During the Exposition Universelle in Paris (1900), he toured Europe, where he studied Western art. After returning to Japan he established a unique style, combining the realist techniques of the traditional Japanese Maruyama–Shijo school with Western forms of realism borrowed from the techniques of Turner and Corot. This subsequently became one of the principal styles of modern Nihonga. His favorite subjects were animals -often in amusing poses, such as a monkey riding on a horse. He was also noted for his landscapes.
From the start of the Bunten exhibitions in 1907, Seihō served on the judging committee. In 1909 he became a professor at the Kyoto Municipal College of Painting (the forerunner to the Kyoto City University of Arts). Seihō also established his own private school, the Chikujokai. Many of his students later went on to establish themselves as noted artists, inclyding Tokuoka Shinsen and Uemura Shoen.
In 1913, Seihō was appointed as a court painter to the Imperial Household Agency, and in 1919 was nominated to the Imperial Fine Arts Academy (Teikoku Bijutsuin). He was one of the first persons to be awarded the Order of Culture when it was established in 1937.
He initially used the characters 棲鳳 for the first name of his pseudonym, and this name was possibly pronounced as Saihō.