Seiu Ito

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Seiu Ito

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




Seiu Ito was a major figure in the SM world in Japan during the Showa era (1925-1989) and his influence continues to the present day. Born in 1882, he was strongly attracted from an early age to scenes of torture in stories and theater plays and he produced a large body of art (paintings and drawings) as well as photographs depicting scenes of torture and kinbaku, often using his wife or his mistress as his model.

He started as an illustrator working for newspapers at the end of the Meiji era but later became a theater critic. He then became the head of the Performing Arts section as well as the main illustrator for the Yomiuri newspaper. At the beginning of the Taisho period (1912), he met Kaneyo Sasaki (Oyou) and Kise Sahara, two women who had an appreciation of kinbaku, and he deepened his study of torture art and photography. In the closing years of the Taisho era (around 1926), he rode the wave of the eroguro movement and attracted attention as a “painter of perversion”. In 1928, he published the first photo book of kinbaku (Seme no Kenkyu – Research on Torture), which was soon after banned by the authorities.

Before World War II, through editor Suikodo Shoten, he published a large number of collections of graphic works. But this period, with Ito at the height of his career, was interrupted by the war. With the cessation of hostilities, he became active as a writer in the castori magazines such as Ningen Tankyu, Kitan Club and Fuzoku Soushi. 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 Soushi, Fuzoku Kitan and Uramado. During the Taisho period (1912-1926) he established theater groups whose plays centered on torture scenes and, 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 Nikki -- Edo to Tokyo Fuzoku Yashi which details the tools and crafts of old Tokyo.

Alternate Name(s)

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


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

1890: Accepted as an apprentice by Nozawa Teiu, a member of the Edo based Korinha 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 Chujou Hime (Princess Chujou) from his mother, the scene of torture in the snow leaving a strong impression.

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

1894: Becomes the apprentice of ivory carver Naito Yasukazu in the district of Honzo Ku Aioi-cho, Tokyo.

1895: Starts to collect pictures related to torture.

1896: Starts to draw advertisements for theater plays.

1896 (June): Goes to the Haruki theater in the district of Hoingo, Tokyo to watch Nisshin Senso Youchi no Ada Tan (Raid Nocturne During the Nishiin War), a play in the Soushi 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: In the Tokiwa Theater in Asakusa, is strongly impressed by the torture chamber in the play Akumabarai (Sweep Away the Demons) of Mizuno Yoshimi.

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 then returns to Tokyo.

1907: Joins the Mai-Chou Shinbun published in the Nihonbashi, Tokyo district as an artist/journalist. He is put in charge of illustrating Yomashima (Ghost Island) by writer Arigawa Akikusa.

1909: Joins the Yamato Shinbun Sha located in Kyobashi, Tokyo in charge of illustrations, while continuing as theater critic at the Maiseki Shinbun; he then joined the Yomiuri Shinbun where he was promoted to head illustrator.

1909: Through an arranged introduction, he marries Takeo, the younger sister of the wife of Tamaki Terunobu (1879-1953), a scenery painter of the Shinpa (new school) movement. Around that time, having gained a steady income and numerous commissions for illustrations, most of his money was spent on entertainment.

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

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

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

1919: Divorces Takeo and marries Sahara Kisei.

1919: With Kisei, takes photos of snow torture in his garden; the photographer is YuuKa.

Seiu Ito's 1919 suspension photo published in Hentai Shiriou on 1926.12.25

1920 (autumn): Makes his fist attempt at suspension with his wife Kisei; also suspends his wife’s younger daughter in his workshop and takes photos.

1921 (June): With Kisei now pregnant, makes the Rinketsu Bijin Sakasa Tsuri no Shashin (photo in inverted suspension of a beautiful woman in her last month of pregnancy).

1921: Suzuki Senzaburo (1893-1924), a theater writer, publishes Hi Aburi (Burnt by Fire), a play based on the life of Seiu Ito.

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

1923: Great Kanto Earthquake occurs; Ito's residence avoids fire damage; at this time he had lent the Rinketsu Bijin Sakasa Tsuri no Shashin to his friend, Tomitsuka Kenzo, which is eventually published in the December 1936 issue of Hentai Shiryou; the same he year publishes Iroha Hiki – Edo to Tokyo Fuzoku Noshi (Private History of Edo and Tokyo Customs, Taken From the Iroha).

