be granted to a painting itself other than a person's career. Yokoyama did not concede a bit, and insisted that we should not grant any prize at all if a prize was awarded to an artist's career. Thereby, Katayama received the second prize. On the other hand, Yokoyama was removed from a board of examiners for the Bunten exhibition held in autumn of the same year.
 
Q: Did Yokoyma also revive Nihon Bijutsuin around that period?
 
  Okakura died in 1913. Yokoyama and Misei (later renamed Hoan) Kosugi, a Western-style painter, planned to establish an art institute before Okakura's death. Although Kosugi made a master plan for establishing the art institute, Yokoyama declined to participate in setting up the art institute because Okakura's wish was to revive Nihon Bijutsuin. Then, Kosugi agreed to help reviving Nihon Bijutsuin. As a result, Nihon Bijutsuin was revived based on the master plan that Kosugi made for the art institute. Kanzan Shimomura, Yukihiko Yasuda, Shiko Imamura, Misei Kosugi and Taikan Yokoyama played central roles in reviving Nihon Bijutsuin. Yokoyama and Shimomura borrowed 5,000 yen from Ihachiro Watanabe, the president of Tokyo Watanabe Bank, when reviving it. They used that money to buy land in Yanaka, built the building of Nihon Bijutsuin. Now, the office of the Inten exhibition is located on the site of Nihon Bijutsuin. The IOU is preserved in Kanagawa Prefectural Museum of Cultural History. They sold paintings of Yukihiko Yasuda, Shiko Imamura and Taikan Yokoyama, and paid the debt.
  Yokoyama submitted "Yujin Yochiari" to the first Inten exhibition, but a venue for the exhibition was not found. The Bunten exhibition was held in Ueno at that time. Fortunately, Mitsukoshi Department Store provided a venue for the Inten exhibition. So the first Inten exhibition was held at the venue. Since then, the spring Inten exhibition is held at Mitsukoshi.
 
Q: How was Yokoyama's everyday life?
 
  He had no selfish desire. He did not do anything for himself only. He bore the most expenses for Nihon Bijutsuin after Okakura's death. Later, when the statue of Okakura by Denchu Hirakushi was erected in Tokyo University of the Arts, the university had no fund to make a canopy for the statue. Yokoyama provided funds for the canopy, saying that he felt sorry if the statue of Okakura was exposed to the weather.
  Genji Matsuda, the Minister of Education at that time, visited Nihon Bijutsuin, and consulted with Yokoyama about a reform of the Bunten exhibition organized by the Ministry of Education in 1935. Yokoyama agreed to help the reform, and had all examiners for the Bunten exhibition resigned.
  Yokoyama advised the minister that just because artists graduated from art schools did not mean they were great artists, and that there were many excellent painters who studied by themselves, so such artists should be examiners for the Bunten exhibition.
 
Q: Did Yokoyama associate with Denchu Hirakushi?
 
  Denchu Hirakushi also participated in the reviving of Nihon Bijutsuin. Hirakushi, a sculptor, had difficulties to make a living, so Yokoyama and Shimomura helped Hirakushi maintain his house in Yanaka. Yokoyama had close relations with Hirakushi.
 
Q: Was Okakura's former residence in Yanaka (present-day Rokkaku-do) dismantled after he moved to Izura?
 
  Yes, it was. Yokoyama did not provide any funds for maintaining the residence. Taito City might purchase the land. The inscription on the monument that stands at the site was written by Yokoyama. The statue of Okakura installed in Rokkaku-do was also created by Hirakushi. Yokoyama bought land in Akakura, Niigata Prefecture, where Okakura died, and donated the land to "Tenshin Kensho-kan," or association that publicly honors Tenshin Okakura. A memorial building and a monument with inscription that reads "Tenshin Shuen no Chi," or place of Tenshin Okakura's death, written by Yokoyama are erected in Akakura.
 
Q: Was Yokoyama's calligraphy also highly evaluated?
 
  He did not study calligraphy under any calligrapher. He said that, if he studied under a calligrapher, his calligraphy inevitably resembled the calligrapher's one. Yokoyama respected the Venerable Meigetsu as a calligrapher. Although he might have Meigetsu's calligraphy, I am not sure whether he really had the calligraphy because his house was totally destroyed by fire during wartime.
 
Q: Yokoyama's calligraphy is dynamic while Okakura's one is unique. Yokoyama's calligraphy is left at Japanese-style inns in Izura, isn't it.
 
Okakura's calligraphy can be distinguished at first glance. Yokoyama's brushstrokes are dynamic. His calligraphy is also left in Izura. When he sold the land in Izura, he also sold all his painting materials and others because he had no money to build this house. It seems that he wanted to end his life in Ikenohata. When he lost his house in Ikenohata due to war damage, he sold a villa in Atami where he was evacuated.
 


Okakura's calligraphy that was presented to Yokoyama: "Gyoten Yushi" (the Meiji to early Taisho Periods)
"When I look up to the sky, I think about the beginning of the world. When I see in my mind's eye, my ego disappears."

 
Q: Why did Yokoyama decide to live here? 
 
  One of the reason is that this place is close to Tokyo Fine Arts School. Another one is that he lived in a dormitory of Nihon Bijutsuin, which was called Hachikenya, in Yanaka for a period of time, so he was attached to this place.
 
Q: It is said that instructors at Tokyo Fine Arts School lived in heights after they succeeded in the world. However, Yokoyama continued to stay in Ikenohata. It is intriguing, isn't it? The Ueno area has been developed, and the cityscape is significantly changed. Have street scenes around here also been changed?
 
  This land is not a good place to live in. This area was called Kaya-cho in the past because it was a marshland where cogons grew, so it was very humid. Even now a lot of water spouts when excavating land in this area in order to build buildings. The scenery of this area has significantly changed. There was Tokyo Shinobazuno-ike Racetrack beside Shinobazuno Pond until around 1892, so it was a scenic spot from which the hill of Ueno and ponds could be seen.
 
Q: Did Yokoyama used to take a walk around this area?
 
  Yes, he did. There was a small Japanese-style restaurant at this side of Matsuzakaya although it does not exist now. Yokoyama and his friends, such as Keigetsu Matsubayashi, used to dine at the restaurant. There was an exhibition titled "Toto Meisho," or scenic spots in Tokyo, for which painters created paintings of their favorite places. Yokoyama created a painting of Shinobazuno Pond for the exhibition. The painting is now kept in the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo. Although he created only one painting of Shinobazuno Pond, he created many paintings of lotuses floating on the pond. Besides paintings of lotuses that reflected historical facts in ancient China, he made paintings of lotus flowers. He also created paintings of bamboos and pine trees that grew in this garden. It seems that bamboos were his favorite subjects to paint. Originally he planted bamboos in this garden with the intention to make the garden a bamboo grove. However, later Japanese apricots grew, and now Oshima cherries grow in the garden.
 
Q: Did Yokoyama tend the garden by himself?
 
He did not like to take care of it, saying that it was much better to leave the garden to nature. However, trees in the garden died if they were not taken care of, so he asked gardeners to do it. Now, many buildings stands around this garden, and trees have grown taller, so the scenery has actually changed.
 



A monument in honor of Taikan Yokoyama, which was built by Taito City, commemorating the 100th anniversary of renaming the capital as Tokyo, stands in front of the Yokoyama Taikan Memorial Hall. (erected in 1968)