“Shunga” is Ukiyo-e prints popular by depicting the scenes of sexual intercourse between the sexes or the same sex. Shunga is often thought of as an erotic book (art) in the Edo period, but in reality, it was called “laughing picture” as it was full of humor as well as sexual depiction. I introduce the masterpieces of the shunga of the Edo period which samurai and commoners enjoyed a lot!
Recently, Shunga is also popular in exhibitions. Although it is not known unexpectedly, most famous Ukiyoe painters in the Edo period have also painted a shunga. Katsushika Hokusai who is an internationally renowned genius artist, Utagawa Kuniyoshi as an “eccentric painter” who loved cats, and Utamaro Kitagawa who is a master of “Bijin-ga” (pictures of beautiful women) etc. According to one theory, “Because shunga work was high manuscript fee, they unwillingly undertook it for their living”. However, from the finished works and the pen names it shows that they enjoyed painting. I introduce famous shunga masterpieces that the six great Ukiyo-e artists in the Edo period drawn!
First person is Katsushika Hokusai.
He is a representative artist in Japan, not to mention the Edo period. His work “Fine Wind, Clear Weather (Gaifû kaisei), also known as Red Fuji” and “Under the Wave off Kanagawa (Kanagawa-oki nami-ura), also known as the Great Wave” is famous worldwide, from the series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (Fugaku sanjûrokkei). Even those who are not interested in painting should have seen these works at least once!
The original of “Tentacle erotica” ?
This is a woodblock print which is included in the pornography “Kinoe no komatsu (English: Young Pines)”. A shell diver is attacked by two octopuses. Although it is the so-called “Tentacle erotica” in our present time, it is surprising that the work was drawn about 150 years ago. Katsushika Hokusai, too much to go ahead of the times! For those interested, I will roughly translate the content.
Big octopus “It was worth aiming, I finally caught her. It’s a wonderful secret place that swell. I’ll suck and enjoy her, after all, take her to the The Palace Under the Sea and keep her as a mistress. ”
By the way, it was also Katsushika Hokusai who wrote this sentence. I don’t think he unwillingly undertook.
Male and female faces are genital
This is a cover picture of ehon (erotic ukiyo-e book) “Manpuku wagôjin” drawn by Katsushika Hokusai when he was 74 years old. Hokusai is getting more and more impressive around the age of over 70, but this work also does not make us feel old. The motif is a picture titled “Kanzan and Jittoku zu” depicting depicts Kanzan and Jittoku who are strange hermits in ancient Chinese, which has often became a subject in the Edo period. It is pleasant that they go hand in hand and seem to get along real good.
Women’s feet are sexy and excellent
A couple of fisherman and woman shell diver hook up. You can see a basket containing many shells at the bottom left. Disheveled black hair make us feel oriental sex appeal. According to the content, To a woman shell diver desperately denying the hoax that she had an affair with other fishermen, the fisherman says “Anyway, let ‘s enjoy sex quite now!”. His kimono design, the color of her red loincloth and black hair is also brilliant, and it’s truly Hokusai!
Second person is Suzuki Harunobu.
He was active in the middle of the Edo period. He was Ukiyo-e artist who was good at drawing a slender girl such as a tea house idol “Kasamori Osen”. Suzuki Harunobu ‘s work features is a modest depiction with pastel color. Introducing Ukiyo-e prints that are erotic and cute, and also have interesting ideas.
This work is a story that the main character “Ukiyonosuke” who became small with a secret medicine is said as “Mane’emon” and pursues mystery of the love affair. I am surprised that the idea of becoming a dwarf and looking into love affair had existed over 250 years ago!
Well, the main character of the dwarf “Mane’emon” exists in this painting as well. Where is he?
He is look on enviously at an affair from the hole in the desk’s leg. By the way, turning your eyes outside the room,
Cats are also mating. Animals often appeared as supporting actors in shunga, make the viewer laugh. This work is just like a “laughing picture”. There is no excessive sexual expression, so I am heartwarming as a whole. “The series The Amorous Adventures of Mane’emon (Fûryû enshoku Mane’emon)” was a popular work, sequels and similar works were also published.
Ignore a child
In the middle of the 18th century Harunobu painted enpon (erotic ukiyo-e book) “The series Eight Fashionable Views of Interiors (Furyu zashiki hakkei)”, which contains 8 pictures, this is one of them. At first glance it looks like fellowship between females, but the person on the right is actually male. He is young and good-looking fan seller.
