Takahashi Shôtei put a seal reading "Rakutei" on many of his prints. Previously, most observers considered Rakutei to be a separate artist, but the evidence presented below should put that notion to rest.

The Japanese Characters

Here are the kanji characters which make up the names "Shôtei" and "Rakutei". Even though the design of seals leads to highly stylized characters, the first characters of each of these names are distinctive.
Shôtei Rakutei

I have received some feedback that the Rakutei seal should be translated as "Shôtei". Further research shows that it is, indeed, an ambiguous situation. However, since Watanabe's personnel, in applying the romanized signature (see below), chose to call it "Rakutei", I will continue to defer to their interpretation.

Prints Signed Hiroaki, Sealed Rakutei

Here is a list of prints on which there is a "Hiroaki" signature, along with a "Rakutei" seal.
  • P-8 - 5 story pagoda
  • P-9 - Torii gates
  • P-10 - Fuji and cherry blossoms
  • P-11 - Snowy sunset

Same Print Attributed to Both Shôtei and Rakutei

In the Shôtei catalog, these prints are S-49, "Moon under a bridge at Hakozaki".

The top print has the pencilled title, "Bridge by Moon" and the artist's attribution "Rakutei". This writing was typically done by Watanabe's staff in preparing mounted prints for export.

The lower print is from a sample book of small Watanabe prints and is labelled with the stamped Watanabe inventory number "161". Below that, I have attached a scan of print 161's line in the 1936 Watanabe catalog, where the print is attributed to Shôtei. However, the seal on this print clearly reads, "Rakutei".

The owner of the lower print, Philip Roach, has had a chance to compare both prints closely and reports that they are printed from the same blocks, although the registration on the upper print is tighter.

Pre-/Post-Earthquake Set

This pair of prints, a pre-/post-earthquake set, is in the Shôtei catalog as S-9 "Evening glow on pagoda in deep woods". They are the same basic design, one sealed Shôtei, the other sealed Rakutei.

The one on the right, sealed Rakutei, came attached to a backing paper on which was stamped "No. 42", the post-earthquake Watanabe inventory number. That same design is pictured on page 30 of the 1936 Watanabe sales catalog, attributed to Shôtei.

The one on the left, sealed Shôtei, is considered to be the pre-earthquake version.

Other Shôtei Prints With the Rakutei Seal

Here is a list of prints attributed to Shôtei in the Watanabe catalog which have Rakutei seals:
  • S-45 - Azalea blossoms in red and white
  • S-46 - Street at night; woman near bridge
  • S-47 - Country house after snow
  • S-48 - Moonrise at mountain village
  • S-50 - Drawing up seawater under moonlight
  • S-63 - Torii of Miyajima under the moonlight
  • S-64 - Red leaves at Monkey Bridge
  • S-73 - Bell-tower in rain and an acolyte
  • S-74 - Country house at Negishi


My great appreciation to the distinguished hanga collector and connoisseur, Philip Roach, Jr. for initially recognizing the Shôtei/Rakutei connection and for helping to compile the above evidence.

Thanks, Phil!


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