Seiu Ito

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Ito (伊藤) family name, Seiu (晴雨) first name, (1882-1961)

Seiu Ito was a pioneer on the subject of torment, and his pre-war illustrations and photographs had a major influence on the nascent SM world in Japan during mid 20th century. His influence continues to the present day.
Seiu Ito


Painter, Writer, Kinbakushi

Alternate Names

伊藤晴雨(Japanese), Hajime Ito (伊藤一, real name)


Born in 1882, Ito was strongly attracted to scenes of torture in stories and theater plays from an early age, and he produced a large body of paintings, drawings and photographs depicting scenes of torture and kinbaku, often using his wife or mistress as his model.

By the 1910s, Ito was a newspaper illustrator and then a theater critic. He later became the head of the Performing Arts section as well as the main illustrator for the Yomiuri News. At the beginning of the Taisho period (1912-1926), he met Kaneyo Sasaki (Oyou) and Kise Sahara, two women who would eventually become his models. He deepened his study of torture art and photography, and in the closing years of Taisho, he rode the wave of the eroguro movement and attracted attention as a “painter of perversion”. In 1928, he published his first kinbaku-related book (Seme no Kenkyu – Torment Research), which was soon after banned by the authorities.

During the Taisho period, he established theater groups whose plays centered on torture scenes. Before World War II, he published a large number of collections of graphic works through editor Suikodo Shoten. Ito was at the height of his career, but this was interrupted by the war. After the war, he worked as a writer in magazines such as Ningen Tankyu, Kitan Club and Fuzoku Soshi. In addition, he organized frequent photo sessions, and the resulting photos can be seen as “photos in the Seiyu way” in magazines such as Fuzoku Soshi, Fuzoku Kitan and Uramado. In 1953, he started the Seme no Gekidan (Torture Theater Group) which performed at Ichikawa Suzumoto theater in Tokyo and others.

He was also an historian and his lifelong research culminated in the book Iroha Biki -- Edo to Tokyo Fuzoku Yashi which details the tools and crafts of old Tokyo.


1882: Born March 3rd in Tokyo, Asakusa district, Kinryusan Kudarikawara 5, the eldest son of Kintaro Ito, a metal engraver.

1890: Accepted as an apprentice by Teiu Nozawa, a member of the Edo-based Korin school of drawing; at about nine years of age, discovers his obsession with the perfume of women’s hair as well as punishment scenes in theater plays.

1891: Receives a copy of the story of Princess Chujo from his mother. the snow torture scene in the story leaves a strong impression.

1892: Goes with his parents to the theater Honjo Kotobukiza and watches a performance of Otono Yoshida’s Maneku Furisode (An Inviting Kimono Sleeve); the scene of torture leaves a profound mark.

1894: Becomes the apprentice of ivory carver Seisyu Naito in the district of Honjo Aioi-cho, Tokyo.

1895: Starts to collect pictures related to torture.

1896: Starts to draw advertisements for theater plays.

1896: In June, Ito goes to the Haruki Theater in the district of Hongo, Tokyo to watch Nisshin Senso Youchi no Ada Tan (Raid Nocturne During the Nishiin War), a play in the Soshi Shibai (Outlaw Theater) where a scene of a nurse being tortured leaves a deep impression.

1898: While still an apprentice ivory carver, uses his free time to draw ropes of illustrations of women published in the Tokyo Asahi newspaper.

1899: Ito is strongly impressed by the torture chamber in Yoshimi Mizuno's play "Akumabarai" (Sweep Away the Demons) performed at the Tokiwa Theater in Asakusa.

1905: With the intention of becoming a painter, terminates his apprenticeship with the ivory carver and moves to Kyoto; tries different occupations in succession but eventually returns to Tokyo.

1907: Joins the Mai-Chou Shinbun as an artist/journalist for the newspaper published in the Nihonbashi, Tokyo district. He is put in charge of illustrating Ghost Island[1] by writer Syuhei Arigawa.

1909: Joins the Yamato Shinbun Sha[2] and is put in charge of illustrations. Meanwhile, he continues to be the theater critic for the Maiseki Shinbun.

Through an arranged introduction, he marries Takeo, the younger sister of the wife of Terunobu Tamaki[3]. Around this time, he gains a steady income from numerous commissions for illustrations and spends most of his money on entertainment.

1916: Starts a relationship with his model Kaneyo Sasaki (Oyou) and starts drawing his first torture illustrations.

1918: Kaneyo Sasaki (Oyou) starts living with the painter and poet, Yumeji Takehisa (1884-1934).

1919: Starts the Ghost Stories Society[4] in Hyakkaen park in Mukojima, Tokyo along with the writers Rokko Hirayama (1881-1953), Kogen Miyake (1886-1951), Kyoka Izumi (1873-1939), Mantaro Kubota (1889-1963), and actors Saitenzan III Kinjo (1863-1935), Yoho Ii (1871-1932), and Shotaro Hanayagi (1894-1965).

