Japan Art and  Sumio Kawakami: Anti Militarist

Japan Art and Sumio Kawakami: Anti Militarist

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The Japanese artist Sumio Kawakami (1895-1972) was born in Yokohama. He studied drawing in his informative period under Shodai Tameshige (1863-1951) – when attending Aoyama Junior High School in Tokyo.

Tragedy struck Kawakami because his mother died in 1915. A few years later, he spent a year in America and Canada. However, after various types of work, he returned in 1918 and learned that his brother would soon die.

He said that he was self-taught concerning sosaku hanga (creative prints). However, he did attend the workshops of Goda Kiyoshi (1862-1938) – who provided a plethora of knowledge.

Oliver Hadley Statler (1915-2002) quoted Kawakami saying: “I was never much in the swim of things as far as prints were concerned. Since I didn’t live in Tokyo I never knew many of the print artists and never was much influenced by them. I’ve just gone my own way, doing what interested me, and hoping it would interest somebody else. If it has, I’m happy.”

Kawakami was anti-militarist during a period of rampant nationalism in Japan. Accordingly, the pensive sailor above might have provided a sense of the inner feelings of Kawakami – despite this print belonging to the late 1920s.

He lost his English teaching job – after the teaching of English became banned by the Japanese government during the war period. However, despite the pressure of nationalism, he was adamant that militarism was wrong.

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