Takehisa Yumeji (竹久夢二)

Yumeji TAKEHISA (September 16, 1884 to September 1, 1934) was a Japanese painter and poet. He was born Mojiro TAKEHISA.

Personal Profile
He painted a lot of Bijinga (pictures of beautiful women), and such works produced by Yumeji TAKEHISA are called 'Yumeji shiki bijin' (beautiful women of Yumeji style). As a painter, he was representative of the Taisho Roman style. He also drew illustrations for children's magazines and for works of poetry. He also created literary works such as poems, songs and nursery stories. In particular, his poem 'Yoimachi-gusa' was set to a melody, became a popular song and was sung nationwide. Moreover, he designed a lot of book covers, advertising items, daily goods and yukata (an informal cotton kimono for summer), and he was one of the pioneers of modern graphic design.

Most of his works called 'Yumeji shiki bijin', which show his unique sense of beauty, were painted on hanging scrolls and folding screens using Japanese painting techniques, but some images of women and landscapes were painted on canvas using oil painting techniques. He experimented with various art styles, and although his works were valued as great art by later generations, in his own time his works only became popular among ordinary people because people often saw his works printed on book covers or in advertisements. He once sought to join the Chuo art world but he was not accepted by them, so throughout his life, he did not belong to any group, but instead searched alone for what new art techniques could express.

Around that time, various trends were being mixed in the art world, and in a sense, the art world was in the middle of an unstable phase of internal changes. Since consumer lifestyle had been expanded by the flowering of popular culture in the cities, there came the dawn of new times where designs started to be used as applied art, which is an area that Yumeji also focused on. In his later life, thanks to his ability as a designer, he seemed to have actively delineated the concept of commercial art (later referred to as graphic design), aiming for art which relates to life, or in other words, the belief that art should be integrated with industry. This was exemplified by his vision for the Mt. Haruna Institute of Industrial Art and his ambition to visit advanced western countries.


(Age is indicated after year.)

1884, born

He was born on September 16 as the second son of a family which had run a brewing business for generations in Honjo Village, Oku County, Okayama Prefecture (present day Honjo, Oku-cho, Setonai City, Okayama Prefecture). However, since his older brother had died the year before, he was raised as the de facto first son.

1899, 15 years old

He moved to live at his uncle's house in Kobe, and went to Kobe Jinjo Chugakko (Kobe Ordinary Middle School) in Hyogo Prefecture (later day Kobe Ittchu [Kobe First Middle School], present day Hyogo Prefectural Kobe High School), but he dropped out in December because of a family matter.

1900, 16 years old

His family moved to Edamitsu, Yahata Village, Fukuoka Prefecture (present day Yahata-higashi Ward, Kitakyushu City) since his father closed their family business, a sake brewery, to work at the Yahata Iron Factory that was about to start operating. Mojiro worked at the iron factory for a while.

1901, 17 years old

He left home and moved to Tokyo by himself.

1902, 18 years old

He entered Waseda Jitsugyo Gakko (Waseda Vocational School). When he was a student, he sent his sketches to newspaper companies such as 'The Yomiuri Shimbun'.

1903, 19 years old

1904, 20 years old

1905, 21 years old

Through his friend, Kanson ARAHATA, his book of illustrations appeared in a newspaper called 'Chokugen' (Speak Frankly) published by Heiminsha. This was his first illustration that was printed. After that, his illustrations, including his caricatures, appeared in other newspapers, "Hikari"(Light) and the daily "Heimin Shimbun" (People's Newspaper), and he also became acquainted with socialists. In June of the same year, his illustration, 'Tsutsuizutsu' (curb of a well,) took first prize in the magazine 'Chugaku Sekai' (Middle School World), and he took his professional name, Yumeji, for the first time. He dropped out of the advanced course of Waseda Jitsugyo Gakko.

1906, 22 years old

He drew book illustrations for a fairy tale magazine called 'Shonen Bunko' (Boy's Library).

1907, 23 years old
He got married to Tamaki KISHI. He joined the Yomiuri Shimbun and came to be in charge of the illustrations for current affairs.

1908, 24 years old
His first son, Konosuke, was born.

1909, 25 years old
He was divorced from Tamaki by mutual agreement. In this year, his first book, "Yumeji Gashu - Harunomaki" (A collection of Yumeji illustrations - Spring volume), was released, becoming a bestseller.

1910, 26 years old
He started living with Tamaki again, and she became pregnant with a second son. He was taken into custody for two days on a suspicion involving a case of high treason. In the summer, he took a trip to the Boso area, where he got the idea for his poem "Yoimachi-gusa" (the name of a plant, evening primrose).

1911, 27 years old
His second son was born. He started living apart from Tamaki. His monthly postcard book, "Yumeji Ehagaki" (Yumeji postcards), was published.

