Morita Kako and Japan art: Only the shadow remains

Morita Kako and Japan art: Only the shadow remains

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Very little is known about the Japanese artist Morita Kako. Thus he is presumed to have been born in 1870 or 1871 and his artistic endeavors span 1900 to the 1920s – with 1930 being the latest known date. Therefore, it isn’t inconceivable that Morita was born in the late 1870s – because artists and printmakers in this period developed from a young age.

Morita is known for kacho-ga (depicting birds and flowers) prints. Also, like several other artists in this period, he depicted the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905). While his landscapes are notable for the details entailed. Therefore, this nihonga artist bridged other artistic forms even if only the shadow remains about his life.

Morita published high-quality prints for two notable publishers. This concerns Akiyama Buemon (Kokkeidō) and Matsuki Heikichi (Daikokuya). Hence, the jigsaw of his artistic career comes from these two publishers.

He is connected to Okakura Tenshin (1863-1913) – concerning his name popping up with being his pupil. However, the degree is debatable. Morita did illustrations for scientific journals connected to educational institutions in America. Therefore, this would tie Morita and Tenshin because Tenshin was employed in America in the early 1900s.

The shadow of Morita is so strong that sometimes he is linked with being Tsuji Kakō. They both share the same name Kako and are subscribed to being born and dying around the same time. Yet it is possible that the birth of Morita is the late 1870s and not earlier. Therefore, with their seals and signatures being very different – and Tsuji Kakō being firmly established and experimenting with waves and other areas in the late Meiji period – it seems inconceivable that they are the same person.

Overall, Morita was in the artistic shadow throughout much of his life. Thus, in death, his shadow barely exists. However, the art he did produce is most appealing and highlights sophistication.


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