Pre-World War II dôjin zasshi (同人雑誌) or coterie magazines were usually privately issued and often short-lived art/literary magazines sponsored by groups of writers and artists. Dôjin were issued from the beginning of the twentieth century until the early 1970s, although nearly all were active only before World War II. Despite small circulations, coterie magazines were widely distributed among woodblock-print aficionados. Exemplified by an independent spirit and experimentation in layout and content, dôjin were critical to the development and sustenance of sôsaku hanga (creative prints: 創作版画), providing many artists with the only venues to show their work in the pre-war years. Sewn together or compiled as loose sheets within envelopes, the magazines featured many hand-printed images, although some were mokuhan kikai zuri (machine woodblock printings: 木版機械摺) or photomechanical reproductions. Early examples include those found in the literary magazines Hôsun ("One's Ideas" or "Square Inch," 35 issues, 1907-11) and its shorter-lived predecessor Heitan ("Flatness," 5 issues, 1905-06). Han geijutsu ("Print Art," 1932-36), published by Shirô to Kuro (White & Black) in Tokyo by the Shirô to Kuro-sha, was an important magazine in the decade preceding the Second World War.
Kitsutsuki (Woodpecker: きつつき) was one of the more ephemeral pre-war coterie magazines. It was issued in only three volumes: July 1930, September 1930, and June 1931, in editions of 100 each. The editorial board consisted of Fujimori Shizuo, Fukzawa Sakuichi, Henmi Takashi, Hiratsuka Un'ichi, Kawakami Sumio, Maekawa Senpan, Onchi Kôshiô, and Suwa Kanenori. For issue 1, there were 26 artists identified as members of the dôjin group. A wood engraving of a woodpecker by Hiratsuka Un'ichi (平塚運一 1895-1997) became the emblem for the magazine, appearing on the cover of all three issues. The original publication announced, ambitiously, that there would be six issues annually with special collections of individual artists in spring and fall. Each issue was to have ten hand-printed works with seven in color. In an effort to promote sôsaku hanga, the board planned to establish a hanga institute offering short courses, and to sell hanga tools. Volume 2 of Kitsutsuki featured the Ginza in Tokyo and included a note indicated there were 30 members. By volume 3, there were only 20 members. The name was revived in 1942-43 by the Kitsutsukikai (Kitsutsuki Hanga Club), which published two collections of 20 self-carved, self-printed hanga in editions of 100 each, called Kitsusuki hangashû (Woodpecker print collections: きつつき版画集).
Very little is known about Okuyama Yasuo (奥山康夫). He exhibited with Nihon Sôsaku Hanga Kyôkai (Japan Creative Print Association) in 1929 and Nihon Hanga Kyôkai (Japan Print Association) in 1930-31. He was the only artist who had his designs published in all three issues of Kitsutsuki. He also contributed in 1933 to Shiro to kuro (White & Black), an important dôjin magazine in the decade preceding the Second World War. As with the print on offer here, Okuyama sometimes signed with "YAS" or "YASUO" carved into the printing block.
Ginza (銀座): After a devastating fire in 1872 burned down most of the area, the Meiji government designated the Ginza area as a "model of modernization." The government planned the construction of fireproof brick buildings and larger, better streets connecting Shinbashi Station with Tsukiji. The district flourished as a symbol of "civilization and enlightenment," promoted by newspapers and magazine companies, which helped spread the latest trends in fashion and design. The area was also known for its window displays, an example of modern marketing techniques. Most of the European-style buildings are gone now, but some older buildings remain, most famously the Wakô Building with the now-iconic Hattori Clock Tower. Today, leading fashion houses operate stores in the Ginza, which has the highest concentration of Western shops in Tokyo.
Okuyama's night view of the Ginza shopping and entertainment area in Tokyo captures the developing modernity of post-earthquake Tokyo (i.e., after 1923). Electric street-cars carry passengers along a tree-lined boulevard shared with automobiles while silhouetted pedestrians amble by well-illuminated shops. The scene, aglow with a warm yellow light, is animated by the rhythmic repetition of incandescent windows from buildings and vehicles, as well as the movement of figures and transportation along the strong diagonals emerging from deep recessional space. Okuyama's vision was intended as an invitation to take part in this fashionable nighttime world.
References: Helen Merritt and Nanako Yamada, Guide to Modern Japanese Woodblock Prints: 1900-1975. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 1992, pp. 121, 206-207, 273