Yumeji or follower

attributed to Takehisa Yumeji or follower

early 20th century

Idle Days and Months (original sketchbook journal)

ink and color on paper sketchbook journal bound in book format; with hand-brushed title on cloth label affixed to cloth-covered paper cover, Kanjitsugetsu (Idle Days and Months), titled again on the first page, Kanjitsugetsu, and dated, Taisho yonnen sangatsu yooka (Taisho 4 [1915], March 8th), and signed (likely by the book binder), Goyoan Shujin; comprised of approximately approximately 202 sumi ink and watercolor illustrations interspersed with short sections of text and poetry and divided randomly by thicker blue paper mounted with 27 tipped-in watercolor and/or pencil sketches (mostly landscapes and some possibly by a different hand); the printed label of the binding shop on last page, Shimizu Taizendo, followed by the address, Tokushima-shi, Tomita Akita-machi, san chomei (Tokushima City, Tomita Akita Town, Third District), located on the island of Shikoku, with one illustration signed Yumeji, ca. 1915

sketchbook journal 9 1/4 by 6 3/8 in., 23.4 by 16.2 cm

Takehisa Yumeji was a highly regarded writer, poet, illustrator and painter whose influence was far-reaching in his lifetime and has never waned in Japan. As a writer and poet, Yumeji felt his illustrations were an extension of his words; text and images were equally important and should compliment each other as a unified whole, striving for pictures like poetry (shi no yo na e). Yumeji's prodigious output of observational sketches of daily life were simplified representations of an idea, stripped down to their essence, much in the same way that his poetry pared a thought to only the most essential words. He was well-known for his commitment (or compulsion) to continually sketch the world around him, and his willowy, doleful beauties, known as Yumeji-shiki-bijin (Yumeji-style-beauties) are a genre unto themselves and directly linked to the wide-eyed girls populating modern manga. Yumeji wrote and illustrated his own books, provided illustrations for newspapers, journals, magazines, books, and sheet music covers, and designed his own prints and postcards. Through his production of graphic work (much of it woodblock printed) he played a role in the revival of woodblock printmaking, influencing both shin-hanga('new print') and sosaku-hanga ('creative print') artists.

This volume is a compilation of sketches, drawings and small watercolors, interspersed with poems and personal observations written in elegant calligraphy. The majority of pages have charming and sometimes poignant illustrations in the style of the illustrated book, Yumeji gashu: Haru no maki (Yumeji collection of works: Spring volume) which was published in 1909, and the follow-up publication, Yumeji gashu: natsu no maki (Yumeji collection of works, Summer volume) released in April 1910. Interestingly, the Summer volume included a long list of reviews of the Spring volume from a number of varied publications that attests to the wide range of his audience, and a fan letter from a young Onchi Koshiro (1891-1955), who would go on to become be regarded as the father of the sosaku-hanga movement.

The manuscript may be the work of Yumeji, or by a profoundly inspired follower. The first page of text opens with a reflection on life in general, and then subsequent pages have poems and vignettes of daily life. Most of the compositions depict female subjects in everyday activities and are framed by a border, usually rectangular but sometimes circular or in the shape of an open book or an arrangement of overlapping cartouches. Women are depicting going about their lives, doing chores such as cleaning, cooking, preparing coffee, hanging laundry, and using a sewing machine; or at leisure, reading, writing, playing the koto, playing the piano, going on a walk, watching the ocean; or in contemplative repose, usually facing away from our view. Children are featured affectionately, and male figures make an appearance, although primarily as accessories in the lives of the women. Several sketches relate directly to compositions in Yumeji gashu.

