Recently we obtained this striking egoyomi (calendar print) attributed to Utagawa Kunisada (1786-1865) published in the 1820s. The design shows the unusual but amusing activities on the top floor of a brothel with an older experienced lesbian madam fingering a younger colleague. The latter is a little embarrassed and holds the sleeve of her kimono in front of her mouth to hide her sexual arousal.
At first glance it looks like the old lady is looking for something (maybe a lost sex toy…ha..ha..) but the presence of a tortoise-shell harigata (dildo), laying on the black cupboard (next to the container with hairpins) and the tissues in the mouth of the madam confirm the sensual lesbian intentions. In Ofer Shagan’s Japanese Erotic Art it is suggested that the older woman is a midwife who is cleaning a pregnant woman’s private parts.
Anyway, a highly entertaining scene that offers us an amusing insight into the dynamic world of the Yoshiwara in the early 19th Century.
Satisfaction Without Men
Designs featuring lesbian activity are very rare as the audience for shunga was predominantly male and publishers were afraid that males were not able to accept that women could find satisfaction without men.