Unidentified Artist 作者未詳
Horseplay (Haru no tawamure)
Japan, Edo period (1615–1868), 19th century
Handscroll; ink and color on paper
Purchase, Richard Lane Collection, 2003

Bawdy sports have been described in Japanese art since the early 13th century, when Abbot Toba (dates unknown) and Abbot Jōken (1162–1231) produced a pair of handscrolls known as The Victory Pictures (Kachi-e). One scroll, known as The Phallic Contest (Yōbutsu kurabe), depicted a group of vigorous males comparing their prodigious anatomy with one another, and the other, known as The Fart Battle (He-gassen), illustrated a battle between two armies whose naked soldiers fired volleys of intestinal gas at one another with deadly accuracy.

In more subtle ways, shunga artists often describe sex as a form of sport by depicting couples who lean against a shoji board during intercourse or who supplement their genital activity by wrapping an obi sash around their necks and playing tug-of-war (kubi-hiki asobi). During the Edo period (1615–1868), when sumo wrestling developed nationwide popularity, artists found its overt eroticism an irresistible subject for parody. This anonymous handscroll documents a heated battle between two contenders, though it is difficult to determine which of them is winning and what the victor’s reward will be.

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