Skip to content
Kyosai Books

Kyosai Books

Illustrated books were the bread and butter for any artist of the floating world. Edo (the city which later became Tokyo) had an unusually high literacy rate: around 80% for men, and 25% for women compared with the national average of 54% for men and 19% for women. This meant it was a society hungry for books and images illustrating them, and allowed artists a constant stream of work to support themselves.

Photograph of the artist Kyosai

Kyosai published several books, which includes titles such as Kyosai Manga (Kyosai Sketches), Kyosai Donga (Kyosai's Foolish Pictures) and Kyosai Suiga (Kyosai's Drunken Illustrations). Although he never was a pupil of Hokusai, he is often considered to be his greatest successor. Kyosai Manga, a book of miscellaneous small drawings in the tradition of the Hokusai manga, also served as an instruction manual for would-be painters.


Front Cover of Kyosai Manga

One of the best pages is the double spread of cavorting skeletons – walking on their hands, making music, doing acrobatics on a prayer marker from a grave, playing go, having moxa treatment while leaning on a gravestone, they are engaged in lively human activities, all the while taking full advantage of the possibilities for graveyard humour.


Study of Skeletons from Kyosai Manga

They are anatomical drawings come genuinely to life. Not only does this book reflect the influence of Hokusai, but also of modern Western medicine and anatomical drawings which Kyosai copied and learnt from.

Follow for daily discoveries of Japanese art and events:

Previous article Uemura Shoen
Next article Monkey and Moon

Leave a comment

Comments must be approved before appearing

* Required fields