1912, 28 years old
The original version of his poem "Yoimachi-gusa" was published in the magazine "Shojo" (Girl) under the pseudonym of "Samisengusa". A show called 'Yumeji's first exhibition of his art works' was held at the Kyoto Prefectural Library.

1913, 29 years old
In November, his collection of short songs with illustrations called 'Dontaku' (Festival) was published, including the present sangyoshi (tercet poem) version of "Yoimachi-gusa".

1914, 30 years old

He opened a store to sell picture books called 'Minatoya esoshi-ten' in Nihonbashi Gofuku-cho, where he met Hikono KASAI who was visiting the store.

1915, 31 years old
Fujin no Tomo Sha (Women's Friend Publisher) launched two magazines: 'Kodomo no Tomo' (Children's Friend) and 'Shin-Shojo' (New Girl), and he became the chief illustrator of those magazines. He and Tamaki separated.

1916, 32 years old
His third son, Soichi, was born. He made the cover illustration for the Seno Gakufu (Seno music book) 'Oedo Nihonbashi', and afterwards he made more than 270 cover illustrations for those music books. He left Tokyo and moved to Ninenzaka, Kyoto. He gave up Soichi for adoption.

1917, 33 years old
He moved close to Kodai-ji temple and lived with Hikono. He held an exhibition called 'An exhibition of Yumeji's lyrical pieces" during his trip to Kanazawa.

Tadasuke ONO, belonging to the Gagakubu (Music Department) of the Imperial Household Ministry, set "Yoimachi-gusa" to music and presented it at a concert at the Geijutsuza (Arts Theatre).

1918, 34 years old
Seno Gakufu released "Yoimachi-gusa", which became a nationwide hit. He traveled to the Nagasaki area in Kyushu. Hikono was admitted to a hospital and taken back to Tokyo.

1919, 35 years old
He was introduced to a model named Oyo at the Hongo Kikufuji Hotel where he was staying. The 'Exhibition for Women and Children' was held at Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi Department Store.

1920, 36 years old
Hikono died of illness at the age of 25. He created the series "Nagasaki Juni Kei" (Twelve Scenes from Nagasaki) and Onna Judai (Ten Women).

1921, 37 years old
He set up a household with Oyo (Yumeji named her Oyo, but her real name was Kayoko SASAKI) in Shibuya, but broke up with her 6 years later. He travelled to Aizu, Fukushima and put on exhibitions in various locations.

1922, 38 years old
In spring, he travelled to the Yamagata area and stayed there. In summer, he climbed Mt. Fuji with Fujihiko.

1923, 39 years old
He started "Dontaku Zuan Sha" (Dontaku Design Company) with Koshiro ONCHI and others, but the company was destroyed by the Great Kanto Earthquake. After the earthquake, he walked around Tokyo, and the sketches he contributed to the Miyako Shinbun (a newspaper in Tokyo), were serialized.

1924, 40 years old
He built a house with his own studio called Shonen Sanso (Boy's Mountain Lodge)/Sankirai So (Smilax China Lodge), in Matsubara, Matsuzawa Village, Ebara County, Tokyo Prefecture (present day Matsubara, Setagaya Ward, Tokyo Prefecture).

1925, 41 years old
He had an affair with Junko YAMADA, and Oyo left him. He later broke up with Junko as well.

1926, 42 years old
Around this time, he started aspiring to travel abroad.

1927, 43 years old
His illustrated autobiographical novel entitled "Shuppan" (Sailing) was serialized in the Miyako Shinbun.

1928, 44 years old
His mother, Yasuno, died at the age of 72.
1929, 45 years old

1930, 46 years old
In April, he stayed at the Ikaho hot springs in Gunma Prefecture for one month, where he developed the idea for the Mt. Haruna Institute of Industrial Art.

1931, 47 years old
His father, Kikuzo, died at the age of 79. Before moving to the United States, he held a farewell exhibition at Shinjuku Mitsukoshi Department Store and other locations, and then left for the mainland of the U. S. via Honolulu.

1932, 48 years old
After staying in the U.S. for one year and three months, he held personal exhibitions in several locations on the West Coast, but they were not accepted by people there.

In September, he went to Europe via the Panama Canal and the Atlantic. During his one-year stay in Europe, he traveled to cities in Germany, Czechoslovakia, Austria, France and Switzerland, and he contributed a lot of sketches done there to magazines in Japan.

1933, 49 years old
After a stay in Berlin, he took off from Naples for Japan on August 19 and arrived in Kobe City on September 18. He went to Taiwan in October, but became sick and came back to Japan. He took to bed suffering from tuberculosis.