1919: Divorces Takeo and marries Kise Sahara.

1919: Takes snow torture photos of Kise Sahara in his garden. The photographer is YuuKa.

1919 upside-down suspension photo of a pregnant Kise Sahara.

1920: Makes his fist attempt at suspending Kise Sahara. He also suspends his wife’s younger daughter in his workshop and takes photos of them.

1921: With Kise Sahara now pregnant, he creates Photo in Inverted Suspension of a Beautiful Woman in Her Last Month of Pregnancy.

1921: Senzaburo Suzuki (1893-1924), a theater writer, publishes Burning Her Alive, a play inspired by Seiu Ito and his studio at that time.

1923: Borrowing a farmer's house in Shimotakaido from his student Gajou Sakamoto, he takes photos of snow torture with the photographer Raisui Suzuki. The location was noted for the plum tree in the garden.

1923: Great Kanto Earthquake occurs. Ito's residence escapes fire damage. At this time he had lent the Photo in Inverted Suspension of a Beautiful Woman in Her Last Month of Pregnancy to his friend, Tomitsuka Kenzo, which is eventually published in the December 1936 issue of "Hentai Shiryou" magazine ("Pervert Documents" magazine).

1923: Publishes An Alphabetized Unofficial History of Edo and Tokyo Customs.

1924: Publishes torture photos of Kise Sahara in Sunday Mainichi. He acquires a reputation for perversion.

1925: Starts a theater group which concentrates on torture scenes.

1926: The December issue of Hentai Shiriou magazine publishes Photo in Inverted Suspension of a Beautiful Woman in Her Last Month of Pregnancy without Ito's permission.

1927: The first volume of "An Aphabetized Unofficial History of the Customs of Edo and Tokyo" is published by Hirobunkan.

1928: Publishes "Torment Research," which is quickly banned by the authorities.

1930: Works as contributor and editor for the Kodanzasshi magazine.

1931: Marries for a third time. Ito's wife suffers from mental illness and he goes into debt.

1932: Publishes Ecstatic Dance of Beautiful Women.

1932: Publishes volume six of "An Aphabetized Unofficial History of the Customs of Edo and Tokyo".

1933: Starts his second theater group.

1945: His home is destroyed during the Great Tokyo Air Raid.

1947: "The Japanese Wife Who Wanted to Be Oppressed" is published in the fourth issue of the Rioki magazine.

1950: Torture theater is presented at the Hyakumandoru Gekijo (Million Dollar Theater) in Asakusa, Tokyo.

1951: Apr. Exchanges letters with Toshiyuki Suma until at least January 1954.

1951: Publishes a series of essays in Ningen Tankyuu magazine.

1951: To celebrate the launch of Amatoria magazine, Ito takes part in a group trip (80 persons) to the Rendaiji Onsen resort in Izu. Among the participants were: Nakada Masahisa (1922-), editor of noir literature; Miyake Ichirou, expert on Japanese politics; Kawakami Santaro (1891-1968), writer of comic haikus; Okada Hiroshi; Ikeda Bunchian (1902-1972), one of the first specialists in popular culture in Japan; Hayashiya Shouraku VI (1896-1966), rakugoka; Kitasato Toshio (1913-1980); Nanbu Kyoichiro (1904-1975), movie critic; Takeno Tosuke (1889-1966), writer; Ono Joutoku.

"Mesoku Uramono Jo." Amatoria magazine, 1951

1951: "Book on Secret Things in a Women's Jail" is edited by Seiu Ito and is intended as a supplement to be published inside Amatoria. However, it becomes a problem and is detached from the magazine.

1953: Edits a photo supplement of mainly kinbaku photos to the January issue of Yomikiri Romance magazine titled "Graphic Depiction of Ecstasy in Pleasure and Pain." It is the second such supplement by the magazine[5]. Ueda Seijiro, the editor of Yomikiri Romance, is generally considered to have been strongly influenced by Ito. The photos in "Nude Customs Album" are seen as pre-dating the first SM works published in Kitan Club.

1953: Ito publishes a short piece describing his thoughts on Reiko Kita in the January issue of Kitan Club.

1953: Starts his fourth Torture Theater Group with its activity centered around the Nakamura-Za Theatre.

1953: Torture Theater Group gives its first presentation at the Ishikawa Suzumoto theater on June 4th.

1953: Second group of representations at the theater Nakamura-Za in July.

1954: Meets Toshiyuki Suma for the first time in person.

1954: On January 29th, NHK Channel One broadcasts a radio interview about Torment Research.

1955: Photographer Hiroshi Kawaguchi pays a visit to Ito, which begins their friendship.

