The Iconic Kinoe No Komatsu Series by Katsushika Hokusai
19 januari 2017 
6 min. read

The Iconic Kinoe No Komatsu Series by Katsushika Hokusai

Kinoe no Komatsu (Pining for Love) marks a turning point in Hokusai‘s career in which he intensified and reached a high level of quality in his erotic albums. His depiction of the human figure changed radically, acquiring a fuller, more opulent and fleshier form, expressing a vigorous, powerful sensuality.

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Fig.1. ‘Close-up female head‘ (c.1814) from the series ‘Kinoe no Komatsu

Hokusai‘s attention and care for the smallest details even in (at the time) cheap book as this is fascinating. This is visible in the depiction of the green band around the penis of the aristocratic man who is collecting his lover’s vaginal fluids (Fig.4.).

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Fig.2. ‘Intercourse Close-up’ (c.1814) from the series ‘Kinoe no Komatsu

Close-up Genitals

Each volume begins with a close-up of an attractive woman (Fig.1.), followed by seven double-page illustrations of intimate couples, ending with a close-up of the genitals of the woman shown at the beginning (Fig.2.). Nearly all the images present women as passionate, often taking the initiative.

The following four designs are some of the striking examples of Kinoe no Komatsu:

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Fig.3. ‘Man using sex toy‘ (c.1814) from the series ‘Kinoe no komatsu (Young Pine Saplings)‘ by Katsushika Hokusai

Bounded Penis

Lovers at a climatic moment. The woman’s blue crumpled undergarment is a favourite detail in Hokusai‘s shunga (it also appears in white and red). It adds a special accent to many of his erotic pictures, as do the intricately patterned robes. The man uses a sex toy called higozuiki, a dried taro (arum maculatum) stalk that was wound around the penis, supposedly to enhance the woman’s enjoyment.

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Fig.4. ‘Extracting vaginal fluids‘ (c.1814) from the series ‘Kinoe no komatsu (Young Pine Saplings)‘ by Katsushika Hokusai

Vaginal Fluids

A Japanese lover of aristocratic descent collects vaginal fluid with a ladle. In the past those depicted have been wrongfully discerned as a Chinese couple. A notion that foreigners – Chinese as well as Europeans – were very keen on collecting vaginal fluids for medicinal or other uses, was very popular in Edo Japan.

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Fig.5. ‘Insatiable lovers‘ (c.1814) from the series ‘Kinoe no komatsu (Young Pine Saplings)‘ by Katsushika Hokusai

Wad of Tissues

A couple making love in the missionary pose. Both are naked except for a crumpled undergarment draped in such a way that it appears to hold the two figures together. Various items are seen in the foreground: a fan and a wad of tissues, the latter an element often included in shunga.

Like many other apparently random paraphernalia, the wad of tissues (onkotogami) is actually one way to inform the attentive reader about the context of the scene. A neatly wrapped wad tells us that the lovers’ amorous encounter has just begun. A scene in which many used tissues are scattered about indicates that love-making has been going on for some time.

Hokusai - Octopus

Fig.6. ‘Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife‘ (c.1814) from the series ‘Young Pine Saplings (Kinoe no komatsu)‘ by Katsushika Hokusai

Dramatic Eroticism

The most striking image in Kinoe no Komatsu is off course the famous print known as “The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife,” is an absolute masterpiece of erotic illustration. Edmond de Concourt wrote of this image in 1896, and it is emblematic of the dramatic eroticism of the age of Hokusai.

The woman, wrapped in the tentacles of the octopuses who suck her, is in a pose that ambiguously suggests the sensual abandonment to ecstacy of the erotic dream at the same time as she appears to be a corpse. The image has become a masterpiece of the “aesthetic of the grotesque” in Japanese erotic art, by Richard Lane’s definition.

About the author
Marijn is the founder of With more than 20 years of experience within the sensual and erotic art of shunga he is an authority in the genre. During this time he served many customers with complementing their art collection.


on 23 Mar 2020

Marijn, You wrote, "A man enters his lover from behind" but I don't think that is accurate; The lovers are facing each other. You can tell by the position of the woman's right breast that she is facing her lover. Also, she is supporting her body on her left elbow, but again, the position of the hand, and namely the thumb, shows that she is facing the man.



on 30 Mar 2020

Thanks a lot JB. You're absolutely right. I have changed it now to missionary pose!

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