Takashi Yanase was born in Tokyo on February 6, 1919, and raised in Kochi, the hometown of his parents.
After WWII, he got a job with the Mitsukoshi publishing department. The Mitsukoshi typography on the Hanahiraku wrapping paper of Mitsukoshi department stores is one of his designs from this period.
He then became a freelance comic artist and began creating comic strips such as Beeru no Ousama (The King of Beer), an advertising comic strip for Sapporo Breweries Limited’s brand Nipponbeeru. However, after the rise of story manga (graphic novels), he gradually lost ground to the competition.
In the 1960s, Takashi Yanase extended his range of work to a variety of creative genres such as television writing, radio writing, and scenic art directing. He became known as a multitalented entertainer. During that time he wrote Tenohira Wo Taiyou Ni, a poem which was set to music by composer Taku Izumi. It became the most renowned of the many poems Yanase wrote.
In 1969, when Takashi Yanase was 50 years old, he published Anpanman in PHP magazine. In 1988 the animated television program Anpanman was created. Later, the number of characters that appeared in the show (1768 in total) set a Guinness world record.
Yanase kept working energetically until around 2010 when, due to poor eyesight, he considered retirement. However, after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, he decided against retirement and supported the stricken area in various ways including producing and sending posters.
On October 13, 2013, Takashi Yanase died at the age of 94. He lived his life true to his own words, “Life is a game of making each other happy”, and expressed this idea through many of his works including Anpanman.
Takashi Yanase received his first comic art opportunity with Beeru no Ousama, a four-paneled pantomime cartoon. During the time when he was striving to create a masterpiece, he put Mr. BO in a comic art competition and won a prize. He also created the comic series Tobe! Anpanman, Otasuke Kamen, Little BO and others. His continued work on comics was not for financial gain but for his own artistic satisfaction.
When Takashi Yanase left his career as a graphic designer at Mitsukoshi to become a comic artist, the Japanese comic industry was moving into a new era where graphic novels were becoming more popular than comic strips. During this time Yasashii Lion, which he initially drew as a radio play, was published as a picture book. After this he began publishing many picture books, a number of which have proven popular across the generations including Anpanman series, Chirin no Suzu, Sokkuri no Kuri no Ki, and Gannbariru Ojisan series.
Takashi Yanase produced one of his most well known works, the poem that became the lyrics to the song Tenohira Wo Taiyou Ni, during a time when he was concerned about his work and health problems. He and the musical composer of this song, Taku Izumi, also released the series O Sai Kara 99 Sai Made no Douyou (Nursery Songs for Ages 0 to 99).
He published a selection of his poetry, Kodomogokoro no Uta, at his own expense. He continued writing poems and some of his collections such as Aisuru Uta, Kibou no Shishuu, and Jinnsei Nannte Okashiine are still popular today.
Takashi Yanase created and edited Shitomeruhen (Poem and Märchen), a magazine featuring poems, pictures and comics, predominantly readers’ contributions, in a picture book style. With the hope to enhance popular culture, he weaved the poetic world of his childhood into the magazine. Since the number of contributions from children had increased, he started Ichigo Ehon as an offshoot of Shitomeruhen. He also launched Illustre as a guide magazine for aspiring artists. These magazines fostered the talents of many readers and supported them to become successful artists.
After WWII, Takashi Yanase decided to move to Tokyo and became a graphic designer at Mitsukoshi. He designed posters, illustrated the house magazines, and was the creator of the Mitsukoshi typography on the wrapping paper of the Mitsukoshi department stores. After he became a comic artist he designed the scenic art for plays. He was also the art director for the animated film Senya Ichiya Monogatari, for which he also designed the characters. He then began contributing to public works and commercial advertisements, designing characters that we can still recognize today as Yanase characters.
On occasions such as the publication of a collection of poetry, Takashi Yanase organized concerts and poetry readings. In his old age he wrote a musical, which he produced and performed in. He recorded his debut album, Nosutaru Jiisan, a collection of songs from the musical.
Yanase Usagi (rabbit) is a character that Takashi Yanase drew in his work as a substitute figure for himself. It is also the logo of the Annex Hall of Takashi Yanase Memorial Museum. According to Yanase, “my Chinese Zodiac sign is the sheep, so it could have been a sheep, but a sheep was not so easy to draw. A rabbit was easy. Also, I liked that rabbits are timid and quick to run away, that they don’t have a battling spirit or weapons to fight with. So I put sunglasses on a rabbit and made Yanase Usagi”.