The previous translations published on the internet of one of the most coveted erotic prints called ‘The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife‘ (蛸と海女) were not completely accurate. Below you can find the definitive translation and more background info on this shunga masterpiece…
Fig.1. ‘The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife (c.1814)’ from the series ‘Young Pine Saplings (Kinoe no komatsu)‘ by Katsushika Hokusai (Sold)
Hokusai‘s ‘The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife‘ became one of the most celebrated of all Japanese erotic prints partly by Edmond de Goncourt who wrote in his influential book ‘Hokousai‘:
“In these albums we find this frightful image: on rocks green with seaweed lies a naked body of a woman, swooning with rapture, sicut cadaver, such that we know not if she is alive or has drowned, and an immense octopus, its dreadful pupils the shape of black quarter-moons, sucks her nether regions, while a smaller octopus greedily feasts upon her mouth.”
The Most Complete Translation of the Text in The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife
Octopus: “Wondering when to do the abduction, but today is the day. At least she’s captured. Even so, this is a plump, good pussy. A greater delicacy than even a potato. Saa, saa, sucking to complete satisfaction, then take her to be imprisoned in the Dragons King Palace.
Sounds: “Zuu, zubu, zubu, chu!, chu! chu! Zuu, zuu! Fu, fu, fu, fu!”
Diver: “This hateful octopus, fu, fu, fu, fu…rather, aa, aa..sucking on the surface of the inner mouth of my womb until I’m breathless, aa, eee, I’m coming! By that projecting mouth. By that projecting mouth the open vagina is teased. Oh! Oh! Are, are… What to do? Aa, yoo, oo, oo, oo, ooo, aaree, oo, oo good, oo, good, good, good, haa, aa, good, good, haa, good, fu, fu, fuu, fuu. Again! Yoo, yoo, yoo, yoo. Until now, although people have called me aa, fu, fu, fu, fuu, fuu, fuu…Octopus! Oo, fu, fuu, fuu. Why, why? Ee, ee, this, yo, yo, yo, saadeha, aa, aa, aa!
Sounds: “Zuu, zuu, zuu, zuu, hicha, hicha, gucha, gucha, pichchu, chu, chu, chu, guu, guu, zuu, zuu.
Octopus: “Say! How about the feelings of being entwined by eight legs?”
Commentary: “Juices are flowing like hot water. Nura, nura, nura, doku, doku, doku.”
Diver: “Ee, moo. I’m becoming ticklish, zo, zo…One after another until I lose track, fu, fu, fuu, fuu, limits and boundaries are gone oo, oo, oo, I’ve arrived, aa, aa, are, are, there, there, uu, mu, mu, mu, fumu, fumu, uuu, I’m coming! I’m coming!
Small octopus: “After my parent is finished, I too will use my projecting mouth to rub from her clitoris to her ass until [she] loses consciousness, and then I’ll do it again, chu, chu.”
Fig.2. ‘Octopus and ama diver‘ (c.1781) from the series ‘Yokyoku iro bangumi (Programme of Erotic Noh Plays)‘ by Kitao Shigemasa
In the catalogue of the British Museum Hayakawa Monta (professor at the International Research Center for Japanese Studies) comments on “The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife” the following:
“This is the shunga image by Hokusai that has always fascinated people the most. Dragging a diving woman into a cleft between two rocks a large octopus is taking its pleasure, using almost all of its eight legs to coil around and play with her arms, legs and nipple.
A second, smaller octopus simultaneously ‘kisses’ her on the mouth. For all that this is an image of far-fetched fantasy, with its powerfully volumetric forms and brilliant coloring, it nonetheless gives the vivid sensation that we are direct witnesses of the scene, as the tentacles seem to slither and writhe before our gaze.
Fig.3. The print that inspired Hokusai “Octopus” design entitled ‘Diver and Octopuses‘ (c.1786) from the series ‘Picture Book: Lust of Many Women on One Thousand Nights (Ehon chiyo-dameshi)‘ by Katsukawa Shuncho (act. ca. 1783 to 1795)
The diving woman who gives up her body for the octopus to have its way may at first appear ‘lifeless, like a corpse’ (as Edmond de Goncourt wrote); but in fact she has all but lost consciousness with the pleasure that the creature is giving her. This is abundantly clear from her arched back, her tight grip on the tentacles, and her long sighs, cries and exclamations that fill the dialogue text surrounding them.
