Toshi Ichiyanagi
一柳 慧
Toshi Ichiyanagi.jpg
Born(1933-02-04)4 February 1933
Died7 October 2022(2022-10-07) (aged 89)
Years active1954–2008
Notable workKaika
(m. 1956; div. 1962)

Toshi Ichiyanagi (一柳 慧, Ichiyanagi Toshi, 4 February 1933 – 7 October 2022) was a Japanese avant-garde composer and pianist. One of the leading composers in Japan during the postwar era, Ichiyanagi worked in a range of genres, composing Western-style operas and orchestral and chamber works, as well as compositions using traditional Japanese instruments.[1] Ichiyanagi is known for incorporating avant-garde techniques into his works, such as chance music, extended technique, and nontraditional scoring.[1] Ichiyanagi was married to artist Yoko Ono from 1956 to 1962.

Early life and education

Ichiyanagi was born in Kobe on 4 February 1933.[1] He studied composition with Tomojirō Ikenouchi,[citation needed] Kishio Hirao [fr; ja], and John Cage.[1] From 1954 to 1960, he resided in New York City, where he studied at the Juilliard School and the New School for Social Research.[1]

Ichiyanagi was married to Yoko Ono from 1956 to 1962.[2] Ichiyanagi's decision to return to Japan, while Ono remained in New York, rendered the marriage untenable. Ichiyanagi chose to remain single for the rest of his life.


Returning to Japan in 1960, Ichiyanagi collaborated with the anti-art collective Neo-Dada Organizers.[3]

Many of Ichiyanagi's early scores use graphic notation: Sapporo (1963) is one of the better known examples.[4] Another notable early work is the 1960 composition Kaiki, which combined Japanese instruments, shō and koto, and western instruments, harmonica and saxophone. Another work, Distance (1961), required the performers to play from a distance of three meters from their instruments. Anima 7 (1964) stated that chosen action should be performed "as slowly as possible". In 1963, Ichiyanagi co-founded an avant-garde music collective called New Direction along with fellow composers Takehisa Kosugi, Yuji Takahashi, and Kenji Kobayashi, and others.[1] The group disbanded in the late 1960s when most of its members relocated to New York, while Ichiyanagi remained in Japan.[1]

Ichiyanagi's later works shifted away from experimental means toward more conventional forms, including symphonies, operas and concertos.[4] He was the recipient of the 33rd Suntory Music Award (2001) and the Foundation for Contemporary Arts John Cage Award (2018). He has been honored with Japan's Order of Culture.[5]

Personal life and death

Ichiyanagi died on 7 October 2022, at the age of 89.[6]


As listed in Schott Music catalogue:[7]


Orchestral works

Chamber works

Works for keyboard

Works for other instruments

Vocal works

Japanese instrumental works

Electronic music

Theater pieces

Film scores


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Merewether, Charles, ed. (2007). Art, Anti-Art, Non-Art: Experimentations in the Public Sphere in Postwar Japan, 1950–1970. Getty Research Institute. p. 121. ISBN 978-0892368662.
  2. ^ Japan, An Illustrated Encyclopedia, Kodansha International, Tokyo, 1993, p. 1155 mentions that she married him in 1956, but does not say until when they were married.
  3. ^ Merewether, Charles, ed. (2007). Art, Anti-Art, Non-Art: Experimentations in the Public Sphere in Postwar Japan, 1950–1970. Getty Research Institute. p. 121. ISBN 978-0892368662.
  4. ^ a b Michael Schell (2018-11-01). "Eye Music Revives a Memento of 1960s Openness". Second Inversion.
  5. ^ "Donald Keene, 7 others win Order of Culture", Yomiuri Shimbun, October 29, 2008.
  6. ^ "現代音楽界をリード、作曲家の一柳慧さん89歳で死去…オノ・ヨーコさんと一時期結婚". Yomiuri. 8 October 2022. Retrieved 8 October 2022.
  7. ^ Schott Music (2020-02-28). "Toshi Ichiyanagi".
  8. ^ Bouhours, Jean-Michel (1996). L'art du Mouvement: Collection Cinématographique du Musée National d'Art Moderne, 1919-1996 (in French). Musée National d'Art Moderne. Retrieved 16 June 2021.