Koizumi Kishio’s “100 Views of Great Tokyo in the Shōwa Era” appears to have been issued as a complete set to accompany a 1942 exhibition of the series with venues in Tokyo, Osaka, and Yokohama. Although the exact circumstances of the publication are unclear, each set was marketed in a wooden box. One such surviving (but incomplete) boxed set from The Wolfsonian–Florida International University contains a woodblock-printed chart on which each of the 100 prints is listed by title, along with Koizumi’s brief remarks. The chart also gives original dates of publication, and whether or not the print is a revision of an earlier version.

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The artist’s remarks are clearly retrospective in tone. Thus, in a number of instances, when commenting on a print created earlier in the series, Koizumi might note how the image is already out of date because the site has changed dramatically due to urban growth.
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Koizumi’s two-pages of
annotations, written in 1940,
commenting on each image in
his “100 Views of Tokyo.”

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Almost all comments are rendered in a shorthand style that is sometimes a straightforward description of the scene and other times a maddeningly oblique comment studded with arcane historical references. The choice of print subjects and the commentaries presume a literate Japanese viewer/reader with a very current knowledge of Tokyo in the 1920s and 1930s.
There are nine revised images in the final list of the 100 selected for the retrospective set, seven of which are dated to 1940. One has a 1939 date and another is undated but, based on context, was surely created in 1940. The revised images are usually dramatically different in concept from the originals. While in his annotated list, Koizumi privileges only 100 prints, some of his comments reference comparisons between the original and the revised image. It remains unclear whether or not the retrospective set, which listed only 100 prints, also included the originals “deposed” from the catalogue list.

Artists aligned with the “creative print” (sōsaku hanga) movement typically, but not always, were the primary creators of their prints—from concept sketch, through block carving to actual inking and printing. Thus the final product usually had a rough hewn, direct feel that was quite different from the smooth, polished, and exquisitely detailed images produced by pre-modern print guilds or by the modern practitioners of the “new print” (shin hanga) movement. The latter group still maintained the divisions of labor that employed highly skilled block carvers and printers. The “artist” was essentially the designer of the image outline and one who suggested a system of colors. The consequent subtleties achieved in ink tonalities of a shin hanga style would never be possible for the “one man shop” productions of a “creative print” movement artist like Koizumi.

Print artists of all stripes have experimented with color and tonal variations of the same image. This may account for the wide difference in impressions of the same Koizumi images. If, indeed, Koizumi was solely responsible for production of his prints, the sheer volume of the project might not have allowed for consistency in impressions. It should also be noted that lighter, almost washed out, tonalities were often favored by “creative print” artists. The bold coloration found in many of Koizumi’s works is in some ways exceptional.


Subtleties of the Print

To illustrate the variety in color and tone that characterized printings
of the same scene, here are examples of duplicate images from various
sets of Koizumi’s “100 Views.”

Print from The Wolfsonian set Print from a private collection
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Waterfall at Sekiguchi (#15), August 1931


This gallery is comprehensive. It includes all of the prints Koizumi produced over the years for his “Great Tokyo” series—both his original renderings and later revised versions of the same—bringing the total number of scenes to 109 rather than just “100 views” as the title of the set proclaims. The full selection here is drawn from sets owned by The Wolfsonian–Florida International University and by private collectors, as noted in the attribution that accompanies each print and in the Visualizing Cultures print id number.

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