Amita Co. artists: Minai, Torahiko Kanamori, Takeshi

Ikeda, Seisuke [池田清助] (1839 ~ 1900)

Although antique salesmen had drifted away from the management side of the Kyoto Showcase, their activities of selling works of art were as active as ever, and were consistently looking for ways to expand their business to overseas. In the 1887’s, there emerged a new type of businessman different from the antique traders of the time — these new traders dealt with the export of works of art in cooperation with foreigner partner companies. Also, in the “Trade and Commerce Handbook” (shoukou binran, 商工便覧) in the 1877’s, the names “antique goods trade” and “tea ceremony goods trade” were used to describe items as well as genres, but entering into the 1887’s, the more all-encompassing term “the art trade” came into use instead.
What clearly shows this shift was the establishment of the “Biko Shosha” (美工商社), a company dedicated to the sale of items such as pottery, lacquered goods, rare metal goods, antiques, and textiles, in the Makuzugahara neighborhood (真葛原) in Kyoto on June 15, 1886. The company was established by a pottery and china dealer Sobei Kinkouzan (錦光山宗兵衛), Tokusaburo Inoue (井上徳三郎), a gold leafed embroidered goods dealer Rishichi Tanaka (利七田中), an art dealer Shinsuke Hayashi (林新助), along with Sobei Ikeda (池田宗兵衛) from Kobe and Kichibei Yamanaka (山中 吉兵衛) from Osaka, with Seisuke Ikeda (池田清助) coming to create the Ikeda “Museum Store” in 1895, for the purpose of the export of both classical and contemporary works of art. While concurrently performing foreign exports, companies of this sort arose in number around the Shijo and Sanjo neighbourhoods around the Kamogawa area (鴨川) and to the east, setting their sights on selling works of art to foreign visitors to Kyoto.

Garden in the Kyoto store of S. Ikeda.

Out of the midst of these art dealers, Seisuke Ikeda was the one who first began constructing an “art museum” in the area of Higashiyama (東山), just prior to the hosting of the National Industrial Exhibition in 1892. Seisuke Ikeda was born in 1839 in the Kinoku region (紀伊国, today Wakayama prefecture), in Sumida village (隅田村) in the Ito district (伊都郡), and later came to Kobe, opening a shop by the name of “Echigoya” (越後屋) and selling goods to foreign sailors. In 1874 he opened up a store in the area of the foreign settlement in Kobe, while in 1876 he dispatched his staff to London in an attempt to expand his business there, but that endeavor ended up in failure. To recover from this loss, he attempted to start producing Koji pottery (交趾焼) outside of the royal pottery furnace within Wakayama prefecture, but this endeavor caused him to suffer further losses due to lack of funds. Aside from that however, he continued the process of making damascene items, screens crafted with gold leafing, cloisonne, Awata pottery, Kutani pottery, lacquer goods, statues and other items tempered to the tastes of foreign customers. In 1881 he first met Masana Maeda (前田正名), the chief of commercial affairs for the Ministry of Commerce and Agriculture, and through this connection he received 50,000 yen in pension from the government. It was after this he sent his employee Jisaku Tani (谷治作) and his oldest son Seiemon (清右衛門, Seisuke Junior), husband and wife, to open the London branch store for the Marukoshi group (丸越). However, due to a shift in government policy the following year, the initial aid money that he received had to be confiscated. On top of this, the company lost tens of thousands in yen to illegal activities of the local employees, and was forced to close their London store.

Gold-lacquer cabinet from the S. Ikeda's store.

In April 1886, Ikeda himself took the journey to London and began the process of the settling of final affairs for the shutdown of his store, but while he was there also took the chance to observe the market conditions of both France and the United Kingdom. While doing so, he also took the time to develop a new method of manufacturing gold and silver lacquered work, since many of these items which had been exported to the United States since the opening of trade had come to fall apart due to the influence of the shifting climate. He managed a way to forge these items with thin bronze and then affix silk onto the surface, creating a new, elaborate form of these gold lacquered goods.
In 1887, after returning back to Japan, he utilized his experience from abroad and decided to shift his focus to the production of new products, and it was at this time that he began to direct his attention towards the construction of a new art museum within Higashiyama. In 1894, Ikeda used his production and export of embroidered goods and Koji pottery together with his observation of foreign markets to expand his sales routes, with which he was awarded the Medal with Green Ribbon due to his remarkable contribution to societal commerce and the collection of works of art as reference pieces, etc. As a commemoration of receiving this award, Ikeda held exhibitions of works of art within the newly built residence, which he called the “Bijutsukan” (art museum), and held a banquet for 14 days within the Gion Nakamura complex. Looking at a magazine article at the time with a description of said event, the complex was a described to have been prepared with a parlour and exhibition room, with the second floor possessing a number of smaller rooms, with workshops for creating both golden leafed lacquer goods as well as an artisan’s workshop.

