This Kuniyoshi (using his alias Hodoyoshi here) tableau shows a couple making love. The woman’s body is partly covered by a blue kimono decorated with gourd plants (hyōtan). The man is naked except for his red loincloth, allowing us a good view of the splendid tattoo on his back, showing Ono no Komachi, one of Japan’s six immortal poets.
Ono No Komachi
Ono no komachi was a distinguished poetess who lived in the ninth century. Based on legend and romantic fantasies derived from her poetry, she was a celebrated beauty, courted by emperors, poets and literary men. She declined all mariage proposals and ended her days in solitude and sadness, reduced to poverty.
The scene of the tattoo comes from an episode in Komachi’s legendary life known as the Praying for Rain Komachi (Ama-koi Komachi). In the year 866 Japan experienced a long period of drought and Komachi was asked to invoke rain for the suffering population by the power of her poetry. Attended by many court officials, she recited: ‘Though it be right that dryness and dust should be found in the Land of the Sun, yet how shall we live without the rain of Heaven?’
Then the rain started falling so heavily that she had to be protected from the downpour by an umbrella. How gourds and sudden downpours can be associated with the act of love is left to one’s own imagination.
This rare treasure is available in our gallery. You can check out the price HERE…!!
Source: ‘Japan Tattoo: Tattoos in Japanese prints‘ by Andon (Society for Japanese Arts)
What is your favorite subject within the shunga genre…!!