Sekien Toriyama (鳥山 石燕, Toriyama Sekien) was born on 1712 and died on September 22, 1788. He was an 18th-century scholar, kyōka poet, and ukiyo-e artist of Japanese folklore. He was the teacher of Utamaro Kitagawa. Born to a family of high-ranking servants to the Tokugawa shogunate, he was trained by Kanō school artists Kanō Gyokuen and Kanō Chikanobu, although he was never officially recognized as a Kanō school painter. He also took up printmaking.

Toriyama is most famous for his attempt to catalogue all species of yōkai in the "Hyakki Yagyō" series. In truth, "Sekien Toriyama" is just his pen-name, and his real name is Toyofusa Sano (佐野豊房, Sano Toyofusa).


After retiring from service to the shogunate, he became a teacher to numerous apprentices in poetry and painting. He was among the first to apply Kanō techniques to ukiyo-e printmaking, inventing key new techniques along the way, such as fuki-bokashi, which allowed for replicating color gradations. Most famously, he was the teacher of Kitagawa Utamaro and Utagawa Toyoharu.

Sekien is best known for his mass-produced illustrated books of yōkai that had appeared in Hyakki Yagyō monster parade scrolls. The first book proved popular enough to spawn three sequels, the last of which features yōkai mainly out of Sekien's imagination. Although sometimes described as a "demonologist," his work is better described as a literary parody of encyclopedias such as the Japanese Wakan Sansai Zue or the Chinese Classic of Mountains and Seas, which were popular in Japan at the time. His portrayals of these creatures from folklore essentially established their visual portrayals in the public's mind and deeply inspired other Japanese artists in his own and later eras, including ukiyo-e artists Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, Kawanabe Kyōsai, and manga artist Mizuki Shigeru.

Notable works


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