Ishiwata Kōitsu

undated photo of the artist

Ishiwata Kōitsu 石渡江逸 (1897-1987)  


Family name: Ishiwata or, possibly, Ishiwatari1

Given name: Shōichirō 庄一郎

Artist names: Kōitsu 江逸; Yoshimi 芳美 (よしみ); Shōichirō 庄一郎 and Tōkō 東江 or 東光2

Sources: Modern Japanese Woodblock Prints - The Early Years, Helen Merritt, University of Hawaii Press, 1998, p. 65-66; Guide to Modern Japanese Woodblock Prints: 1900-1975, Helen Merritt, University of Hawaii Press, 1992, p. 45 and as footnoted.

Ishiwata Kōitsu was a shin hanga print designer active in the 1930s into the early 1950s who created naturalistic and poignant landscapes portraying the beauty of everyday life in urban and rural Japan. While his work never obtained the popularity of his contemporary and teacher, the pioneering shin hanga artist Kawase Hasui (1883-1957), several of his prints, including the one print in this collection, are iconic of the shin hanga genre.

Born in Shiba, Tokyo into a family of kimono designers, Ishiwata’s given name was Shōichirō 庄一郎, a name that would appear on many of his prints for the Tokyo publisher Katō Junji 加藤潤二 later in his career.  After graduating from primary school he studied design, fabric dying and nihonga painting under his brother-in-law, the kimono designer Igusa Senshin, who had studied under the ukiyo-e artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi.3  His first recorded job was as a textile designer for the Yokohama department store Nozawaya which he joined following the 1923 Great Kantō Earthquake and where he won “considerable recognition” for his designs.4  He worked there until 1930 when he left to design prints for Watanabe Shōzaburō (1885-1962), the publisher who birthed the shin hanga genre.

While Ishiwata’s brother-in-law may have introduced the techniques of traditional woodblock design to him, his long association with the shin hanga designer Kawase Hasui (1883-1957) must have been instrumental in Ishiwata’s changing of career paths at the age of 33. First meeting in 1917, the year Hasui was approached by Watanabe to design some experimental landscape prints for him, the two artists must have maintained contact throughout the 1920s, as it was Hasui who recommended that Ishiwata come to work for Watanabe in 1930. While a catalog published by the Yokohama Museum of Art states that Ishiwata “became an earnest student of Kawase” in 1930, I imagine he became one of the introspective Hasui’s few students prior to that date.5 Certainly Ishiwata’s first prints for Watanabe, released in 1931 under his artist’s name of Kōitsu 江逸, were stylistically heavily influenced by Hasui. Ishiwata would design prints for Watanabe until 1935 when both he and Hasui started creating designs for the Tokyo publisher Katō Junji. While Hasui would return to Watanabe, Ishiwata may have finished his career with Katō, although he would work with several other publishers along the way such as Doi Sadaichi (using the art name Tōkō) and Kawaguchi.

For an artist who seemingly dedicated his career to printmaking after 1930, surprisingly few prints, less than fifty, have been identified as being designed by the artist with the bulk of those published by Watanabe (approximately 25) and Katō (approximately 10).  I imagine that in the coming years more of his prints may well be discovered.

Seventeen of approximately twenty-five designs for the publisher Watanabe Shōzaburō 

click on image to enlarge

Many of the artist's designs were landscapes employing settings in and around Yokohama, an area he was intimately familiar with, but he also created a series depicting toys [Collection of Pictures of Toys (Omacha e shū), ca. 1935] and a series showing various hot-spring resorts [Hot Spring Landscapes (Onse fūkei), ca. 1940.]6  His handling of light has been compared to that of Inoue Yasuji (1864-1889) a pupil of Kobayashi Kiyochika (1847-1915), considered the Meiji-era master of light and shadow.7  Smith states that Ishiwata’s “subtle, dark and low-key subjects seem not to have been successful with Western customers, and around 1935 he switched to working with Katō Junji” who is described as being “more receptive” to Kōitsu’s work.8  [I imagine that Kōitsu’s move was also influenced by Hasui’s starting to design prints for Katō in the same year.]  While working for Katō, Ishiwata would occasionally combine stenciling techniques with woodblock, certainly a throw-back to his textile design days.9 

With the exception of several prints published by Katō in 1950, I was not able to find any information on Ishiwata’s activities after WWII, although additional research may reveal more about the artist’s later activities.