When the good-looking fan seller turned his back to take out the product, a customer woman sexually assaulted him. I wonder if she was sexual frustration. At the bottom left of the picture, it is very funny that a child who seems to be a son of a woman plays with goldfish in the style of “I am not interested”.
By the way, children often appear in shunga, they fool around and interfere with sex. This is considered to be one of the laughter methods in the shunga called “laughing picture”.
Suzuki Harunobu ‘s works are heartwarming.
Third person is Utagawa Kuniyoshi.
The pen name for shunga is “Ichimyôkai Hodoyoshi”. This name parodied his own pen name “Ichiyûsai Kuniyoshi”. He is a Ukiyo-e artist representing the late Edo period. Innovative design power, unique ideas are unparalleled. It is famous as cat lover and he also drew a lot of cats.
sexy guy with bedroom eyes
It is one of ehon “The Pillowed Boudoir (Chimpen Shinkeibai)” (year 1830) drawn by Kuniyoshi. The man is a rogue named Keiichiro. It seems that the bad man ‘s dangerous sexuality is condensed on his bed room eyes.
After all he like cats
This is the scene where a man is watching his wife’s vagina carefully. It is touching about the situation of his wife who is shy and hides in the futon. Please pay attention to the upper left of this shunga.
If you look closely at the back of a folding screen there is a cat. It is truly famous Utagawa Kuniyoshi as cat lover. A cat comes up to such a place.
Fourth person is Kitagawa Utamaro.
A painting by Utamaro who is a leading painter of “Bijin-ga” (pictures of beautiful women), the shunga collection “Poem of the Pillow” is said to be the highest masterpiece among many shunga. This work depicts a couple of man and woman hook up on the second floor of the teahouse. Although exposure of the skin is less, there is a sensual atmosphere. A woman’s white butt visible from the gap of the red loincloth, man’s transparent haori coat, and a man’s eyes seen only a little! That’s great!
Fifth person is Torii Kiyonaga.
Torii Kiyonaga was a Ukiyoe painter who painted a picture from the middle to the late Edo period. A unique “Bijin-ga” (pictures of beautiful women) which seems to be taller than the eight heads high drawn by kiyonaga took the world by storm.
Horizontal long, the best masterpiece of his work
Ehon “The Scroll of the Sleeve (Sode no maki)” (year 1785) features a lengthy width 2.2 – 2.4 feet, height about 4.7 inches and a very long and unusual style. Speaking of his works, beautiful paintings depicting women of over eight heads are famous, and although they are longitudinally long impressions, this work overturnes such impressions. An exquisite composition that does not feel cramped at all. They are happy with a smile.
Nonchalant woman’s look
This work is one of twelve sheets, ehon “Shikido junitsugai” (year 1785). This woman is also impressive with smiling face and happy look. Characteristic of shunga painted by Kiyonaga is such warmth and generous.
Sixth person is Utagawa Kunisada.
Utagawa Kunisada is a Ukiyo-e painter who gained tremendous popularity in the late Edo period. His pen name for shunga is “Bukiyo Matahei”. It is famous for drawing bijin-ga and actor pictures that make the decadent mood of the Edo period drift. He is also known as Utagawa Toyokuni III.
Popular work parody
This ehon “Love of Yatsufuji (Koi no Yatsufuji)” drawn by Kunisada is an erotic parody of long seller novel “Nansō Satomi Hakkenden” written by Kyokutei Bakin, a popular writer in the Edo period. Since parody is not interesting if it is not serious, it is faithful to the original such as text, illustration, character name.
Well, in “Hakkenden”, the beginning of the story is a scene where a dog falls in love with a princess who is an owner. However, the dog and the princess do not have a sexual relationship.
On the other hand, how about parody “Love of Yatsufuji (Koi no Yatsufuji)”? The princess has been fucked by a dog.
Besides, why is this shunga cut out with a black circle? Actually, this is because the princess’s father is watching with a telescope from afar.
umm…This is chaos.
This worldview confuse even modern people living 200 years later. Shunga is really amazing.
Finally, I introduce common questions about shunga.
Frequently Asked Questions of Shunga
Question “Did Tōshūsai Sharaku do not draw a shunga?”
Question “Why are the penis being painted so large, is it to show off?”
Question “Why do they have sex while wearing a kimono?”
Introducing the list of four Ukiyo-e artists who lead the Ukiyo-e art world in the Edo period. Innovative composition, vivid colors, simple and delicate descriptions have had a great impact on Western painters as well as Van Gogh and Monet.
Although it is a tentacle thing now, it is surprising that this is about 150 years ago work.