Fig.4. ‘Octopus and ama (abalone) diver‘ (c.1773) by Katsukawa Shunsho
Diver Who Stole a Jewel
[…] The idea for the pairing of octopus and diving woman was not original to Hokusai. Some thirty years earlier the artist Kitao Shigemasa (1739-1820) drew a similar combination (see Fig.2.) in his erotic book ‘Yokyoku iro bangumi (Programme of Erotic Noh Plays)’, where the context was the ancient Taishokan tale of the diver who stole a jewel from the Dragon King’s Palace at the bottom of the sea.
Hokusai’s fellow pupil in the Katsukawa school, Katsukawa Shuncho, also depicted a diving woman having sex with an octopus (see Fig.3.) among rocks on the shore in ‘Ehon chiyo-dameshi (Erotic Book: Lusts of Many Women on One Thousand Nights)‘ of 1786.
Even before that, Suzuki Harunobu (d. 1770) and Katsukawa Shunsho (d. 1792; Fig.4.) had both designed so-called ‘risqué pictures’ (abuna-e) – images that titillating but not explicit – on the theme.”
Still photo of the film ‘Edo Porn‘ (1981)
Update Monday 24 February 2020
An accurate description of The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife by the shunga expert Rosina Buckland (British Museum) goes as follows: […] ‘Despite the passage of nearly two hundred years, it has lost none of its arresting graphic power. A naked woman lies between to seaweed-covered rocks, her legs spread to accommodate a huge octopus which penetrates her with its mantle. One of its tentacles curls around to stimulate her clitoris. At her head, a smaller octopus cradles her neck as it battens on to her mouth and tweaks her left nipple.’
The woman is one of the female divers (ama or awabi) who gathered abalone shellfish. Women possess more hypodermic fat so have an advantage over men in being able to endure the cold temperatures of the water, and these divers were renowned for their ability to hold their breath for long periods of time.
Cutting Her Breast
Ama had appeared in various archaic stories, in particular Taishokan, the tale of a Buddhist jewel captured along the way from China to Japan and taken to the Palace of the Dragon-King. An ama finally succeeds in rescuing the jewel, but only by cutting her breast open to conceal it, thereby sacrificing her own life.
This story was turned into a noh play in the early fifteenth century, as well as being adapted for more popular stage plays. The story was represented in woodblock prints, but during the eighteenth century the depiction of the barely clad divers, wearing only a red underskirt, became sensualized and provided suitable subject matter both for ukiyo-e designs of beauties (such as the opening page of the Utamaro‘s Poem of the Pillow album), and for explicit images of octopuses penetrating and sucking.
In addition, tako, the word for octopus, was argot for vagina, for its ability to suck firmly, and this term is used in the dialogue here. Yet the design lacks obvious references to the tale of the heroic diver, contemporary readers (viewers) of the book would have been familiar with these links, and would have understood the visual play which Hokusai was deploying in his extraordinary design.*
Movie clip of ‘The Octopus scene‘ from ‘Hokusai Manga (aka. Edo Porn)‘, 1981. Directed by Kaneto Shindô.
Click here for a translation of Hokusai’s “Horny Widow” shunga design!
