Seiu Ito

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Ito's drawing depicting an onibaba and her victims. Inspired by Yoshitoshi.

Seiu Ito (伊藤晴雨 Itō Seiu?), also romanised as Seiyu Itoh (3 March 1882 in Tokyo - 28 January 1961 in Tokyo) was a Japanese painter, recognised today as "the father of modern kinbaku".[1] Ito's life was the subject of director Noboru Tanaka's 1977 Nikkatsu Roman porno film Beauty's Exotic Dance: Torture!, the final entry in his "Showa Era trilogy".[2]


Ito was born Hajime Ito (伊藤一 Itō Hajime?) in Asakusa district and started his education in painting by 1890. His father was a metalworker and he also received training in ivory carving, later sculpture. He adopted the alias Seiu (Sino-Japanese reading of kanji for words 'clear' and 'rain') at age 13.[3] Around 1907, he began working for newspapers.[4]

Ito hired a young art school model named Kise Sahara in 1919. Kise became Ito's second wife after she got pregnant and posed willingly for her husband.[3]

Ito became the target of censors in 1930, which led to draining of his fortunes and he lost his works at the Great Tokyo Air Raid.[4] In 1960, he was awarded by the Japan Artists Association (日本美術家連盟 Nihon Bijutsuka Renmei?).[4]


As an artist, Ito was very interested in kabuki and other ways of the Edo period[1] and his book An History of Edo and Tokyo Manners (江戸と東京風俗野史 Edo to Tōkyō Fūzoku Yashi?) was published after the Kanto earthquake.[4] His technique for depiction of Edo period tortures was to bind his model in various ways, have the photographs taken, and use them as inspiration for his paintings.[1] A notorious exploit of such kind was binding his pregnant wife Kise and have her suspended upside down for a drawing imitating the ukiyo-e The Lonely House on Adachi Moor in Michinoku Province by Yoshitoshi.[1][5]