A master of a beauty painting that pursued the beauty of a woman and drew out to the inside
A masterpiece of bijin-ga (pictures of beautiful women) representing works of Kitagawa Utamaro
The beauty of women seems to stand out by omitting the background. Red and white checkered pattern kimono fashionable. Young girls are both innocent and beautiful.
Yūjo when writing love sentences seems to be happy
Is it a love sentence that beautiful yūjo wrote? It seems that the expression of a woman is exactly in love. The smiley face is wonderful.
Transparency creates sex appeal
Kitagawa Utamaro who pursued female beauty. He discovered that “transparency” has a more beautiful and more sexy effect on women. So, there are many bijin-ga(pictures of beautiful women) skillfully incorporating “Transparency” in Kittagawa Utamaro’s work.
Contrast between dark night and light
In the rain, Geisha and accompanying woman head towards ozashiki (banquets in which guests are attended by geisha) . The light that comes from the lantern that illuminates the feet of the dark night looks like a spotlight.
Angry face is also good!
Did yūjo get a letter from a cold man? She is trying to throw away the letter with an angry face. The light color kimono seems to be a fabric with transparency, and the pattern of red long undershirt is transparent. It is a masterpiece that is marvelous, such as a feminine elegant line born with her face turning to the side, a curved line of thighs, a angry look.
A little strange bijin-ga with a characteristic facial expression
A woman comforts a baby through the mirror. The expression of sticking her tongue out is unique. Because Kitagawa Utamaro pursued female beauty greedily, perhaps such expression could be drawn.
About Kitagawa Utamaro: He devised a bijin-ga in the form of “Ōkubi-e” (picture showing only the head or the head and upper torso), and built a era as a leading expert on painting bijin-ga. By emphasizing the face of the model, he tried to draw not only her beauty but also her personality, emotion, and life. Although it was Kitagawa Utamaro who was at the height of popularity, the shogunate thought that some works of Kitagawa Utamaro were criticizing the shogunate. He was caught and put in prison. Later, he was forgiven, but he passed away with disappointment.
Second person is Tōshūsai Sharaku.
The shock was given to the world by announcing strongly deformed works, but after that, a mysterious artist who disappeared
Everyone should have seen it at least once
Works on the theme of Kabuki stage. Since it has been used for many advertisements etc. so far, there are many people who have seen it at least once. Poses that protrude both hands from the pocket and look like challenge the enemy are excellent.
Bring it on!
This work is paired with “Actor Ôtani Oniji III as the Footman (Yakko) Edohei” introduced earlier. Edohei was confronted Ippei maliciously. Red colored “juban” (undershirt) is brilliant, and this work is also commonly referred to as “Aka juban” (red colored undershirt). By the way, Ichikawa Omezô acting Ippei was a 14 – year – old boy then. Compared to the actor drawn in other works of Sharaka indeed, he looks delicate and innocent.
A masterpiece to convey the characteristic style of a great actor
It is a popular work in the world as one of Sharaku’s masterpieces. This model of painting is Ichikawa Ebizô (Ichikawa Danjuro Ⅴ) who was reputed as “the preeminent actor in the Kabuki world” at the time. I feel the dignified style of actors from dynamic composition and an lively facial expression.
Even when drawing a female impersonator, it shows its unique sensibility
Works on the theme of Kabuki stage. The person drawn with this picture is Segawa Kikunojô III who gained popularity as a “the best name female impersonator in Edo” at that time. It is a masterpiece trying to draw not only the atmosphere of the role of supporting the husband in spite of her illness but also the characteristic style of Kikunojô’s female impersonator.
Humor created by a contrasting combination
Works on the theme of Kyōgen stage. There are 28 Ōkubi-e (picture showing only the head or the head and upper torso) of Sharaku’s debut work, 5 of which are drawn in pairs, among which this work is said to be the best masterpiece. It is impressive that the two people are thoroughly depicted in contrast. Fat or thin, Big eyes or thin eyes, A snub nose or A hooked nose, Raised eyebrows or downturned eyebrows, The color of the kimono is also dark or pale, etc. By drawing thoroughly contrastingly, humor which is not in other “Yakusha-e” (actor prints) has been created. By the way, these men were not so good actors, their role was not important. Sharaku who draws such men and sublimates them to masterpieces is really amazing!
