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Ehon haikai yobuko-dori 会本拝開夜婦子取 (Haikai Book of the Cuckoo (or Worshipping a Woman's Pussy at Night))

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Title (object)

    • Ehon haikai yobuko-dori 会本拝開夜婦子取 (Haikai Book of the Cuckoo (or Worshipping a Woman's Pussy at Night))
  • Description

    Illustrated book, folding album (orihon), one volume. With preface, 12 erotic illustrations, 3 pages of playful text, postscript. Colour woodblock-printed. With wrap-around cover (chitsu). Publisher unknown.

  • Producer name

  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 1788 (New Year)
  • Production place

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 254 millimetres (covers)
    • Width: 183 millimetres (covers)
    • Width: 363 millimetres (open)
  • Curator's comments

    This is one of the major works of erotic art produced in Japan and the most important printed erotic work by Shunshō. 19 significant erotic books by him are recorded but this is the only one to have full ōban-sized plates printed in colour. The album was lavishly produced at the end of the Tenmei era (1781-9), while there was still very active social interaction between samurai and merchants in Edo. Their combined wealth and cultivation supported an extraordinarily rich popular culture -- until the shogunate’s ‘Kansei Reforms’ of the later 1780s and early 1790s enforced austerity and obliged the samurai to quit ‘floating world’ culture. The BM has a world-class set of Utamaro’s early erotic masterwork Poem of the Pillow (Utamakura), published at exactly the same time, the New Year of 1788. For further information, see:
    - Naitō Masato, ‘Haikai yobuko-dori – Shunshō bijinga no ichidanmen’, in Ukiyo-e meihin hizō shū vol. 2: Nami chidori, Tokyo, Gakken 1991, text vol. pp. 48-56, 60-1.
    - Asano Shūgō, ed. ‘Haikai yobuko-dori Katsukawa Shunshō’ in Ukiyo-e soroimono makura-e, ge [vol. 2], Tokyo, Gakken, 1995, pp. 50-61, 126-8
    - Shirakura Yoshihiko, E-iri shunga ehon mokuroku, Tokyo, Heibonsha, 2007, pp. 182, 185
    - Julia Meech and Jane Oliver, eds., Designed for Pleasure, New York, Asia Society and Society for Japanese Arts, 2008, fig. 74
    (TTC, Sept. 2008)Among the many erotic books by Katsukawa Shunsho-, this luxurious folding album is the only one which uses full-colour printing technique. The preface includes the phrase ‘New Year of the monkey’, confirming that the album was produced in 1788. This was the period when Shunsho- was painting his greatest works in the genre of pictures of beautiful women (bijinga) and this album is a masterpiece. The preface, signed Jintaku Sanjin, is by Shunsho- himself; it is followed by twelve colour-printed illustrations and three erotic stories. As has been previously pointed out, the majority of the illustrations were reused from Shunsho- ’s black-and-white printed erotic book Ehon eiga taigai (Picture Book: Prosperous House and Great Pleasure), which has a preface dated one year earlier, 1787. The album was apparently popular and quite a few copies have survived with different printing effects. The rare first printing, as here, has plain Chinese-style paper on the sliding door panel (fusuma) in the background of the first picture: in later printings this is changed to a pattern of stylized scattered mandarin orange (tachibana). We know from the diary of samurai lord and celebrated haiku poet Yanagisawa Nobutoki (1724–92), of the Yamato Ko-riyama fief which had an annual rice income of 150,000 koku (about 27 million litres), that he acquired a copy of the present album.1 It is fascinating to learn that an aristocratic patron of Shunsho- such as lord Yanagisawa also kept the artist’s shunga works close at hand. [NMa]


  • Bibliography

    • Clark et al 2013 Cat. 47 bibliographic details
    • Buckland 2010 pp. 14-15 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display

  • Exhibition history


    2013 3 Oct - 2014 5 Jan, London, BM, Shunga: Sex and pleasure in Japanese art, 1600-1900

  • Subjects

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department


  • Registration number


  • Additional IDs

    • JIB.991
Illustrated book, folding album (orihon), 1 vol. 12 erotic illustrations. Colour woodblock-printed. With wrap-around cover (chitsu).  View of cover.

Illustrated book, folding album (orihon), 1 vol. 12 erotic illustrations. Colour woodblock-printed. With wrap-around cover (chitsu). View of cover.

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Object reference number: JCF20198

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