Rakuten Kitazawa is considered one of the founding fathers of the manga scene. He was also the first to start a school specialized in caricature and comics in Japan. Born in Omiya, Kitazawa took courses in painting from Yukihico Ono at the Art Institute of Taikôkan. After a short career as a political cartoonist, he became the only Japanese artist to join the team of the American magazine Box of Curious, which was published in Yokohama. From 1899 he worked for Jijishimpo-sha, a supplement of the journal Jiji Shimpo (Jiji Shinpou), initially as an illustrator. In 1901, he started creating comics. His first comics, 'Togosaku to Mokubê no Tokyo', 'Haikara Kidoro no Shippai' and 'Chame to Dekobo' were inspired by American artists like Outcault, Dirks and Opper.
He also created the adventures of 'Donsha', a street kid, and 'Haneko'. In 1905 he founded the satirical magazine Tokyo Puck, a magazine with an international focus: the stories were translated into English and Chinese. Kitazawa contributed to this magazine until 1911. In 1912, he launched the two-weekly 'Rakuta Puck', of which he remained the driving force until his departure from Jiji Shinpou in 1932. In 1918, he founded the Manga Kourakukia, an association of Japanese illustrators. In 1929, he began travelling throughout the USA and Europe. He collected his experiences in a series of seven books.
In 1934, he founded a school specialized in caricature, comics and painting, and he held his own atelier until his retirement in 1948. During World War II, he painted portraits of killed soldiers at the front. In 1966, eleven years after his death, his hometown named a museum after him.