Yoshitora, Utagawa

Utagawa Yoshitora was a student of the famous print designer and ukiyo-e artist Kuniyoshi Utagawa. According to some sources, Yoshitora was later thrown out by Kuniyoshi.

Although Yoshitora is famous for Yokohama prints, the majority of his designs show conventional subjects – historical scenes and Japanese legends, town views and scenes from Tokyo, beautiful women, warriors and actors – a little bit of everything.

In the Treaty of Kanagawa Japan had to open the country to the West. The presence of the foreign diplomats and merchants was restricted to an enclave at the harbor of Yokohama. The Japanese population had never seen foreigners before. There was an enormous curiosity and a large demand for prints depicting the foreigners and their hitherto unknown technical inventions.

Many of the diplomats gave commissions for portraits of their whole family – often shown with their servants and pets. This new genre of prints was called Yokohama prints or Yokohama-e – e meaning picture in Japanese.