Toshimo Mitsumura

Mitsumura was both a talented commercial photographer and printing entrepreneur, much similar to his counterpart of his same era, Kazumasa Ogawa. Born in Kobe in 1877, Mitsumura was the illegitimate son of Yahei Mitsumura, a wealthy industrialist from Yamaguchi Prefecture involved in railway and shipping industries in the Kansai area. When Mitsumura was only ten years old his father passed away resulting in the young Mitsumura to be adopted into his father's family, thus inheriting the family name. He first became involved with photography in 1891 at age fourteen when he purchased a camera in Osaka. He soon learnt this new craft and by his mid teens was an accomplished amateur photographer. In 1893 he went to Tokyo to begin studies at Keio Gijutsu Daigaku (present day Keio University) and during his university days he continually pursued photography. By the time he graduated, Mitsumura had became a professional photographer. His first major commission came in 1898 when he was hired to photograph the Beshi Coal Mine which resulted in the publishing of a photo album entitled Beshi Kozan Shashin-cho.

This established Mitsumura as a talented commercial photographer and in 1900 he attended the Exposition Universelle in Paris, France where he was awarded a gold medal for photography. The following year in 1901, along with a group of investors, Mitsumura founded the Kansai Shashin Seihan Insastu Goshi Gaisha (Kansai Photo Plate Making Company), a printing company based in Kobe that specialized in collotype printing and photographic services with a branch in Osaka. In 1904 this company exhibited “Image of Kujaku Myo'o” at the Saint Louis World's Fair in the United States and was awarded a grand prize. This elaborate woodblock print involved more than 1300 strikes and was called the biggest and most colorful woodblock print in the world.

In 1905 the Japanese government commissioned Mitsumura's company to document the Russo-Japan War in Ryojun (present day Liaoning Province, China), also known as Port Arthur and Lushunkou. To do this Mitsumura assembled a photographic unit called the Mitsumura Shashin-han and the result of their efforts was a published collotype photo album entitled Ryojun Shashin-cho. This established Mitsumura's company as one of the leading printing and photographic firms in the Kansai region. This led to the 1907 opening of a colossal photo studio in Osaka called the Kitahama Shashin-kan. This ornate four storied western style building was named after the the Kitahama district in central Osaka where the studio was located, and was in existence until 1917. It was sold when Mitsumura relocated to Tokyo (see below) and converted into Japan's first orthopedic hospital.

In 1918, Mitsumura moved his entire base of operations to Tokyo and changed the name of his company to the Mitsumura Insatsujo (Mitsumura Printing Company). Unlike his competitors, this company survived the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and the ravages of World War II and has continued to flourish to this day. It is now officially called the Mitsumura Printing Co., Ltd.

Toshimo Mitsumura, who is also known as Ryushido Mitsumura passed away in 1955 and left behind an important legacy in both the printing and photographic industries of twentieth century Japan. His works are also held in the collections of such prominent institutions as the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.