1924: Publishes in the Sunday Mainichi photos of torture of Kisei; acquires a reputation for perversion.

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

1926 (December): Publication of Rinketsu Bijin Sakasa Tsuri no Shashin in the magazine Hentai Shiriou (Pervert Documents) without his authorization. Accompanied by Rinketsu no Josei no Tsukasazuri (inverse suspension of a woman in her last month of pregnancy) by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-1892), ukiyoe artitst.

1927: Publication of the first volume of Iroha Hiki, Edo to Tokyo Fuzoku Noshi by publisher Hirobunkan.

1928: Publishes the first known photo book of kinbaku, Seme no Kenkyuu<'i> (Research on Torture) which is quickly banned by the authorities.

1930: Works as contributor and editor for the <i>Kodanzasshi.

1931: Now married for a third time, Ito's wife suffers from mental illnes and he goes into debt.

1932: Publishes Bijin Ranpu (Ecstatic Dance of Beautiful Women).

1932: Publishes the sixth volume of his Iroha Hiki – Edo to Tokyo Fuzoku Noshi.

1933: Starts his second theater group

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

1947: In the fourth issue of the magazine Rioki publishes “Shitagerataru Nijon Fujin” “The Japanese married woman who wanted to be oppressed”

1950 In Asakusa (Tokyo) Hyakumandoru Gekijo (million dollars theater) gives representations of torture theater

1951(April) Until at least January 1954 exchange letters with Suma Toshiyuki (aka Kita Reiko)

1951 Publishes a series of essays in the magazine Ningen Tankyuu

1951 To celebrate the launch of the magazine Amatoria takes part in a group travel (80 person) to the onsen resort of Rendaiji Onsen in Izu. Among the participants 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 specialist of popular culture in Japan, Hayashiya Shouraku (the 6th) (1896-1966) rakugoka, Kitasato Toshio (1913-1980), Nanbu Kyoichiro (1904-1975) Movie critic, Takeno Tosuke (1889-1966) writer、Ono Joutoku.

Mesoku Uramono Jo 1951

1951 “Mezoku Uramono Jo” (Book on secret things in women jail) edited by Ito Seiu and intended as a supplement to be published inside Amatoria becomes a problem and is finally detached from the magazine.

1953 Edits a photo supplement to the January issue of the magazine Yomikiri Romance titled Etsugyaku Koukotsu To (graphic depiction of ecstasy in pleasure and pain) with mainly kinbaku photos. It is the second such supplement by the magazine, the first one being published in August 1952, titled "Nudo Fuzoku Arubamu " (various nude album) and edited by Ueda Seijiro who is generally considered as having been strongly influenced by Seiu. These 2 supplements represent the first 2 publications entirely devoted to kinbaku in the period following the second world war. The photos included in "Nudo Fuzoku Arubamu"are seen as pre-dating the first SM works published in Kitan Club.

1953 In the January issue of Kitan Club publishes a short piece describing his thoughts about Kita Reiko

1953 Starts his fourth “Seme No Gekidan” Torture Theater Group with its activity centered around the Nakamura Za (theatre Nakamura).

1953 (June 4th) the group gives its first representation in the theater Ishikawa Suzumoto

1953 (July) second group of representations at the theater Nakamura Za

1954 Meets for the first time in person with Suma Toshiyuki

1954 (28 January) The NHK makes an interview about “Seme no Kenkyuu" (research on torture) which is broadcasted on radio on the 29 January on the NHK first channel.

1955 Photographer Kawaguchi Hiroshi pays a visit to Itou Seiu which is the start of amicable relationship.

1956 Enters in relation with Tsujimura Takashi

1960 Receives as illustrator a price from the Federation of Fine Art Publishers.

1961 Passes away. At his funeral Takahashi Tetsuo, Suma Toshiyuki, Ueda Seijiro, Tanaka Masahisa are present

1966 Oniroku Dan novel “Ryoki no Hate” (At the extreme of hunting for the bizarre) takes Itou Seiu as model.

1968 In the December issue of Kitan Club, Oniroku Dan publishes “Shihon Itou Seiu Monogatri” (Personal writing on the story of Itou Seiu).