Many of the vignettes have poems, short texts or titles in Japanese and occasionally in English (in the same manner as Yumeji gashu). Although the calligraphy is stylized, legible titles include: Ochiba (Falling Leaves), BABYLAND, Dousou-kai (Class Reunion), Kiri no asa (Foggy Morning), Kaki no ki no shitade (Under the Persimmon Tree), Tanoshiki seikatsu (Enjoyable Daily Life), Kurasu maito (Classmate), Shiken (Exam), Sa kimino romamsu wo sakasetamae (Longing for Romance), ROOM to LET, Riso to genjatsu (Dreaming and Reality), Kyonen no haru, Koto shino fuyu (Last Year Spring, This Year Winter), Asa no umi (Morning Sea), Harukusa (Spring Grass), Hana no uta (Flower Song), Haru to Hitobito (Spring People), Yukuaki no mado (Late Autumn), Shoka no Umi (Early Summer Sea), Inugei-? (Dog Trainer), Manzoku sezaru, Manzoku seiru (Satisfied, Not Satisfied), Kamibina (Paper Hina Doll), Hitomatsu heya (Waiting Room), Hitomatsu hi (Waiting Day), BROKEN HEART & BROKEN LETTER, Kimi wo okurite (Escorting You), BROKEN HEART AND LETTER YUMEJI, Shikoku no -? (Shikoku landscape), Densha mitahito (Lady Seen on the Train), Sudamachi de mitahito (Lady Seen at Sudamachi), Yamanote de atta hito (Person Seen Uptown), Kononai hito (Childless Person), Geikijo no hooru de mitahito (Theater Hall), Ningyo no okasan (Mother of the Doll), Shiyokaze (Ocean Breeze), Yuagari (After the Bath), Banshu no betsuri (Separation in Late Spring), Naiya meru haha (Mother's Worries), Wakaba (Young Leaf), BAR de mitahito (Person Seen at the Bar), Samidare (May Rain), Tora no ewo karu kitsune no hanashi (Story of a Fox that Swaggers like a Tiger), Hana tobu (Flower Storm), Gogatsu no ame (May Rain), Obi nanadai (Seven titles of Obi), Shitamachi no oshogatsu (New Years in Shitamachi), Shinkyu onna judai (Ten modern and traditional women), and Shinkon seikatsu (Life of newlyweds).

Towards the end of the volume there are a group of sketches focused on routine activities of daily life, most identified by the time of day, such as: Seven o'clock, I can barely wake him up; Going out (dressed up); Nine o'clock in the morning, time to clean; Ten o'clock, visit from the hairdresser; One o'clock, finish lonely lunch and read the newspaper; Two o'clock, writing letters to mother in the country; Four o'clock, start to prepare for supper; Five o'clock (unlcear); and Six o'clock, dinner. The sketches continue: Otogibanashi hanasakajie (Fairytale of Hanasaka Jiji), Genji monogatari no onna (Woman's Tale of Genji), Hana no taiyori (Flower letter), Yuigahama no hito (Person at Yuigahama), Nonohana (Wildflower), Katami no yubiwa (Keepsake), and Hato no kubiwa (Dove collar). The final section is comprised of more loosely spaced calligraphy of poems and sayings, including quotes from famous individuals including the Edo period writer Jupensha Ikku (1765-1831); Chinese Tang Dynasty poet To Ho (712-770); 7th/8th century Japanese poet Kakinomoto no Hitomaro; and the so-called 'last samurai' Saigo Takamori (1828-1877).

Yumeji Takehisa, Yumeji gashu: Haru no maki (Yumeji collection of works: Spring volume), 1909; Yumeji gashu: natsu no maki (Yumeji collection of works, Summer volume), 1910
Nozomi Naoi, Sabine Schenk, & Maureen de Vries, Takehisa Yumeji, 2015, pp. 13- 71; pp. 74-79, nos. 1-7 (group of Yumeji drawings)
Nozomi Naoi, Yumeji Modern: Designing the Everyday in Twentieth Century Japan, 2020, pp. 85-91
Smithsonian National Museum of Asian Art, Sackler Gallery, Robert O. Muller Collection, accession no. FSC-GR-780.589.1-4 ('Yumeji gashu')
(inv. no. 10-5410)

price: Contact gallery


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