Okumura Masanobu 奥村政信 (1686-1764)
Colorful Examples of Couples from Awashima
(Awashima hinagata some 粟島ひながた染)

Japan, Edo period (1615-1868), c. 1742
Woodblock-printed book; ink on paper with hand-coloring
Purchase, Richard Lane Collection, 2003

While the use of wordplay to discuss ribald subject matter is not always warranted, in contrast to those erotic texts that portray sexual encounters as glorious spectacles, those that admit such private moments to be occasionally clumsy and awkward and that emphasize the folly of those encounters through innuendo and humor can feel quite refreshing.

To the right, a wakashū actor is tackled by a virile yarō (adult male) admirer and tumbles backwards, the chaotic mood underscored by an incongruous anatomical detail (the inclusion of an unidentifiable hand behind the wakashū’s left knee). The senryū (comical haiku poem) above them reads:

Thrust / to the forefront / His debut
(Ichiban ni / warikomi ireta / hatsu shibai)

To the left, a yarō prepares to penetrate his lover, but the wakashū appears less than enthusiastic, focusing his attention entirely on a woodblock-printed book that, upon careful inspection, appears to be an erotic text itself. The senryū above them reads:

Illustrated books / What it is we rarely see / makes us smile
(Ura mame wa / reso nizo nitari / kumie ka na)

View this book in its entirety on museum database (enabled through support by the Robert F. Lange Foundation)