An illustration by Gōjin Ishihara published in the 1972 children’s book, ‘Illustrated Book of Japanese Monsters.’
Japanese artist Gōjin Ishihara had a very long and impressive career during which he was often affectionately referred to as “Japan’s Norman Rockwell.” His preferred medium was India Ink—which is commonly used in comic book art though Ishihara would thin it before he used it, making it more difficult to manipulate.
Born in the Shimane region of Honshu Island in 1923, Ishihara was getting paid for his illustrations while he was still quite young, perhaps as young as ten (though it is difficult to pinpoint more precisely). After completing school, he traveled to Mongolia where he held several jobs including a gig painting movie cards for silent films. At the age of 21, Ishihara was drafted into the Japanese Imperial Army during which time he was nearly killed by friendly fire. The experience led Ishihara to develop a disdain for authority after being drilled in the army to believe he and his peers should be prepared to die while serving the divine figure that was Emperor Hirohito. Following his horrific time in the service, Ishihara returned to Japan where he enrolled at Nihon University where he was exposed to the artwork of Norman Rockwell which would strongly influence his artistic style. His career as an artist soon took flight and Ishihara’s illustrations would be widely published on the covers of pulp novels and magazines. In 1972 a large number of his drawings appeared in the book Illustrated Book of Japanese Monsters which was marketed to children. The terrifying illustrations featured depictions of cannibalism, torture and other mayhemic situations involving netherworld ghouls and giant murderous cats.
Later on, Ishihara would create erotic illustrations under the name “Hayashi Gekkō” for gay publications and novels which are as hardcore as his illustrations from his children’s book. I can’t show you any of them here on DM, but you can see them in all their highly NSFW glory here. Ishihara continued to work throughout the 1990s including the creation of various mind-boggling illustrations for the first issue of adult magazine series The Seikimatsu Club in 1996. For their debut issue, the magazine took on the Manson family murders with the help of Ishihara’s immense talents. The transfixing and outré illustrations he created for the magazine at the age of 73 include a disturbing black and white collage, featuring, among others, Charles Manson, Rev. Jim Jones, Uriel from the Unarius Academy of Science (who was known in Japan due to her appearance on the cover a popular underground music CD comp of the early 90s), Aleister Crowley, “King of the Witches” Alex Sanders, Anton LaVey in a fucked up threesome with two women wearing goat and pig heads, Father Yod the leader of the Source Family cult, some hooded Klan members being crucified, Shoko Asahara the blind founder of the Japanese doomsday cult group Aum Shinrikyo.
Following that triumph, Ishihara would pass away in 1997 leaving a large legacy of fantasy/horror artwork. Books containing Isihara’s artwork are hard to come by and when and if you do they will put a large dent in your wallet as I’ve seen them listed for several hundred dollars each. If you’re looking for a more modest investment, Ishihara’s artwork is featured in the 2015 book Illustrations of The Strange, Mysterious And Bizarre For Kids of The Showa Era along with other masters of the realm of Japanese illustration such as the eye-popping sci-fi work of Shigeru Komatsuzaki.
Most of the images that I’ve posted below are pretty NSFW.
Another one of Ishihara’s illustrations from the ‘Illustrated Book of Japanese Monsters.’ More follow.
The cover artwork by Ishihara for the first issue of The Seikimatsu Club magazine published in 1996.
The infamous collage by Ishihara from first The Seikimatsu Club magazine series.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
‘Jigoku’: The brilliantly grim Japanese horror film about Hell
Anatomical illustrations of Godzilla and other Japanese monsters
Bizarre and beautiful Japanese prints depicting the giant catfish who causes earthquakes
Godzilla, girls and guns: Color-drenched Japanese sci-fi art
The hallucinogenic Pop artwork of Japanese master Keiichi Tanaami