About Tōshūsai Sharaku: He was famous as a mysterious ukiyo-e artist who acted only ten months since 1794 and had disappeared suddenly. 28 “Yakusha-e” (actor prints) of his debut work are still popular as a masterpiece. Until then it was natural to draw the actors beautifully as “Yakusha-e”, but Sharaku ‘s “Yakusha-e” painting shocked people with intense deformation and dynamism. However, as Sharaku ‘s “Yakusha-e” drawn as a personality even the defects of appearance, so it was not popular among Kabuki fans and actors himself at the time. By the way, his identity was a mystery for a long time, but in recent years the most prevalent theory says that he was a Noh actor named Saito Jurobei and a retainer of the daimyo of Awa.
Third person is Katsushika Hokusai.
The old man pursued the essence of the picture until he died. His signature is “Gakyo Rojin Manji” (The Old Man Mad About Art).
Two Mt. Fuji “Red” and “Black”
“36 Views of Mount Fuji” (Fugaku Sanjūrokkei) is a series of landscape prints. It is famous as the representative work of Katsushika Hokusai. Among the famous works of the series, these works are particularly highly acclaimed. When comparing the two, the composition is almost the same while “Fine Wind, Clear Weather (Gaifû kaisei), also known as Red Fuji” is a refreshing, relaxed and quiet Fuji. One “Rainstorm beneath the Summit (Sanka haku-u), also known as Black Fuji” is a rough Mt. Fuji that lightning is running and the thunder noise seems to be heard.
A mysterious world transcending reality
Also from “36 Views of Mount Fuji”. Mount Fuji in early summer is drawn, fresh green is brilliant. “Upside-down Fuji” appears in Lake Kawaguchi with no wave, only one ship is moving. It is a landscape painting full of serene air. However, there are strange things to see in this picture. Mt. Fuji is a summer mountain with no snow, but the “Upside-down Fuji” reflected on the lake surface is a winter mountain where snow is piled up. Furthermore, the actual Mt. Fuji and “Upside-down Fuji” are drawn symmetrically. It is a landscape that is impossible in reality, but Hokusai’s drawing makes it a touching scenery beyond reality.
Cloud bridge connecting the lower world and the heavenly world
From the series of landscape paintings depicting strange bridges throughout the country “the series Remarkable Views of Bridges in Various Provinces (Shokoku meikyô kiran)”. There is a bridge over an amazing place. This is a sanctuary of mountain faith called Jyôin-ji Temple in Mount Gyôdô, a bridge connecting the main hall and the tea room is drawn. However, the “true bridge” in this picture will be a cloud bridge that flows as if connecting the lower world and the heavenly world.
It’s grotesque but a bit funny
This picture is one of “the series One Hundred Ghost Stories (Hyaku monogatari)”. Koheiji is an inconspicuous Kabuki actor appearing in a ghost story in the Edo period and he is good at playing ghosts. Koheiji, who was killed by his wife’s cheating partner and became a ghost, is looking over the top of the mosquito net. His upturned eyes are scary but a little interesting. And I feel Hokusai’s drawing skill which is not extraordinary for depicting bones and muscles.
Another “Great Wave”
This work was drawn as a ceiling picture of a festival stall in the town when the 83-year-old Hokusai visited Obuse, Shinshu. The first wave swells violently as if it intersects and the second wave swells like a circle as it gently sticks together. Although only wave is drawn succinctly, it is the composition, design and force that only Hokusai can draw. By the way, a child like an angel who has feathers on his back is drawn on the picture frame of “Feminine Waves (Menami)”. It is a mysterious “grate wave”.
About Katsushika Hokusai: He was a genius painter born in Edo, it is not an exaggeration to say that it is “the world’s most famous Japanese painter.” He pursued the essence of painting greedily until he dies, and the work depicted in his life was over 30,000. In a wide range of fields such as portrait, landscape painting, shunga (Japanese erotic art), manga, with all things as subjects, he continued to draw to become “real painter”. Hokusai’s work is still highly appreciated around the world and is loved by many fans. He seemed to be a strange person as many geniuses were, and he was famous for having moved 93 times in his life.
Fourth person is Utagawa Hiroshige.
Landscape painting giant who shocked the world
Fierce showers, running people, rumbling of bamboo grove
Utagawa Hiroshige’s masterpiece is “The series Fifty-three Stations of the Tôkaidô Road (Tôkaidô gojûsan tsugi)”. Among them, this work is said to be a masterpiece in particular. And the bamboo grove is getting intense. It seems that you can hear the sound of rain, footsteps, rumbling of bamboo grove. The composition is interesting, and the three diagonal lines of rain, slope, bamboo bush are drawing zigzag. Also, regarding the bamboo grove, depth and movement can be felt by adding double silhouette that changed concentration.