A set of five boxes with covers and a tray from the Ikeda company. Probably was made by O. Komai during his work for Ikeda in 1885~1894. Sold at Bonhams.

When one takes a look at the decoration of the rooms themselves, there were of course adornments of the award he received as the accompanying certificate and other related items, accompanied by gold leafed lacquer shelves, pottery, cloisonne, ivory carvings, wood statues, as well as iron Zogan, together with Satsuma pottery and other goods - essentially all sort of works by artisans. These were reportedly marked as “items for the purpose of trade” and marked with a price tag of over 10,000 yen, essentially meaning that they were goods of high value. This form of sale however was not fitted to the likings of Japanese customers, but rather attracted many foreign customers to the store and to the workshop, where people would often bid for these items. As mentioned in the previous passage, Ikeda founded a sales company dedicated to the sale of classic and modern works of art, and to him, this "art museum" essentially functioned as a sort of showroom. He attached the name of "art museum" to this facility essentially due to the influence of the structure, also named "art museum", that existed at National Industrial Exhibition of that time. From this, we can surmise he wanted to establish the image of authority from associating that complex with his own facility, and that perhaps he wanted to display his pride for the works he had assembled, those that matched or even surpassed the works on display at the National Industrial Exhibition fixture.

Bronze Buddha, sitting on a lotus, from the S. Ikeda's store.

This “art museum“ was also a fixture that was created with foreign buyers in mind. At this period within Kyoto, Kanbei Kawashima, along with several volunteers, furthered the creation of not only a new hotel within the area, but also the creation of a special art reference museum, collecting a variety of works of art and putting said items on display for the free perusal of foreign tourists, while the Osaka Trade company also created an Art exhibition space and furthered the collection of art goods within the company, while they also allowed free perusal to tourists. Considering these movements, Kyoto art market and the encouragement of foreign tourism were considered inherently linked. Ikeda, together with other trade partners, moved to help save the likes of the Joban Hotel after the hotel encountered a degradation in its management, and after its transformation into the newly formed “Kyoto Hotel,” then began participating as a stock holder and affixing his focus onto hotel management. On top of this, within one of the guide pamphlets aimed towards foreigners on the event of the 1895 National Industrial Exhibition, Seisuke Ikeda’s name is listed as a trader of “cloisonne enamel” with similar advertisements appearing towards the back end of the pamphlet as well. At the same time, within the “Bric-a-brac” section, we can see Hayashi (Shinsuke), Yamanaka (Shoukai) as well as Ikeda himself introduced as manufacturers and salesmen to foreign tourists. Whether it was an effect of these advertisements or not, it seems that Leland Stanford’s wife, Jane, as well as Charles Lang Freer both visited said store as customers. In particular, it seems that Jane Stanford had later purchased a part of the Ikeda collection from Seisuke Ikeda junior, and today these items are still part of the Stanford University Centre for Visual Art’s collection.

S. Ikeda's store in Tokyo, 1910.

From that point on, traders and interpreters, through receiving the investment contributions from Yaami Hotel Complex and the Kyoto Hotel, went on to found the Benten Unified Resource company (dedicated to the sale and manufacturing of textiles) in March 1898, while focusing on monopolizing business towards foreign tourists, while Bijutustu Yamanaka Shoukai branch in Osaka moved their location from the Joukyouku Teramachi-toori Oike Sagaru area into the Awataguchi Sanjobocho area. Said business then moved onto being independent in 1916, while the art trade activity centered around foreigners continued to saturate within the Higashiyama area. Also in this time period, Komai Otojiro (駒井音次郎), later to be known internationally as a zogan manufacturer, together with an art trader Kumasaku Noda (富田熊作) came to enter the company and began to set focus on educating a new generation of traders. The Yamanaka Shoukai Kyoto branch also constructed several art complexes, such as a Japanese style exhibition house, a Buddhist temple style exhibition house, together with a western style facility as well, while all of these facilities were said to have workshops attached for artisans to their work — and it is said that Ikeda’s original art museum was said to be the standard at the time. In 1906, on March 9th, on the occasion of Midford’s visit to Japan, Midford is said to have recorded his visit to the Rinbou antique store, and it is said that visiting Higashiyama’s various foreigner oriented art stores and tourist spots were one of his pleasures of visiting. Many Tokyo politicians and business owners began to build their estates in the area, and thus lead to the creation of the Higashiyama Chakai, later to become the centre of the Kyoto art scene in 1907, as well as the “Higayshiyama Dai Chakai”, a large scale tea ceremony event hosted on November 19-22, 1921, lead by the Rakudoukai. On top of being in close proximity to the Awata Pottery production epicenter, as well as the presence of the Kita no Okasaki (the center of the National Industrial Exhibition) within Higashiyama as well as Nanajo in the south (with the Imperial Museum) - the art trade laying down its roots between these places of significance within the Higashiyama area.
Seisuke Ikeda died in 1900. Twelve years later, in 1912, Ikeda's business was closed.

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