Marijn Kruijff
2 min

The Subversive Confessions of a Mother and Her Child in Fukujuso

2 min

What a way to start a shunga album! Hokusai‘s The Adonis Plant (Fukujuso) begins with this deviating image of a reclining, sensuous and sophisticated female who is holding her chubby, aggressive little infant.


Her underskirt is sloppy and her private parts are clearly visible. A lot of experts and connoisseurs who have relished this well-known piece for its remarkable theme and exquisite, wave-patterned kimono. When we take a look at the accompanying text some striking confessions are summed up…

Bold Statements

the mother recalls the sexual pleasures of the previous night. She starts off with a complete list of the ten most familiar kinds of penises, after which she eventually labels her husband’s as superior. We do not know if her monologue is spoken out loud or not, but we are quickly interrupted from our musings by the bold statements of the child exclaiming:

‘When I get big, I’m going to be a Great Lover too: teach me how to do it like Mommy and Daddy did last night!’


Fig.1. ‘Mother and Child‘ (late c.1810s) from the series ‘Fukujuso (The Adonis Plant)

Is This Really Shunga?

The ukiyo-e expert Richard Lane doesn’t think so. Despite the revealing pubic details, it is more a kind of bawdy joke. The focus is not really on true eroticism. He compares it with the scene displaying foreign high-class girls harassing a Japanese passerby (Fig.2.)*, although it is even less revealing of the sexual parts.


Fig.2. ‘Among High-class Girls (Ko omoto no uchi)‘ (c.1861) by an unknown member of the Utagawa school

Lusty Wives

The ‘Mother and Child’ design represents a strong contrast to Hokusai’s usual and more conventional depictions of lusty wives. It’s a kind of variation on the well-known opening tableau to Hokusai’s The Horny God of Izumo (c.1823), in which the violent sexual antics of man and wife arouse their young servant-lad to masturbation (Fig.3.).


Fig.3. ‘Aroused servant observing his boss and wife‘ (c.1823) from the series ‘En-musubi Izumo no sugi (The Horny God of Izumo)‘ (Image source:

Click HERE for an earlier post on another compelling design from the Fukujuso-series…!!!

*The square cartouche in the upper right corner depicts the English flag of Saint George, behind which is a puff of steam, supposedly from a steam engine. The three well-dressed foreign girls annoy a Japanese male, and the text, printed in negative (white on grey), in the bottom left corner reads, ‘Isn’t it too much, can’t I have a break?’

Source:  ‘The Complete Ukiyo-e Shunga (Vol.23)‘ by Richard Lane

What are your thoughts on Hokusai’s ‘Mother and Child‘ design? Do you think it is a shunga?