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Yukichi Tanaka: Hakata’s Idea Man

Shudanyamamise: The one time during the Yamakasa festival period that the floats are carried over the Nakagawa River into central Fukuoka. The giant otafuku mask erected at the Sakuramon gate of Kushida Shrine for Setsubun. Kyokusui no en (“winding stream party”): A reenactment of an elegant Heian era poetry composing festival next to a stream at Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine. All of these events, which are now part of the fabric of Fukuoka, were all dreamed up by one man, Yukichi Tanaka (1901- 1970), who was born in Kawabata in Hakata Ward.

At age 27, Yukichi joined the Fukuoka Nichinichi Shimbun (now Nishi-Nippon Shimbun), and during his time at the newspaper, he was involved in a wide range of events. In 1942, in the middle of the war, he successfully organized the Greater East Asia Construction Exposition, which led to the development of then-undeveloped Momochi pine groves into the neighborhood of Nishijin. In 1945, after the war ended, he proposed the creation of a shopping arcade where a mountain of rubble stood just west of what is now Nishitetsu Fukuoka Station—what we know as Shintencho Shopping Street today.

In 1961, he retired from the newspaper and took a job at an advertising agency, and there he continued to find new ways to promote Hakata’s local culture. This is when he conceived the aforementioned shudanyamamise, giant otafuku mask, and the kyokusui no en. Yukichi, who always loved to draw, taught himself how to paint, and his first job at the newspaper was in the illustration department. They say that no matter how tough the situation may have been, he was persistent in arguing for his proposals, which he crafted by drawing on his strong suits of painting and writing.

Yukichi also loved to make people laugh. He started balding at a young age and had an inferiority complex about this, but he used this attribute to humorously refer to himself as a kotomukei (a word meaning absurd, but which can be read as bald-headed with different characters that sound the same) cultural property. Yukichi also founded the Hakata Niwaka Promotion Council and the Kyushu Association of Manga Artists. This year marks the 50th anniversary of Yukichi’s death, and his relatives are in the process of creating a digital archive to commemorate his life and work. 

Fukuoka City
Published: Dec 1, 2020 / Last Updated: Dec 1, 2020

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