He was active as a painter of genre and historical subjects, receiving awards of merit in 1898, 1899, 1900 and 1902 at the joint Japan Art Institute/Japan Painting Association (Nihon Bijutsuin/Nihon Kaiga Kyokai) exhibition and was active in the Japan Art Society (Nihon Bijutsu Kyōkai), and the Japan Painting Society (Nihon Kaiga Kyōkai) and the Academy of Japanese Art (Nippon Bijutsuin).
As times became difficult for Japanese printmakers, with ukiyo-e printmaking falling out of style due to the introduction of photography and lithography, Toshikata turned toward the design of illustrations for novels (kuchi-e), literary journals, such as Bungei kurabu, Miyako no hana (Flower of the capital) and Shin shosetsu (New novel), and the design of fashion plates for department stores, such as the series Mitsukoshi: Brocades of the Capital (Mitsukoshi miyako no nishiki, 1905-6), which advertised Meiji fashions for the Mitsui Department Store.
Toshikata published a number of series of bijin prints and genre scenes, featuring women and children, including print sets such as Thirty-six Types of Beauty (Sanjurokkasen), 1891, published by Kokkedio and Ancient Beauties (Kodai bijin). Sato Shotaro and Akiyama Buemon were two of his main publishers. After the turn of the century, Toshikata remained a well-known painter, printmaker and illustrator and is credited with raising the status of painters from the ukiyo-e lineage.
Toshikata's role as a teacher is significant. His students Kaburaki Kiyokata (1878-1972), Ikeda Terukata (1883-1921) and Ikeda Shoen (1888-1917) are known today as successful Nihonga bijinga painters and print designers. He also had a number of women students, including his wife, Mizuno Hidekata (nee Ichikawa), and Ikeda Shoen.
He was demanding of his students and did not encourage freedom of expression. Although he cared deeply about the status of ukiyo-e, his heart was in historical painting. As a young man he lived in Kanda and studied tokiwazu, the shamisen music that accompanied joruri (a type of sung narrative with shamisen accompaniment, typically found in bunraku, a traditional Japanese puppet theater) performance. In 1895, having achieved some success as a painter he moved to Yanaka Shimizu-cho. In his new home he practiced archery, yokyoku (noh chanting), and the game of go, all avocations related to historical painting. He died in April 1908 at age forty-two, reportedly from overwork.
1 The New Wave: Twentieth-century Japanese prints from the Robert O. Muller Collection, Amy Reigle Stephens, Bamboo Publishing Ltd, London & Hotei-Japanese Prints, Leiden, 1993, p. 92.
2 Yoshitoshi's One Hundred Aspects of the Moon, John Stevenson, Hotei Publishing, 2001. p. 36.