Hanabusa Itcho and Japan art: A free spirit

Hanabusa Itcho and Japan art: A free spirit

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Hanabusa Itchō (1652-1724) was born during the Edo Period. His free spirit would land him in trouble with the authorities of the day in Japan. However, irrespective of the punishments that awaited him, his independent spirit shone and rose again.

Initially, Itchō was more famous for his poetry rather than his art. Yet learning from Kano Yasunobu – along with his independent artistic spirit – he would continue to bloom in the field of art.

The classical style of Kano art would weaken in influence. Hence, Itchō would utilize and fuse several art forms along with his independent artistic traits. Therefore, his love of culture and literature entailed that he pushed himself in many artistic directions.

The British Museum says, Itchō was “an unusual artist, originally from the Kano school, who was active in Edo for a comparatively short period from the end of the seventeenth century to the beginning of the eighteenth century. Said to have combined the Tosa and ukiyo-e styles of painting.”

Itchō was exiled in 1698 to the island of Miyake-jima after offending authorities. Reportedly – but different interpretations exist – he fell foul of authorities after parodying a concubine of the shōgun. Irrespective of the real reason, his exile lasted until 1710. Therefore, many dark times must have affected his state of mind.

Irrespective of adversity – from exile to returning and finding that family members and friends had died – – his creative spark remained undiminished. Hence, a most intriguing artist. This concerns not only the art, calligraphy, and poetry he produced but also his mindset that refused to bow down to convention.


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