1956: Forms a friendship with kinbakushi Takashi Tsujimura.

1960: Receives a prize from the Federation of Fine Art Publishers.

1961: Seiu Ito passes away. Tetsuo Takahashi, Toshiyuki Suma, Ueda Seijiro and Masahisa Tanaka attend the funeral.

1966: Oniroku Dan's novel "Ryoki no Hate" ("At the Extreme of Hunting for the Bizarre<") is based on Ito.

1968: Oniroku Dan publishes "Personal Writing on the Story of Seiu Ito" in the December issue of Kitan Club.

1969: The Toei film company holds a few discussions with Oniroku Dan to make a movie on the life of Seiu Ito. An agreement is not reached.

1977: Nikkatsu Film company produces the movie "From the Forbidden Book -- Ecstatic Dance of the Beautiful Women -- Torture!".

1978: Keiyu Tamai puts on the play "Bizarre Stories of Seiu Ito" at the Jiyu Gekijo (Free Theater).

1996: Oniroku Dan publishes a chronicle of Seiu Ito titled "The Heretical Crowd".

2002: "The Heretical Crowd" is made into a movie under the title "Oyou".

Selected Works

  • An Aphabetized Unofficial History of the Customs of Edo and Tokyo (1922-1932)
  • Unofficial History of the Customs of Edo and Tokyo (Arimitsu Shobo, 1997)
  • Accounts of Torture (1929)
  • Explanation of Text (1930)
  • Perverse Images of Punishment in Japan (1930)
  • Human Flesh Market (1947)
  • Illustrated History of Punishment in Japan, (two volumes). in collaboration with Fujisawa Ehiko, 1948
  • Illustrated History of Punishment Customs in Japan 3 vols (1948)
  • Illustrated History of Punishment Customs in Japan 3 vols (2010)
  • A Pictorial Record of Strange Punishments for Events of the Twelve Months (1950)
  • Seme No Korekushon
  • Seiu Ito Photo Book - Seme-e Women (1996)
  • Seiu Ito - Seiu's Secret Notebooks (2002)

Image Collections
  • Ecstatic Dance of Beautiful Women (1932). Book of Illustrations
  • 36 Remembrances of Women (1930)
  • Torment Picture Scroll of Twelve Beautiful Women in Torment (1952)
  • Seiu Ito Picture Collection (1997)
  • Image Collection of Extreme Torture and Private Punishment of Women's Bodies
  • The Yasuda Collection Vol. 5 - A Reproduction of “Woman From Hell” and “Rongo Tsukai”. Private printing. 2010.[6]

  • Drawing Women in Torment (Kitan Club, Jan 1953)
  • Fifteen Ways to Tie a Woman (Fuzoku Soshi, Sep 1953)
  • Posed Defilements (Fuzoku Soshi, Dec 1953)

Image Gallery

Related Persons

Joujirou Sawada (1892-1929): Actor and theater administrator, founder of the Shinkokugeki theater group.

Goro Zoganoya (1877-1948): Actor and dramaturge.

Uzaemon XV Ichimura (1874-1945): A kabuki actors in the Taisho and early Showa periods.

Keigo VI Onoe (1870-1934): Famous kabuki onnagata actor.

Ryutarou Natsumi (1905-1989): Actor who belonged to the Shinkokugeki movement.

Rokurou Kitamura (1871-1961): Kabuki onnagata actor and member of the Shinpageki, a theater genre established in 1888.

Yaeko Mizutani (1905-1979): Actress and representative of the Shinpageki, which she headed after the death Hanayagi Shotaro in 1965.

Shin Hasegawa (1884-1963): Novelist and theater writer.

Ranpo Edogawa (1894-1965): First and foremost Japanese crime novelist.

Sentaro Iwata(1901-1974): Painter, illustrator, and adviser for period movies.

Ryusaburo Shikiba(1898-1965): Psychiatrist, art critic and close friend of Yukio Mishima.

Shigeo Miyao (1902-1982): Illustrator and specialist in Edo culture.

Toshiyuki Suma (1920-1992): SM illustrator.

Imasuke V Konkontei (1998-1976): Rakugoka.


  1. "Yomashima."
  2. A newspaper located in Kyobashi, Tokyo.
  3. Terunobu Tamaki (1879-1953), a scenery painter of the Shinpa (new school) movement
  4. "Kaidan Kai"
  5. The first one being published in August 1952, titled "Nude Customs Album." These two supplements represent the first two publications entirely devoted to kinbaku in the period following the Second World War.[Citation needed]
  6. This is the 5th volume of a series of nine books dedicated to the erotic book collection amassed by Yoshida Ashiaki (1918-2008), one of the foremost experts on Japanese erotica in the 20th century (only the 5th volume contains works by Seiu Ito).

References (※)

External Links