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Japanese Sex Toys as Portrayed in Ancient Shunga

Shunga prints depicting Japanese sex toys from the Edo Period were included for the joy and education. These sex toys were produced for both men and women and the designs were often accompanied by pseudo-scientific descriptions explaining why each sex toy should be used. This stems from the idea that sex and health are inevitably entwined.

Below you can find additional info and designs depicting Japanese sex toys and also pictures of original ones:

japanese sex toys

Fig.1. ‘Various sex toys‘ (c.1839) from the series ‘Ama no ukihashi‘ by Keisai Eisen (1790-1848)

The above image (Fig.1.) depicts the following Japanese sex toys: a harigata (right), kujiri (upper left), and a dokata (below left).

japanese sex toys

Fig.2. ‘Multiple sex toys‘ (c.1839) from the series ‘Ama no ukihashi‘ by Keisai Eisen (1790-1848)

Figure 2 depicts a tagaigata (left), a kabutokaki (first on the right), a rin no tama (second on the right), a namako no wa (third on the right) and a rin no wa (fourth on the right).

Benevolent Dildo

The four koban shunga by Keisai Eisen (1790-1848) added below include text that explains on how often one should have sex for optimal health organized in relation to the four seasons. Translated it reads: “spring three times a week, summer six, autumn one, winter none.” The image for winter portrays a chastity device for the male and a rather benevolent dildo for the female.

Japanese sex toys

Autumn: Leather phallus bag (c.1822) from the series ‘Sex Toys for Women’s Pleasure in the Bedroom (Keichū nyo’etsu warai-dōgu)‘ attributed to Keisai Eisen (790-1848)

harigata

Winter: Dildo‘ (c.1822) from the series ‘Sex Toys for Women’s Pleasure in the Bedroom (Keichū nyo’etsu warai-dōgu)‘ attributed to Keisai Eisen (790-1848)

Japanese sex toys

Spring: Helmet, Armour‘ (c.1822) from the series ‘Sex Toys for Women’s Pleasure in the Bedroom (Keichū nyo’etsu warai-dōgu)‘ attributed to Keisai Eisen (790-1848)

Japanese sex toys

Summer: Sea-cucumber Ring, Jewel Balls, Small Dildo‘ (c.1822) from the series ‘Sex Toys for Women’s Pleasure in the Bedroom (Keichū nyo’etsu warai-dōgu)‘ attributed to Keisai Eisen (790-1848)

Japanese sex toys

Inserting a rin no tama‘ (c.1890s) attributed to Tomioka Eisen (1864-1905)

Japanese sex toys

Double penetration using a harigata‘ (c.1890s) attributed to Tomioka Eisen (1864-1905)

Japanese sex toys

A male lover pleasing two women at the same time using a harigata‘ (c.1825) from the series ‘Kon kurabe tama no ase‘ attributed to Utagawa Sadashige (aka. Utagawa Kuniteru, act. 1818-1860)

Japanese sex toys

Applying lubricant to the penis‘ (c.1830s) attributed to Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861)

japanese sex toys

Female applying a lubricant to the huge member of her lover‘ (c.1850) by Utagawa school.

Jewel Balls

A woman is rubbing in her lover’s penis with a lubricant. In front of them lay some jewel balls and a higozuiki that she will wind around his penis later on during their love-play. He tenderly strokes her chin while his toes caress her private parts. Kuniyoshi produced another design without the sex toys.

Japanese sex toys

Various sex toys‘ (c.1821) from the series ‘Manpuku wagojin (Gods of Intercourse)‘ by Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849)

Japanese sex toys

Sex toys inspired on Hokusai’s Gods of Intercourse‘ (c.1890s) from the series ‘Kuni no sakae‘ by Ikeda Terukata (1883-1921)

japanese sex toys

Set of Sex Toys, early twentieth century (Collection British Museum)

Phalluses were often made in stone and wood, and presented as offerings to shrines as part of phallic cults to pray for good harvests and fertility in the family. They were also positioned at the boundaries of village settlements.

Laughing Devices

Even today, phalluses are often used at local festivals. Of course there is a clear distinction between the phalluses that were used for religious rituals and the dildos that were used for daily use. The pieces in the above set were for practical use. They are called, ‘laughing devices’ (warai dōgu) to emphasize the close connection between sex and laughter.

Dōkyō’s Armour

These are all examples of sex toys that are featured in certain shunga designs. Included are buffalo horn-made dildos (ushizō), tortoiseshell (kamezō) and wood (mokuzō). The hollow dildo (centre) could have cotton wadding soaked in hot water placed inside it, the hot water making the dildo soft and warm. Another striking toy is called ‘Dōkyō‘s armour and helmet’ (Dōkyō no yoroi-kabuto), named after the monk Dōkyō (d.AD 772), of whom it was said that he was the lover of Empress Kōken (AD 718-70). It was worn on the penis to give it a ribbed texture.

Make Women Cry

The ‘armour’ was worn on the shaft of the penis and the ‘helmet’ over the glans. In this set we can see two kinds: in one, the armour and helmet are separate (left); in the other, they form a single piece (right). There are also two examples of rings, with knobbles on them worn around the penis: these are known, literally, as  secret rings to make women cry’ (himenaki-wa).

Skilled Artisans

It is apparent from these real examples of sex toys that they were made by skilled artisans. These kind of sets were produced until the early twentieth century.*

Japanese sex toys

Podium displaying various sex toys with a vagina-shaped curtain’ (c.1825) by Utagawa Sadashige

In our collection we have (the tortoiseshell piece has been sold) two actual sex toys (harigata‘s) that date from the mid to late 19th century and resemble the ones depicted above:

Japanese sex toys

Authentic ‘Papier mache harigata  (c.1850)

Japanese sex toys

Authentic ‘Tortoise-shell harigata‘ (c.1860)

The following two videos include many other designs with Japanese sex toys:

Mijn film (Sex Toys - Part 1)
Mijn film (SEx Toys - Part 2)

Click HERE for a striking oban-sized design from Keisai Eisen’s acclaimed A Light Spring Snow series (c.1822) including a lot of sex toys…!!!

*Source: ‘Shunga, Sex and Pleasure in Japanse Art‘ by Timothy Clark

About the author
Sebastien

By

Sebastien

on 28 January 2019

As usually, very good researches on this uncommon thema, you have to write folios on your researches and propose it to all over the world city museum with important Ukiyo-e Collection.

Marijn

By

Marijn

on 10 February 2019

Thanks a lot for your feedback and suggestion Sebastien, that's certainly worth considering!

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