Train Featuring Works by Yumeji Takehisa Renovated

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Yumeji Takehisa’s paintings dot the ceiling of a newly renovated train.

This year marks the 140th anniversary of the birth of Yumeji Takehisa (1884-1934), a painter and poet who represented the Taisho Romanticism movement. He was born in the village of Honjo, now Setouchi, in Okayama Prefecture.

As a project to commemorate the occasion, Okayama Electric Tramway Co. in Okayama City, renovated its train that features Yumeji’s works. With its interior decorated with the artist’s works and playing music he composed, passengers can ride inside a world of art.

The decorated train, which started running in 2014 to commemorate the 130th anniversary of Yumeji’s birth, was designed by Eiji Mitooka, an industrial designer from the prefecture. For the redesign, Mitooka took charge of the work once again. About 40 gorgeously framed paintings of beautiful women and other subjects decorate the train’s black body and ceiling. Its windows feature eight plant designs, including camellias and strawberries, and resemble stained glass.

“Yoimachigusa,” evening primrose, is a song with lyrics written by Yumeji, which plays when the train’s doors open and close. Performed by violinist Junei Osako, the refined beauty of the song echoes through the train.

“The train is Taisho Romanticism itself. You can enjoy Yumeji’s art both inside and outside the train,” said Mitsunobu Kojima, representative of the Ryobi Group, to which the Okayama Electric Tramway belongs, at the train’s launching ceremony on April 8.

“I hope the people in Okayama will rediscover the story of Yumeji together with the renovation of the old train,” Mitooka said.

The train featuring Yumeji’s works makes four round trips each day on the Higashiyama Line.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Violinist Junei Osako plays “Yoimachigusa” in front of the completed train at its launching ceremony in Okayama City.

Touring exhibitions

To commemorate the 140th anniversary of Yumeji’s birth, the Yumeji Art Museum in Naka Ward, Okayama City, is planning a traveling exhibition to six locations in the country, including Tokyo and Osaka. The oil painting titled “Amaryllis,” which the museum acquired in 2022, will also be on display.

The work, which dates from around 1919, depicts a woman in a kimono who is modeled after Yumeji’s lover at the time, behind a potted amaryllis. The melanchoic eyes and large hands are characteristics of “Yumeji-style beauty,” and the museum named this work “Yumeji’s Mona Lisa.”

The work was displayed in the parlor of a Tokyo hotel after it was shown at an exhibition. But after the hotel was closed in 1944, it went missing until it was discovered in 2022 and purchased by the museum.

About 170 works, including sketches will be on display. The exhibition will start from the Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum in June and will be held at the Yumeji Art Museum in Okayama Prefecture starting in September.