Inoue Yasuji

Inoue Yasuji 井上安治 (1864-1889) [a.k.a. Inoue Tankei 井上探景] 


Sources: Kiyochika: Artist of Meiji Japan, Henry D. Smith II, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1988, p.14 and International Fine Print Dealers Association website 

Yasuji (seen written as 安治, 安二 and 安治1 and also known as Yasujirō 安治郎, his given name at birth) was Kobayashi Kiyochika's (1847-1915) only true disciple. He was born in 1864 as the son of a dry-goods merchant in Asakusa, and is said to have begun as an apprentice in the atelier of the famous print artist Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-1892). The story goes that Yasuji encountered Kiyochika one snowy day – probably  in the winter of 1878-79 – sketching a Sumida River landscape. After watching the artist for some two hours in silence, Yasuji struck up a conversation and in short order asked Kiyochika to take him on as a disciple.  

By the time Kiyochika gave up Western-style landscapes in 1881, Yasuji had designed only eight prints in his own name, but he perpetuated his master’s style over the next three years, particularly in the format of small postcard-size prints, reaching a total of 134 by 1884, with his best known series of small prints being titled Tokyo meisho (Famous Views of Tokyo). He also created prints that were nearly identical to those of Kiyochika’s as in the example below.

Like his master, Yasuji would produce several versions of the same print, for instance, one at daylight and one at night. Yasuji’s landscape work has a greater clarity than that of his teacher, and tends to be less dramatic or sentimental.  In 1884, however, he completely abandoned this style and turned to conventional nishiki-e triptychs depicting the sights and events of the day in the traditional heroic style, working under the name of Tankei 探景, which the publisher Matsuki Heikichi bestowed on him in 1884.  His death1 on September 14, 1889, at the age of twenty-five, is said to have greatly distressed Kiyochika.

Roberts, in his Dictionary of Japanese Artists, comments: "Had he not died so young, [he] might have revived the ukiyo-e school."2

1 I have read in a blog that his death was caused by heart failure.

2 A Dictionary of Japanese Artists: Painting, Sculpture, Ceramincs, Print, Lacquer, Laurance P. Roberts, Weatherhill, 1976, p. 198.

The Student

Inoue Yasuji,

Iris at Horikiri, c. 1884 

The Master

Kobayashi Kiyochika,

Iris at Horikiri, 1880 

A retrospective of his work was recently held at the Tokyo Gas Museum.

Artist's Signatures

Notes: sha 冩 drawn or sketched; ga 画 drawn by; hitsu/fude 筆 brush of; gakō 画工 or 畫工 designed by; ōju 應需 by request.

Inoue Tankei ga



 Inoue Tankei sha


with Tankei seal 探景, 1887

Inoue Yasuji hitsu?



探景 with Tankei

探景 seal, 1887, 1889

Tankei sha 探景冩 with Tankei

探景 seal


Tankei sha 探景冩

with unread seal, 1888



Inoue Tankei ga 井上探景画

with Tankei

探景 seal, 1886

Inoue Tankei ga

井上探景画 with Tankei seal, 1885 

Inoue Tankei ga

井上探景画, 1885

Prints in Collection


click on thumbnail for print details