He completed 23 films in seven years.
Only three out of his 23 films are known to exist.
ALong with Daisuke Itô, he popularized a genre of movies that depicted the plight of the poor with unprecedented realism.
He got into movie-making when a schoolmate, the son of early film mogul Shozo Makino, helped him get a job in the script department of Makino Film Productions.
Because he depicted the samurai as less than heroic, he was sent to fight on the Chinese front and was killed there.
He was one of eight Japanese filmmakers who was part of the Nautaki Gumi (Narutaki Gang), which was named after the area of Kyoto where they all lived and worked under the joint pseudonym of Kimpachi Kajiwara.
Yamanaka was a close friend of Yasujirô Ozu, whose filming style was similar.