1969: Some discussions are held with the Toei film Company by Oniroku Dan to make a movie on the life of Ito Seiu. An agreement is not reached.

1977 Movie company Nikkatsu produces the movie “Hakkinhon Bijinranpu Yori Semeru” (from the forbidden book “ecstatic dance of the beautiful women” Torture!)

1978 In the theater Jiyu Gekijo (Free theater), Tamai Keiyu puts out the play “Kiden Itou Seiu” (Bizarre stories Itou Seiu)

1996 Oniroku Dan publishes a chronic of Itou Seiu “Sotomichi no Mure” (the heretical crowd)

2002 "Gedou no Mure"is adapted to the movies under the title “Oyou”

Selected Works

- Irohahiki Edo to Tokyo Fuzoku Noshi 6vols 1922-1932

- Seme No Kenkyu (Research on Torture) 1928

- Seme no Hanashi (Histories of Torture) 1929-9

- Rongo Tsukai (Explanation of Text)) 1930

- Onna Sanjuroku Kioku (36 remembrances of women)1930

- Bijin Ranmai (Ecstatitc Dance of Beautiful Women)1932

- Nihon Hentai Keibatsu Gabu (Perverse images of punishment in Japan) 1930

- Hitoniku Shijo (Human flesh market) 1947

- Nihon Taibatsu Fuzoku Toshi (上、下) (Graphic History of Punishment in Japan (in 2 volumes) in collaboration with Fujisawa Ehiko) 1948

- Seme no Kenkyu 1950 ( a reprint of the 1928 book)

- Seizetsu Jotai Komon Shikei Higashu” (Image Collection of Extreme Torture and Private Punishment of Women Bodies)

- Seme No Korekushon

- Bijin Juniji Sene Emaki (Scroll of Twelve Beauties in Torture)


There is a full bibliography in Japanese in the related article on Ito Seiu in SMpedia. We have listed here books on Ito Seiu, which are likely to be of value for the reader who does not read Japanese text.

伊藤晴雨集 (Ito Seiu Collected Images) March 1997 ISBN: 978-4107200433

伊藤晴雨・晴雨秘帖 The Secret Noteboks of Seiu ed: 二見書房 May 2002 ISBN: 978-4576020891

江戸と東京風俗野史 (Private History of Manners in Edo and Tokyo) A re-edition of Seiu’s work on Tokyo craftsmen and daily life, not SM related ed: 有光書房 1997 ASIN: B000JA9AFW

日本刑罰風俗図史 (上、中、下) Graphic History of Customs relative to Punishment in Japan in 3 volumes ed: 粋古堂1948 ASIN: B000JB9BSC The same book in modern re-edition in one volume ed: 国書刊行会 April 2010 ISBN: 978-4336052179

安田コレクション5 地獄の女 論語通解 The Yasuda Collection Vol 5 A reproduction of “Woman From Hell” and “Rongo tsukai” The 5th tome of a series of 9 books dedicated to the collection of erotic books amassed by Yoshida Ashiaki (1918-2008) one of the foremost expert on Japanese erotica in the 20th century (only the 5th volume contains works by Itou Seiu). Private printing, no ISBN.

Related Persons

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

Zoganoya Goro (1877-1948) Actor and dramaturge.

Ichimura Uzaemon (the 15th) 1874-1945 One of the representative Kabuki actor of the Taisho and early Showa period.

Onoe Keigo (1870-1934) (the 6th) Famous Kabuki Onnagata actor.

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

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

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

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

Edogawa Ranpo (1894-1965) Novelist, first and foremost Japanese crime novel writer.

Iwata Sentaro (1901-1974) Painter, illustrator, Adviser for period movies.

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

Miyao Shigeo (1902-1982) Illustrator and Specialist of Edo culture.

Toshiyuki Suma (aka Reiko Kita) (1920-1992) SM Illustrator.

Konkontei Imasuke the 5th (1998-1976) Rakugoka.



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