Modern with straight lines and curves
also from “The series Fifty-three Stations of the Tôkaidô Road (Tôkaidô gojûsan tsugi)”. It is a scenery from the hill which overlooks the Edo bay. It is the tea house and the restaurant that arranges the eaves on the slope. The horizontal line of the Edo bay where a lot of boats go and the curve of the shops that follow, the curve that the tree on the slope that follows it, the two lines make it a modern impression, as if we are seeing posters.
Just a little while, stay over at our place!
also from “The series Fifty-three Stations of the Tôkaidô Road (Tôkaidô gojûsan tsugi)”. Goyu was prosperous as a key hub of traffic and there were many inn. The women drawn in the center are barkers called “tome onna”. It seems that they have forcibly invited. When they found group travelers, they took a shy person first to forcibly to the inn. It is a hostage lol. Even with this picture, a man is grasped by a mighty “tome onna” and it seems that he is saying “Ouch!”.
Just looking it makes me feel myself being sucked
From masterpiece “The series Famous Places in the Sixty-odd Provinces (Rokujûyoshû meisho zue)” in Hiroshige’s later years. Famous “The Naruto whirlpools” are drawn, how impressive! A violent wave hitting a rock, and a large whirlpools which can be seen like an eyeball. Just looking it makes me feel myself being sucked. By the way, the indigo color which is also the leading role in this work is also called “Hiroshige Blue” because its beauty is highly appreciated all over the world.
This is also from “the series Famous Places in the Sixty-odd Provinces (Rokujûyoshû meisho zue)”. Many works in this series are innovative composition, but this picture is also ingenious design. The scenery of the moon reflected in the rice terrace of Mt. Kamuriki. This mountain Kamuriki is famous as “famous land for moon viewing” in Nagano prefecture. In reality, it seems that you can not see the moon at the same time in all rice terraces, but it is a fantasy world unique to fiction. The contrast between the colorful landscape reflecting the moon on the right and the monochrome landscape on the left is exquisite.
Appears in Van Gogh’s paintings
From “The series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (Fuji sanjûrokkei)”, depicting Mount Fuji. There is a man who is making a fire on the raft going down the Sagami River. Fuji which he looks up is about to be wrapped in sunsets. About this work, it is also known that Van Gogh who was a fan of ukiyo-e adopted in his masterpiece work.
Ukiyo-e is used in the background. Van Gogh liked ukiyo-e too much! Where is Hiroshige’s “The Sagami River”, Mt. Fuji can be seen at the top of the picture. In addition, Hiroshige’s other work of is also drawn on the background.
It is used on the upper right of the old man. Van Gogh was a big fan of Utagawa Hiroshige.
The emotional landscape that Monet loved
Unfinished masterpiece series “The series One Hundred Famous Views of Edo (Meisho Edo hyakkei)” continued to be drawn until Utagawa Hiroshige died. It became popular by showing the landscape of Edo with a novel method and composition taking in view from the bird’s-eye view and zooming in and it became a huge unprecedented hit.
It is famous that Van Gogh imitated the work “The Plum Garden at Kameido Shrine(Kameido umeyashiki) ” of the same series. This picture is also one of the same series, and Kameido Tenjin Shrine crowded with people enjoying wisteria in full bloom is drawn. Wisteria and drum bridge drawn boldly are impressive.
The person who was fascinated by this emotional scenery is a painter Claude Monet representing the Impressionist. Monet also loved ukiyo-e, and he had collected many ukiyo-e. Also, in the garden that Monet made as “the ideal garden”, Willow, Wisteria and irises are planted, and there is a water lily pond bridging the Japanese-style drum bridge. These are said to be the influence of ukiyo-e. In particular, he seems to be quite inspired by Hiroshige’s next work. In particular, he seems to be quite inspired by Hiroshige’s work “Inside Kameido Tenjin Shrine (Kameido Tenjin keidai)”.
In this work by Monet, the drum bridge with wisteria is drawn. It seems that Monet was influenced by Hiroshige.
About Utagawa Hiroshige: He was born in a house of firefighters in Edo, once took over the family business, but became a painter who was longing since as a young age. He appeared in Hokusai’s later life, he gathered overwhelming support with outstanding landscape paintings and became popular painter instead of Hokusai. Like Hokusai, Hiroshige has a great influence on painters around the world, and it is also known that Vincent van Gogh and Claude Monet replicated.
How was it? Although it is a work of more than 200 years, the charm of Ukiyoe is fresh rather than faded!