The following exciting video features some other interesting designs on the Octopus theme:
After its release Hokusai’s famous ama diver design has inspired many artists over time. Below you can find some exciting examples:
‘Ama‘ (2016) by the Taiwanese/American artist James Jean (1979)
Illustration from the magazine Mayfair‘s 1975 edition by Angus McBride
Gay variation by the Japanese artist Naomichi Okutsu (title and date unknown)
‘The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife‘ by Lisa Riordon
‘At the beach a giant octopus is performing cunnilingus on an ama diver ‘ (c.1860) by a member of the Utagawa school
Segment from the acclaimed animation movie ‘La Petitie Mort (The Little Death)‘ by Carla Veldman and Jennifer Linton (1968)
Cartoon ‘The Dream of the Fisherman’s Daughter‘ by Tenugui
Print with Octopus Illustration by Jean de Villiot – Parisienne et Peaux-Rouges Le Kraken
‘A Lovely Garland’ (Tamakazura): Tamatori-ama‘ (1845–46) from the series ‘Scenes amid Genji Clouds Matched with Ukiyo-e Pictures (Genji-gumo ukiyo e-awase)‘ by Utagawa Kuniyoshi
‘Ama divers and octopuses‘ (c.1880) by Toyohara Chikanobu (1838-1912)
‘Tamatori-hime being pursued through the waves by the Dragon King and his retainers and a giant octopus‘ (c.1848) from the series ‘Shizu no ama otome Daishokan‘ by Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861)
Hentai version of Hokusai’s iconic image
Tattoo design of a blue yellow speckled octopus performing cunnilingus on a corpulent female
‘Octopus with phallus tentacles‘
‘Octopus and two females‘ by Fernando Bellver (1954)
Painting by Tristan Elwell
Figurine displaying an interpretation of ‘The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife (with Hokusai’s The Great Wave in the background)’ by Adam Salacious Rib
‘An octopus performing cunnilingus on a pearl (ama) diver ‘ (c.1900) from the series ‘Shunshoku Hanakoyomi‘ by an unknown Meiji artist. The Japanese characters refer to the month July (Fumizuki – 文月, “Month of Erudition”)
Vector redrawing of Dream of the Fishermans Wife by Dyna Moe
Hentai version of The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife by HENTAI_IRL
The Unknown Five (cover of Weird Tales) depicting a ‘Mutated octopus attacking woman‘ (2009) by Rowena Morrill
Tentacle Hentai porn ‘Double penetration‘
Image by Somefield
Sumi-e drawing inspired by ‘Hokusai’s The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife‘ (2019) by Gabackokorabac
Takoyaki Inspired by japanese illustrator, Takako Yamamoto & Yuji Moriguchi
‘A female abalone diver wrestling with an octopus‘ (c.1870s) by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-1892)
‘Boy Diver and Octopuses or The Dream of the Fisherman’s Husband‘ by Nikita Sho
Another gay variation by an unknown artist
‘Octopus making love to a mermaid’ (c.1830) attrib. to Keisai Eisen (1790-1848)
Octopus painting by Somefield
‘Octopuses and women‘ from the book ‘Human Nature‘ (2010) by Daikichi Amano
‘The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife‘ by Michael Cottage
‘The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife‘ (2019) by Maria B.M
‘The Dream of the Octorok’s Wife‘
Erotic novella ‘The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife: Triptych 2‘ by Krissy Kneen
‘Triple Attack Hokusai XL 008‘ (2008) by Ernesto Jorge Ferriol Perez
‘Dreams of the Fishermen’s Wives‘ by the Indonesian artist I Made Cekeg (1964-) (Private collection)
‘The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife Print‘ by Mike Dorsey Tattoo
‘The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife Print‘ by Mike Dorsey Tattoo
‘Mars attacks meets Hokusai’ by Zug Art
Silkscreen print ‘A Perfect Lover, a woman and an octopus on the beach (after Hokusai)‘ (1997) by Joost Veerkamp
‘Hokusai exposed (Re-Create)‘ (2013)
Tattoo design by Stagnio
‘The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife‘ (2018) by Paulo Javier
Iron, acrylic gouache on canvas ‘The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife‘ (2018) by Sisyu
Oil on canvas ‘The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife‘ (2016) by Elly Smallwood
‘Suck attack‘ (2018) by Shazycrit
‘Tank Girl Reloaded‘ (2018) by Shazycrit
Painting. Ink and color on silk ‘Octopus And Ama Diver‘ (c.1900) by an unknown Meiji artist
‘Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife‘ (2004) by Judith Schaechter
Stained glass window ‘Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife‘ (2004) by J. Schaechter
