Among the most famous erotic works by the great ukiyo-e artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861) is the hanshibon-sized illustrated book series Hana-goyomi (Flower Calendar), that was issued in 1835.
Due to the new publishing regulations issued as part of the Kyōhō reforms in 1722, the names of authors, artists, and publishers all but disappeared from erotic books. 'Hidden names (ingō) started to be used instead.
Real identities were not completely disguised, however, and the hidden names generally alluded in some way to the person's real name or to an additional 'playful name' (gigō) with which they were associated. For example, the artist of the present book generally used the name 'Ichiyusai Kuniyoshi' for his ordinary ukiyo-e prints.
A Wondrous Pussy
For this erotic book, however, this is playfully changed to 'Ichimyōkai Hodoyoshi' ('A Wondrous Pussy, How Nice'). Another easily recognized hidden name used by the artist was 'Neko-Yoshi' ('Cats are Good'), as Kuniyoshi was a well-known and self-professed cat-lover.
The overall quality of Hana-goyomi was enough to take the reader's breath away. It was colored in gold and silver, and incorporated artistic use of gaufrage (karazuri), skilled carving and printing techniques, and amazingly skillful depictions of the bewitching beauty of the female subjects. The nuanced shading and gradations of both the indigo blue and the sumi black are impressive and beautiful throughout.
This scene shows a man stretched out on the ground, his head resting on a pillow and a wooden-box case. He is preparing to untie the narrow belt of the inner garment worn by the woman, who is already half undressed and seems to be emerging from under her kimono-blanket. They have apparently spent the night together.
Here we see a couple sitting in a room in a teahouse (Fig.6), open on the left-hand side, where we can identify a samurai with two swords, a peasant in work-clothes and a porter, whose load can just be seen. The man is a client and a reluctant serving-girl is attempting to escape the man's embrace as he tries to insert his hand into the opening of her kimono.
The plum blossom petals scattered on the ground and the portrait of Okame hanging on the wall are precise references to the first day of the New Year, when it is customary to throw around dry beans and to shout, 'demons out, prosperity in (fuku wa uchi, oni wa soto)'.
The complete series Hana-goyomi (Flower Calendar) including all 22 double and single page color illustrations with extensive descriptions of the most striking designs from the series an be viewed in our Premium section. Save yourself time and find the most fascinating sensual art in one place and become a Premium member now.
Click HERE for a rare complete shunga book series by Kuniyoshi revealing pleasure-quarter secrets
Sources: Shunga, Sex and Pleasure in Japanese Art by the British Museum, kuniyoshiproject.com, harashobo.com, Poem of the Pillow and Other Stories by Gian Carlo Calza