Pictures of lesbians
were also popular in shunga
Shunga, a genre within ukiyo-e displaying the erotic secrets of ancient Japan. These prints where commonly created by using woodblock printing.
(although they are rare!). The depicted women are usually shown using a special dildo (harigata), composed like a double-sided phallus. Although I have seen pictures in which a woman was wearing a mask (see the second print in the video below!) of a male kabuki
actor, I have never seen a woman dressed as a male (while this kind of cross-dressing was very common in male homoerotic scenes).
Fig.1. ‘Lesbian couple with tortoise-shell harigata*‘ (c.1842) from the series ‘Shiki no sugatami (Viewing Forms in the Four Seasons)‘ by Utagawa Kunisada
Below you can check out the sensual images of a rare complete book series by Utagawa Kunisada. The title is ‘ Aki no Nanakusa (The Seven Flowers of Autumn)’ and the year of production is 1832. Size (book..
Only very rarely are the women shown touching or kissing each other or having oral sex
Shunga art displaying oral sex with a female performing fellatio on a male or vice versa are relatively rare. Oral Sex Art The reason oral sex (fellatio) scenes appear rarely in shunga has to do with the portrayal..
. Most, if not all. of the artists were men so they may have been inclined to present lesbianism less as a sexual tendency and more as a response to a lack of male presence.
Fig.2. ‘Lesbian couple using a tagaigata**‘ excerpt from a primitive shunga scroll from the 1650s. Painted by an Unknown Master
There’s very little known about lesbian love in the Edo era so there is a big chance that these kind of scenes were merely male fantasies. A very early (c.1650) and rare example of a primitive shunga scroll paintings featuring lesbian activity (see Fig.2.)
Video on Lesbian shunga:
Fig.3. ‘Female servants making love‘ (c.1814) from the series ‘Kinoe no komatsu
Kinoe no Komatsu (Pining for Love) marks a turning point in Hokusai ‘s career in which he intensified and reached a high level of quality in his erotic albums. His depiction of the human figure changed..
(Languishing for Love/ Young Pine Saplings)‘ by Katsushika Hokusai
Two female servants who have interrupted their activities for the lord and are now making love using a dildo. A design from Hokusai’s acclaimed Kinoe no komatsu-series that was published in 1814.
Fig.4. ‘Lesbian encounter with the use of tagaigata‘ (c.1900) attributed to Keishu Takeuchi (1861-1942)
Wife: “This is spring… you’re really cute, that’s cute again~”
Oharu (a woman who serves at this wife’s house): “Uhun, Uhun, Madam… You’re doing well, Ah… I’ll go too, Hun Hun Hun.”
Dildo sound: “Copon, copon, copon.”
Fig.5. ‘Lesbian encounter‘ (c.1790s) from the series ‘Picture Book: The Laughable Erotic Shellfish (Ehon warai ga)‘ by Gessai Gabimaru
Fig.6. ‘Lesbian encounter ‘ (c.1838) from the series ‘Shunshoku hana no shizuku (Erotic Drops of Flower Petals)‘ by Keisai Eisen
After Hokusai , undoubtedly the most striking figure among the later shunga artists is Keisai Eisen (1790-1848). Eisen was to prove one of the most prolific (together with Kunisada ) of all ukiyo-e shunga masters…
A sensual encounter between two young girls using a tagaigata. Striking is that both their faces are partly or completely covered. The insert features a peacock that seems to observe their activities.
Fig.7. ‘Two copulating females using a tagaigata‘ (c.1827) from the series ‘Imose-yama‘ by Utagawa Kuninao
These two love-making females are triggered by the ukiyo-e print depicting their favorite actor that lays beside them. Just like the storage box that normally houses the tagaigata (double-sided dildo) they are using. One of their colleagues is passionately observing them in the other room.
Fig.8. ‘Lesbian couple with strap-on dildo (harigata)‘ (c.1820) by Kikugawa Eizan
Kikugawa Eizan (1787-1867) was born in Edo (now Tokyo), most probably on the ninth day of the ninth month of the year 1787. This might refer to his professional alias that sometimes emerges as ‘ Studio of the..