1934, 50 years old - actually, he died at 49 years and 11 months. On January 19, he was admitted into the Fujimi Kogen Sanatorium at the foot of Mt. Yatsugatake, by the arrangement of Masaki FUJOKYU who was the director of the sanatorium as well as Yumeji's writer friend. In the early morning on September 1, he died, saying "thank you" with his last breath. He was buried in the Zoshigaya Cemeteries by Ikuma ARISHIMA and others. His kaimyo (posthumous Buddhist name) is '竹久亭夢生楽園居士'.

Relationships with Women

There have been many critical biographies about his romantic relationships, and the words of love he wrote in his own diaries and letters have been used in many creative works of later generations.

Tamaki KISHI

Tamaki KISHI (July 28, 1882 to July 9, 1945; from Kanazawa City, Ishikawa Prefecture; real name was Tamaki) was the only woman who was officially registered as his wife. After she moved to Tokyo with her brother's support, she married and had two children with a husband who passed away earlier. She opened a postcard store in Waseda Tsurumaki-cho to make a living by herself, which Yumeji kept visiting every day, and they ended up getting married after two months. Although they got divorced after two years, they started living together a year later, after which they separated again. When Yumeji had a relationship with Hikono in 1915, he became suspicious about the relationship between Tamaki and an art student, Seiji TOGO (Seiji), and thus he stabbed her in the arm at the beach of Toyama Prefecture, resulting in them breaking up forever. Tamaki, however, loved Yumeji throughout her life, even after he died.

Hikono KASAI

Hikono KASAI (March 29, 1896 to January 16, 1920; born in Nishijima-mura, Minami-koma-gun, Yamanashi Prefecture [present day, Nishijima, Minobu-cho]; her real name was Hikono. She was also known as Shino YAMAJI). She grew up as a daughter of a wealthy family that owned a wholesale paper store in Nihonbashi, and she was a student at the Joshi University of Art and Design. She was a big fan of Yumeji, and thus visited his store 'Minatoya esoshi-ten' to learn about painting, resulting in their relationship. She was living with Yumeji after he broke up with Tamaki and moved to Kyoto, however in 1918, she became sick with tuberculosis at the Beppu hot springs when she was on her way to meet Yumeji who was travelling in Kyushu. Her father took her back to Tokyo and blocked Yumeji from seeing her when Yumeji moved back to the Hongo Kikufuji Hotel to see her. Hikono was admitted to the Ochanomizu Juntendo-iin Hospital and her short life ended there. Yumeji seems to have loved her the most, and thus he could not get over her death for a long time. He wrote the 'Hikono Nikki" (Diary of Hikono).


Oyo (March 11, 1904 to October 24, 1980; from Akita; real name was Kaneyo NAGAI) was popular as a model at the Tokyo University of the Arts after she moved to Tokyo. After working for Takeji FUJISHIMA and Seiu ITO as a model, she worked for Yumeji as a model when he was staying for a long time at the Kikufuji Hotel, and then started living with him in a house in Shibuya Ward (present day, Shibuya BEAM, which has a stone monument). In 1924, she moved to a house that Yumeji designed, called 'Shonen Sanso', in Setagaya Ward. She had a baby, but it died young. In 1925, the following year, Oyo attempted suicide, and six months later she broke up with Yumeji. After that, she was married to a doctor and spent the rest of her life peacefully. Oyo was the model for one of his best paintings, "Kurofuneya" (The Black Ship Store).


"Yumeji Gashu - Harunomaki" (A collection of Yumeji's illustrations - Spring volume) (Rakuyodo, 1909)
"Yumeji Gashu - Natsunomaki" (A collection of Yumeji's illustrations - Summer volume) (Rakuyodo, 1910)
An illustration book of minor works, "Samisen Gusa" (Samisen Grass) (Shinchosha, 1915)
"Roji no Hosomichi" (Narrow Alley) (Shunyodo, 1919)
"Kurofuneya" (The Black Ship Store)
Nagasaki Juni Kei (Twelve Scenes from Nagasaki)
Onna Judai (Ten Women)

Picture Books and Book Illustrations

Kodomo no Kuni (Children's Country) (Rakuyodo, 1910)
Aoi Fune (Blue Ship) (Jitsugyo no Nihon Sha, 1918)
Dontaku Ehon (Dontaku Picture Book) (Kaneko Shoten 1923)
A collection of children's songs, "Utadokei" (Singing Clock) (Shunyodo, 1919)
A collection of children's songs, "Tako" (Kite) (Kenkyusha, 1915)
A collection of children's songs "Kusanomi," (Sticky Grass Seeds) (Jitsugyo no Nihon Sha, 1915)
A collection of children's songs, "Haru" (Spring) (Kenkyusha, 1926)

Collection of Kouta (short songs) and Poems

Dontaku (Jitsugyo no Nihon Sha, 1913) with "Yoimachi-gusa"
Yumeno Furusato (Dream Hometown)
Aoi Shokei (Blue Promenade)
Sayonara (Goodbye)