Marijn Kruijff
1 min

The Geisha Life Is No Bed of Roses

1 min

The following design from the ‘Willow Storm‘-series (late 1820s) by Shigenobu is inspired on the kabuki play Kyogen godairiki koi no fujime*. It depicts the geisha Koman and her client Sasa no Sangobei.


The Geisha Koman and her client Sasa no Sangobei‘ (late 1820s) Plate 3 from the series ‘Willow Storm (yanagi no arushi)‘ by Yanagawa Shigenobu (1787-1833)

True Talent

It is the third plate in the series and is the first one that really shows the true talent of Hokusai’s son-in-law Shigenobu. The fluid grace of Koman’s body and the forceful lines in the rendering of her vagina show Shigenobu to be at the height of his powers.


Yohikazu Hayashi: “The fine lines of vertical writing used in the depiction of the geisha’s genitalia could only have been done by an artist of the Hokusai school. The demeanor of the drunken man trying to have his way with the geisha resembles the work of Shigenobu.”

Obtrusive Tongue

The client shows the same lascivious behavior as his colleague in plate 8 sticking out his obtrusive tongue. He sports a wooden inro*(印籠) which hangs around his waist. Striking details are the plaster on Sasa’s hairy leg and the disappearing foot into his black kimono. Koman seems to look at us, the viewer, as if she wants to say that the geisha’s life is no bed of roses.

In the background one can see their previous activities as illustrated by the shamisen (three-stringed musical instrument) and the tobacco pipe.

Click HERE for more striking shunga designs from this Shigenobu series!

Source: ‘Vol.4 of ‘Teihon ukiyo-e shunga mrihin shusei (The Complete Ukiyo-e Shunga), 1997′ by Hayashi Yoshikazu’

*Click the link to find all the details about this kabuki play.
**Inro is a traditional Japanese case for holding small objects, suspended from the obi (sash) worn around the waist.