Okumura Masanobu 奥村政信 (1686-1764)
What Dosage Do I Need?

Japan, Edo period (1615-1868), c. 1713
Woodblock print; ink on paper
Gift of James A. Michener, 1991

When will I ever become a mother?
Let’s ask the doctor —
in order to have a child, what dosage do we need?
(Hoshi / itsu haha shi ka na / itsu haha shi ka na / isha / dono ni / towan / ko wo motsu / saji kagen)

Ironically, pregnancy, birth control, and complex emotions such as maternal desire with which courtesans must have often struggled are issues rarely discussed in works of shunga. In addition to general hygiene, one of the various purposes for the folded packets of paper that women are often shown holding in ukiyo-e prints was contraception. Before sex, a woman would insert a wad of this paper into her vagina, much like a contraceptive sponge. Other techniques, including abortion and even infanticide, were apparently employed as well.

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