Kiyonaga and His Sensual Magnum Opus Sode No Maki
22 december 2017 
6 min. read

Kiyonaga and His Sensual Magnum Opus Sode No Maki

‘Sode no Maki (The Sleeve Scroll)’ by Torii Kiyonaga (1752-1815) is unique as it is a printed handscroll with images in the more unusual horizontal hashira-e or ‘pillar picture’ format. Each scene was pasted together to create the scroll. Perhaps as suggested by the title, a scroll such as this was meant to be carried inside the wide kimono sleeve.

Designs of Love-Making

In total there are eleven designs of love-making and a final print featuring three types of vulva in close up. The images are bordered by a black line along the top and bottom. The long, narrow format emphasizes the scenes of love-making, and the artist further stresses the figures’ forms by magnifying and cropping them to fit the picture plane.” (excerpt from ‘Japanese Erotic Fantasies’ by Chris Uhlenbeck)


A woman, her married status indicated by her blackened teeth, straddles her lover (This Meiji impression has been designed in reverse in comparison with the 1785 edition).’


Shunga expert Richard Lane on The Sleeve Scroll series: “The most renowned of Kiyonaga’s shunga works is surely Sode no maki, both for its overpowering format and for its high artistic quality. […] Even viewing the original, it is a bit difficult to grasp the overall scene, and one tends to look at the fascinating details rather than the overall tableau, It is, thus, perhaps just as well that we have decided to make a reduction to book size, rendering this masterpiece more accessible to the general reader.

Gods of Sex

The scroll opens with a preface, offering the customary salutation to the legendary gods of sex, who were responsible for commencing the Yamato race, followed by examples of the eminent heroes of old, who found themselves bound in the inescapable tentacles of sexual love. The end of the Preface bears the curious seal Unubore (Self-confident), which might lead one to think that it may be the work of Kiyonaga himself, expressing confidence in his own magnum opus.

The prints below are Meiji impressions but are very close copies…



In a hasty, passionate bout of love-making, the young woman still wears her hat (ageboshi) and toed socks (tabi). The couple hold each other in a tender embrace, their tongues touching. A wad of onkotogami (‘paper for the honourable act’) lies to the left.


Violent Bout

A couple relax, satiated after a love-making session. The woman’s blackened teeth indicate that she is married woman. This middle-aged couple are relaxing and dozing after sex. The scene is peaceful now, but the pillow cast aside hints at their earlier wistful lovemaking.


Richard Lane on this design: “…For a change of pace, Kiyonaga here depicts a pair of mature lovers taking a rest after a violent bout of sex. The print is not very high in aesthetic value, but is strangely reminiscent of Hokusai’s masterpiece of a generation later.”


Gentle Consideration

A pregnant wife, an Iwata sash wound her belly, rests on her arms to allow her husband to penetrate her carefully from behind. The man shows care and gentle consideration toward his pregnant wife, who appears relaxed.

Fully Pregnant

The late ukiyo-e expert Richard Lane commented the following on this design: “…The last of the shunga scenes features the unusual subject of man and wife, the female fully pregnant. Again there is very little use of color, and that, limited to the left and right sides of the print.”


Courtesan’s Apprentice

A customer wets his fingers before penetrating a young hooker. He is eager to explore the young woman’s body.

First Experience

Ukiyo-e expert Richard Lane on this design: “…This scene turns abruptly to the Floating World: featuring a furisode-shinzo, or courtesan’s apprentice – doubtless encountering her first experience in sex. She covers her face with her long sleeve, as an habitué of the Yoshiwara prepares to make use of his ample phallus. Coloring is kept to a minimum, and emphasis is clearly on the sexual organs, displayed for all the world to see.”



A calligraphy lesson interrupted: the folding practice book, the young woman whispers in her lover’s ear.

Shunga expert Richard Lane on this design: “…, we here view two very young lovers – neither of them yet sporting pubic hair. The scene is effectively enhanced by the opened calligraphy text and brown writing-stand at left: indicating that this is a scene in a terakoya, private school. There is not much passion displayed here – only natural for a depiction of young teens in their first experiment with sex. (The passion will come with practice.)

You can find all the available Kiyonaga prints in detail in the following videos:

Click HERE for more erotica by Kiyonaga…!!!

The above prints are available for sale and the prices can be found HERE…!!!

Source: ‘The Complete Ukiyo-e Shunga – Kiyonaga’s Sode No Maki (The Sleeve Scroll) Vol. 24′ by Richard Lane

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.
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