Kokan studied the academic style of Kano-school painting, then Nagasaki style under So Shiseki (1712-1786) in Edo. He also studied ukiyo-e painting and printmaking under Suzuki Harunobu (1725-1770). He produced spurious Harunobu prints, and used the name of Harushige for his own prints. During the An'ei era (1772-81), he changed his interest to Westen-style prints and paintings influenced by Hiraga Gennai (1726-1779) and Odano Naotake (1749-1780). In 1783, he became the first Japanese copperplate engraver with View of Mimeguri, and took up oil painting. In 1788, he went to Nagasaki to learn the techniques of Western oil painting. During the Kansei era (1789-1801), his Western-style paintings incorporated motifs from Japanese landscapes and scenes from Western books.