Utagawa Yoshitora was born in Edo, Japan. Neither the dates of his birth nor his death are known. Yoshitora was a printmaker who covered a wide spectrum of subjects. He is best known for his Yokohama-e prints, commonly depicting Westerners and their technological advances, such as hot air balloons, iron ships and locomotives. Yoshitora was a student of the famous ukiyo-e artist, Kuniyoshi. Though he is famous for his Yokohama prints, the majority of Yoshitora’s designs feature more conventional subjects, such as town views from Tokyo, warriors, actors and beautiful women.
During the latter part of the nineteenth century, the Traety of Kanagawa stated that Japan had to open the country to the West. The majority of the Japanese population had never seen foreigners before, so with this development, came a huge demand for prints depicting foreigners and their unknown technical inventions. This new genre of print was called, “Yokohama” or “Yokohama- e”, meaning “picture” in Japanese. Many ukiyo-e artists of the time, including Yoshitora, rushed to make Yokohama prints and found substantial success. Having lived only 28 kilometers from Tokyo, Yoshitora had probably seen foreigners before and therefore, had an edge in realistically portraying them in his designs.
Many of Yoshitora's designs were made after illustrations in books and foreign newspapers. His series “Bankoku meisho zukushi no uchi”, (Complete Enumeration of Scenic Places in Foreign Nations), depicted far-off places like London and Washington. Yoshitora used different names to sign his prints, including Ichimosai, Kinchoroj, or Mosai. His artistic output stopped after 1880, when he either retired or passed away.