He was born in Edo in 1839. His father was a wealthy trader who had made his way to samurai status, but Yoshitoshi left home at the age of 3 to live with his uncle, a pharmacist who loved him dearly. .
His real name Owariya Yonejiro, he was renamed Yoshitoshi by his master Kuniyoshi, one of the greatest masters of Japanese prints, from whom he acquired all his knowledge from the age of 11 in 1850. Although he did not is not considered Kuniyoshi's successor during his lifetime, he is now recognized as his main student.
Yoshitoshi's first painting appeared in 1853, then he produced nothing new for a long time, this may be due to the illness contracted by his master Kuniyoshi during his last years. Although his life was difficult after Kuniyoshi's death in 1861, he worked hard; 44 works were known in 1862.
In his early works, there are a good number of extremely violent and morbid scenes, perhaps reflecting the anarchy and violence of Japan all around him, which had happened simultaneously with the collapse of the feudal system. established by the Tokugawa shoguns as well as the impact of the West. During this period, his notoriety continued to grow, and, from 1869, he was considered one of the best painters of prints in Japan.
In 1873 he began to produce many works. Newspapers suddenly appeared in the wake of modernization, and Yoshitoshi was hired to produce paintings in one of them.
From then on, the art of prints was in a difficult situation. All the great printmakers of the first half of the century, Hiroshige, Kunisada Utagawa, and Kuniyoshi, were dead, and this art form was dying out in the confusion of Japanese modernism. Yoshitoshi insisted on high production standards and helped to temporarily save it from degeneration.
The last years of his life were among the most productive, with his great series One Hundred Aspects of the Moon (1885-1892), and New Forms of Thirty-Six Ghosts (1889-1892), as well as some masterful triptychs on actors and Kabuki theater scenes.
During this period he also cooperated with his friend, the actor Danjūrō, and others in an attempt to rescue some of the traditional Japanese arts.