A Study of ISHIWATA Shoichiro (Koitsu): Focusing on Newly Acquired Works and Documentation 【Summary】


Ishiwata Shoichiro (1897-1987), a pupil of Kawase Hasui, created prints based on landscapes near Tokyo and Yokohama and is known as a printmaker associated with the Shin-hanga movement.  The Yokohama Museum of Art considers him an important printmaker connected with Yokohama and has acquired and shown his works.  Little is known of this artist’s achievements, however, except for the two years in which he was making Shin-hanga. In 2012 and 2013, we received documentary materials related to Ishiwata’s work from his son, Shouichi.  These materials are valuable for the purpose of filling in missing information related to Ishiwata’s career.  Ishiwata worked for the design department of Nozawaya, Yokohama’s once the biggest department store, when it was in a period of transition from a premodern clothing store to a modern department store.  It is thought that the design department was given the task of creating a new image of the department store that incorporated Western and modern features. Ishiwata retired from his position at Nozawaya in 1930 and became a disciple of Hasui with the intention of becoming a woodblock printmaker.  He found value in Japanese customs and urban scenes that contained features carried on from the period before the Meiji Restoration, and they came to be the main theme of his prints.  It seems that Ishiwata reacted against the work involving modern images that he had done for the Nozawaya design department and turned to nostalgic scenes of everyday life from the premodern period. Later, Ishiwata embarked on a study of kappa-zuri, a type of stencil printing.   According to the writings of ukiyo-e scholar Narasaki Muneshige (1904-2001), published in Ukiyoe-kai of August 1937, and painter Tsuruta Goro (1890-1969), published in Nihon Hanga of September 1943, kappa-zuri was given renewed attention during the war years and Ishiwata became its foremost practitioner. In the immediate postwar years, Ishiwata made a living with designs for woodblock prints, screenprinted Christmas cards, and kappa-zuri landscape prints.  According to the reminiscence written by his wife on the back of the newly acquired Karakusa Patterned Paper (2012-PRJ-005), he was making a study of the latest screen printing technology at this time.  Eventually, Ishiwata made prints using these techniques.  The newly acquired documentary materials include some award certificates for a shoulder sash design received in the 1950s, showing that Ishiwata was seeking opportunities as a free-lance designer.  A Statement of Delivery Book [from Ishiwata Shoichiro (Koitsu) Documents (2012-M-007), fig.10] gives concrete information about Ishiwata’s career after World War II.  From these materials, we learn that from the 1960s on Ishiwata earned money by performing silkscreen printing on products and making printing plates as well as creating original artwork for designs. As Ishiwata’s activities are traced back to the postwar period, the multi-faced qualities of the artist emerges that includes his work as a printmaker, a designer, and a screen printing technician.  After working as a designer for a department store, Ishiwata went on to become a printmaker associated with the Shin-hanga movement, a kappa-zuri printmaker, a screen printing technician, and a free-lance designer, changing along with the age.  His career raises issues that are not limited to a particular person, changes in the social position of prints and reproductive technologies in modern Japan and changing attitudes toward the profession of the designer.

Source: Copied from "Shoichiro Ishiwata (Koitsu) Research: Focusing on Newly Acquired Works and Materials" by Yuko Katata, Yokohama Art Museum /

1 The British Museum website [accessed 3-14-24]

2 Ross Walker and Toshikazu Doi have concluded that Ishiwata is the artist who signed his prints Tōkō.

3 橫浜美術館コレクション選 [Yokohama Museum of Art, Selected Works from the Collection] Yokohama Bijutsukan, 1989, p. 172.

4 Modern Japanese Woodblock Prints - The Early Years, Helen Merritt, University of Hawaii Press, 1998, p. 65.

5 op. cit. Yokohama Museum of Art, Selected Works.

6 Guide to Modern Japanese Woodblock Prints: 1900-1975, Helen Merritt, University of Hawaii Press, 1992, p. 45.

7 Shin-Hanga: New Prints in Modern Japan, Kendall Brown, Hollis Goodall-Cristante, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1996, p. 82-83.

8 Modern Japanese Prints 1912-1989, Lawrence Smith, British Museum Press, 1994, p. 25.

9 ibid.

last revision:


Samples of Signatures and Seals of the Artist

Kōitsu 江逸 seal 

Kōitsu ga 江逸画 with Kōitsu 

Kōitsu 江逸 with Kōitsu seal

Shōichirō 庄一郎

with Shō seal

Yoshimi ga


Yoshimi 芳美 with paulownia seal

Yoshimi 芳美 with paulownia seal

Tōkō 東江 with unread seal



Prints in Collection

click on thumbnail for print details