In the early 18th century the manufacture of official calendars in Edo (former Tokyo) were only authorized by the shogunate to a limited amount of publishers. From the 1750s there seems to have been a trend of..
‘Lesbian couple using a Tengu
In the eighteenth century some shunga books had a single image divided over two pages. Possibly this has inspired the books that were published in the nineteenth century which sometimes included flaps in the pages (..
Fig.11. ‘Lesbian couple wearing a tortoise-shell harigata (dildo) have found sensual inspiration after reading a shunga book‘ (c.1850) by a member of the Utagawa school
Fig.12. ‘Orgy including lesbians using various dildos‘ (c.1850) from the series ‘Ko-u so no jin yori haseide daigasen no zu‘ by Utagawa Kunisada II
Fig.13. ‘Orgy including lesbian activity‘ (c.1850) from the series ‘Ko-u so no jin yori haseide daigasen no zu‘ by Utagawa Kunisada II
Fig.14. ‘Lesbian threesome with harigata dildos‘ (c.1760) by Tsukioka Settei
Fig.15. Painting featuring ‘Lesbians experimenting with a harigata while looking at a shunga book‘ (c.1900s) by an unknown Meiji artist
Fig.16. ‘Rare gay
A middle-aged samurai sharing an intimate moment with a young boy in an interior setting. As I mentioned in earlier posts homosexuality was not uncommon in Japan and depictions of this ‘male-male..
Fig.17. Painting ‘Lesbian couple using a tagaigata (double-sided dildo)‘ (c.1920) by an unknown Taisho
The Taisho era (1912-1926) artist who designed this shunga album was clearly influenced by 19th century masters such as Kuniyoshi , Kunisada and Hokusai . He (most probably not a she*) mimics the postures of the..
Fig.18. ‘Lesbian lovers using a tagaigata (double-sided dildo)‘ (c.1840) by Utagawa school
Fig.19. Painting of a ‘Lesbian couple with cat
In the majority of cases the sexual act depicted in shunga take place in the bedroom, either in a private house, an inn or a brothel. But there is also a great diversity of locations. Sex While Cooking For example,..
performing oral sex
‘ (consignment piece 2018) by Senju Shunga
Fig.20. ‘Lesbians and sex toys
Shunga prints depicting Japanese sex toys from the Edo Period were included for the joy and education. These sex toys were produced for both men and women and the designs were often accompanied by pseudo-scientific..
‘ (c.1839) from the series ‘Ana no ukihashi‘ by Keisai Eisen
Striking tableaux scene portraying two geisha
During their training, before becoming a competent and accepted geisha, the young maidservants (aka. maiko* or kamuro** ) learned the trade by attending the geishas of the highest class ( oiran ). The relationship..
making love with the aid of a tagaigata (double-sided phallus). In the background, another female satisfies herself using a harigata (artificial phallus), ingeniously attached to her heel with a rope.
Fig.21. ‘Courtesans experimenting with a strap-on dildo (harigata)‘ (c.1920s) by an unknown Japanese artist
Models of Calligraphy
Painting inspired by Chokyosai’s Eiri’s masterpiece ‘Fumi no kiyogaki (Models of Calligraphy)‘ issued in 1801.
Fig.22. ‘The empress of the Island of Women fingering a female lover near a tree‘ (c.1830) attributed to Yanagawa Shigenobu
The following forceful shunga design by Yanagawa Shigenobu (1787-1833) is the 10th plate from his masterpiece ‘ Willow Storm ‘ published in the late 1820s. Palanquin Bearers It exhibits a gang rape..
Fig.23. ‘Rare lesbian scene with two females kissing‘ (c.1830) from the series ‘Koi no minato nyogo no shima da‘ by Utagawa Kuniyasu
Fig.24. ‘Women using a dildo‘ (Late 1780s) by Katsukawa Shuncho
This unrecorded print is surely one of the great ukiyo-e lesbian designs. It predates by around a dozen years, the famous image of the same subject by Eiri from the series Fumi no kiyogaki,
Fig. 26. ‘Lesbians using a tagaigata’ (Meiji era) by an unidentified artist