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Explore the World of Takehisa Yumeji and Taisho Romanticism at Special Exhibition

The exhibition currently in Tokyo reexamines the impact of Takehisa Yumeji, a symbol of Japanese romanticism whose art influences Japan's creative scene today.



Preview of the "Takehisa Yumeji: Taisho Romanticism and the New World" on May 31. (©Sankei by Katsuyuki Seki)

The traveling exhibition "Takehisa Yumeji: Taisho Romanticism and the New World" celebrates the 140th anniversary of the painter and poet's birth. Yumeji was a symbol of Taisho Roman, a Japanese romanticism movement from the Taisho era (1912–1926). The exhibition will be held at the Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum until August 25.

Preview of the "Takehisa Yumeji: Taisho Romanticism and the New World" on May 31. (©Sankei by Katsuyuki Seki)

Most of the 180 works displayed are from the Yumeji Art Museum's collection. Highlights include recently unearthed masterpieces from the mid-Taisho period, such as Amaryllis and valuable oil paintings like Nude Woman on the West Coast created during his stay in the United States. Other notable works are sketchbooks and drawings given to a friend who cared for him during his illness.

"Nude Woman on the West Coast" by Takehisa Yumeji. (©Sankei by Katsuyuki Seki)

The main building of the Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum was built in 1933 as the residence of the Asaka-no-miya Family. It is known for its elegant Art Deco interior and is designated as an important cultural property of Japan. Visitors can experience Yumeji's works in a setting that preserves the ambiance of his era.

Rediscovering Yumeji

"Even 90 years after his death, Yumeji Takehisa is still loved," says art critic Masayuki Okabe, the exhibition's supervisor. He views this as a unique opportunity to appreciate many of Yumeji's works from his hometown museum. "I believe it will be a place to re-examine Yumeji not just as a popular artist or a graphic designer, but as a modern painter," Okabe says.

Exhibition poster

Of the approximately 30 known oil paintings by Yumeji, about half are displayed at the exhibition. The structure of the exhibition also places a special focus on these works. Okabe explains the reason for this: "Yumeji developed a unique style without formal art training, and this is strongly reflected in his oil paintings."

During Yumeji's time, Japanese painters struggled to create Japanese-style Western paintings, a challenge even for those who studied in Europe. "However, Yumeji effortlessly found an answer," Okabe states. "His unique romanticism and emotional expression in works like Amaryllis are both distinctively Yumeji and distinctly Japanese."

Preview of the "Takehisa Yumeji: Taisho Romanticism and the New World" on May 31. (©Sankei by Katsuyuki Seki)

Yumeji's works had a societal impact beyond the art world. "He emphasized freedom, beauty, and romanticism in a Japan still influenced by feudalism," Okabe explains. "As Japan moved toward militarism, Yumeji showed interest in Christianity and socialism and expressed compassion for the socially vulnerable, including women and children."

Okabe adds that Yumeji created a Japanese Belle Époque, a period of beauty and optimism, through his artwork.

Preview of the "Takehisa Yumeji: Taisho Romanticism and the New World" on May 31. (©Sankei by Katsuyuki Seki)

A Pioneer of Japan's Kawaii Culture

Yumeji's art continues to influence the creative world today. "His pioneering expressions were the prototype of Japanese design and kawaii culture that are popular globally," says Okabe. Exhibitions of Yumeji's work have recently been held overseas, including in the Netherlands.

"From cuteness to melancholy to wistfulness, Yumeji expressed himself in many ways because he had many talents. I am excited to see how the young generation of the Reiwa [current] era will receive him," Okabe says. "It almost feels like their reactions will indicate where our society is heading."

Preview of the "Takehisa Yumeji: Taisho Romanticism and the New World" on May 31. (©Sankei by Katsuyuki Seki)

Okabe concludes, "Yumeji arrived at his unique artistic expressions by walking a solitary, uncompromising path without conforming to society. I hope this exhibition provides an opportunity to revisit and appreciate his artistic achievements."

Beautiful Collectibles

Various souvenirs are available at the exhibition, including an exhibition catalog featuring Yumeji's illustrations. The catalog comes in two versions: a standalone catalog (¥2,900 JPY, around $18 USD) and a boxed set (¥4,500). The latter includes a writing paper booklet with 24 sheets, each featuring different illustrations on both sides. The boxes come in four designs: Primrose, Young Grass, Blue Path, and Cat.

Illustrated catalogs, writing paper booklets, and boxes. (©Sankei by Yuji Tanaka)

Another notable item is a six-piece collection of chocolates (¥4,200 or $27), a collaboration with the Palace Hotel Tokyo. Titled "Chiyo Choco," the chocolates feature Yumeji's chiyogami (origami paper) and magazine cover illustrations. Each piece melts delicately in the mouth with a rich aroma.

Additionally, a glassware series, popular for its nostalgic yet modern design, is available for purchase. Created in collaboration with glassware company Aderia Retro, the set of two zombie glasses (¥3,000 or $19) features Yumeji's chiyogami design, Young Grass.

Visitors line up to enter the Yumeji exhibition. (©Sankei by Azusa Seike)

Exhibition Details

  • Title: "Takehisa Yumeji: Taisho Romanticism and the New World"
  • Dates: June 1 (Sat) to August 25 (Sun)
  • Closed Mondays except for holidays on July 15 and August 12, when the museum will be closed the next day.
  • Opening hours: 10:00 am to 6:00 pm (last admission 30 minutes before closing)
  • Venue: Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum
  • Admission fees (including tax): General (¥1,400 or around $9), university students (¥1,120), middle and high school students (¥700), 65 years and older (¥700), free for elementary school students and younger, middle school students studying in Tokyo, and holders of disability certificates and up to two caregivers
  • ¥100 discount for visitors in kimono or yukata. 
  • Tickets can be purchased at this website.


(Read the article in Japanese.)

Author: The Sankei Shimbun