Male Lover Sporting a Tattoo of the Immortal Poetess Ono No Komachi
17 april 2019 
2 min. read

Male Lover Sporting a Tattoo of the Immortal Poetess Ono No Komachi

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.

Ono No Komachi

Two lovers in the bedroom‘ (c.1853) from the series ‘The Flower’s Smile (Hana no egao)‘ by Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861)

Suffering Population

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?’

Ono No Komachi

Close up detail


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.

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Source: ‘Japan Tattoo: Tattoos in Japanese prints‘ by Andon (Society for Japanese Arts)

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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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