Sketch of ‘Ama and Octopus after Hokusai‘ by Muhamed Kafedžić – Muha
Fnished painting of ‘Ama and Octopus after Hokusai‘ by Muhamed Kafedžić – Muha
Mural design for Gama Gallery in Mexico City
‘Hokusai’s Great Waves of Ecstasy‘ by Timothy White
‘Girl with octopus‘ by Daikichi Amano – From the book ‘Human Nature’ (2010)
From the series ‘One Hundred Girls And One Hundred Octopuses‘ by Zak Smith
Woodblock print ‘The Octopus’s Wife‘ (2012) by Sergio Teran
‘Intimate octopus and ama diver in the surf‘ (late 1810s) by a pupil of Hokusai
3D version of ‘The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife‘ on Widewalls.ch
‘The Dream of The Fisherman’s Wife, After Hokusai‘ (2009)
‘Octopus N°36‘ (2017) by’ Mme S
‘An uncertain animal aspiring to an empty gesture‘ (2018) by Arjan Winkelaar
‘Tentacles‘ by Ellie Grey
‘Over Thinking – Octopus Lady‘ by Katie Dutch
‘The Visitor‘ by Pete Tapang
Adriano de Vinsentiis
Koban sized print featuring ‘Octopus wearing a head-scarf copulating with an ama diver‘ (c.1855) from the series: ‘Shunkyo karami-dako (Spring Games: Grappling Octopus)‘ by Utagawa Kunisada II (1823-1880)
Shunga painting after Kunisada II with ‘Octopus and ama diver‘ (c.1860)
‘The Fisherman’s Wife‘ by Hiten Damodar
Photograph with a modern visual translation of The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife by Hajime Satawari
‘A gigantic octopus is performing cunnilingus on an awabi diver using its beak‘ (c.1920)
‘The Giant Member Fuji versus King Gidora‘ (1993) by Makoto Aida
Painted by Rebecca Leveille-Guay
Tattoo design by Jimmy Gobeil
Tattoo inspired by ‘The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife‘ by Nicholas F. Chandrawienata
Redux of ‘the dream of the fishermans wife‘ by Franvolio
‘The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife‘ by Emily Perozzo
Cover for a soundtrack of a manga movie
Interpretation of Hokusai’s design (2008) by the Australian comic book artist Ashley Wood
Japanese shunga painting inspired by Hokusai’s octopus design (mid 19th century)
Tattoo featuring ‘A Young geisha and her octopus lover’ by Lenka Cechura
Drawing by Picasso
‘Octopus‘ by Kojima Ayami
‘Octopus assaulting boatsman‘ (c.1847) from an important album of 26 original sumi shijo-style drawings by Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861) (Richard Kruml)
‘Harpoon girl ‘ by Serge Birault
Another gay version of Hokusai’s design: “Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife‘
‘The Dream of the Calligrapher’s Wife‘ by Jonathan Cuervo Cisneros
‘The Fishman’s Wife‘ by oh8 (Source: DeviantArt)
Female Bangle bracelet silver cuff – Shunga Japanese Fable Hokusai the Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife
Hentai image with a young girl (looks like a kitsune) and three octopi by Jaster K.
Black t-shirt FISHERMAN’S WIFE
‘Pearl diver and octopus‘ (1986) from the ‘New Wave‘ series by Masami Teraoka
‘Sarah and writhing octopus‘ (1992) from the ‘New Wave‘ series by Masami Teraoka
‘Sarah and dream octopus‘ (1992) from the ‘New Wave‘ series by Masami Teraoka
‘Tattooed woman Tattooed Woman at Kaneoche Bay I ‘(1984) from the ‘Wave series‘ by Masami Teraoka
Detail of a painting called ‘Octopus mandala – Eight Maidens‘ by Yuji Moriguchi
Version of ‘The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife‘ by Birdsnatcher
‘The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife‘ (2009) by Loannis Kapoulas
“Child” drawing of The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife
Digital sculpture ‘Kinoe no komatsu‘ (2019/2020) by Jeremie
‘Dream of the Fisherman’s wife’ by Tatlew (Photo from Hentai Foundry)
Hentai interpretation of ‘The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife‘
Gay version of ‘ The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife‘ (Photo from rule34.paheal.net)
Amusing Japanese commercial from the 1980s targeting housewives:
At the moment we are offering a nice opportunity to obtain a genuine woodblock print remake of ‘The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife‘ print. Click HERE for more info….!!
Do you also share the fascination for Hokusai’s ‘The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife’ image? What is your favorite artwork depicted in this article?
Sources: ‘Erotic Japonisme, the Influence of Japanese Sexual Imagery on Western Art‘ by Ricard Bru.
‘Shunga, Sex and Pleasure in Japanese Art‘ (Edited by Timothy Clark, C. Andrew Gerstle…etc.)
* ‘Shunga, Erotic Art in Japan‘ by Rosina Buckland