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Colorful Shunga Designs with Tattooed Ruffians and Brigands

Depictions with tattoos in ukiyo-e shunga appear since the mid-eighteenth century but not in earlier hand-painted works. The men wearing tattoos represented the underworld of criminal gangs (yakuza) and highway brigands.

Bad Nature

Every now and then, men with tattoos of dragons, gods or symbols of their bad nature (such as skeletons or dice) are portrayed having peaceful intercourse with their lovers but more often they are more often shown committing violent rape. Sometimes these tattooed villains brutalize the woman’s partner or tie him up and force him to watch.

tattoo shunga

Tattooed client with courtesan on a pleasure boat‘ (c.1850) attributed to Koikawa Shozan (1831-1907)

tattoo shunga

A tattooed intruder is standing on the head of a bald-headed male’ (c.1839) by Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861)

Yakuza

Occasionally men appear tattooed with the image of a woman or name. Most are clearly in love, spying on the woman while she is with someone else. Perhaps the message these shunga were trying to convey was a moral one for society: if you join the Yakuza, not only will you fail to get the woman you love, you might even have to endure seeing her with another man.

shunga tattoo

Tattooed intruder‘ (c.1837) from the series ‘The Eight Dog Heroes of the Satomi Clan‘ by Utagawa Kunisada (1786-1865)

Suikoden Heroes

Parodies of this subject are also found, such as a woman having intercourse with her lover while holding up a mask of Hannya, a female demon considered to be a guardian of women, to frighten a tattooed man. When Kuniyoshi introduced the heavily tattooed Suikoden Heroes in 1827 he not only caused a tattoo hype in Japan, but all over the world and to this day.

tattoo shunga

Suikoden hero Tanmeijiro Genshogo having sex with the Princess of the Island of Women‘ (c.1828) by Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861)

shunga tattoo

Tattooed client in an illegal brothel‘ from the series ‘Ama no ukibashi (The Floating Bridge of Heaven)‘ by Yanagawa Shigenobu (1787-1832)

shunga tattoo

Tattooed fireman and lover‘ (c.1836) from the series ‘Shunjo gidan mizuage-cho‘ by Utagawa Kunisada

shunga tattoo

Tattooed ruffian and lover‘ (c.1827) from the series ‘Prospects for the Four Seasons (Shunka shuto shiki no nagame)‘ by Utagawa Kunisada

shunga tattoo

Detail ‘Tattooed back’

ukiyo-e tattoo

Tattooed villain‘ (c.1853) from the series ‘The Flower’s Smile (Hana no egao)‘ by Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861)

Classic design portraying a distracted love-making couple. Kuniyoshi paid elaborate attention to the details of the large back tattoo.

shunga tattoo

Rape by tattooed villain‘ (c.1850) by Utagawa school

tattoo shunga

Completely naked tattooed male making love to his lover‘ (c.1900) by an unknown Meiji artist

ukiyo-e tattoo - shunga - tomioka eisen

Tattooed man and lover‘ (4th Month Meiji 38/1905) from the series ‘The Scent of the Flower (Hana no kaori)‘ attributed to Tomioka Eisen (1866-1908)

shunga tattoo

Tattooed hoodlum takes his lover from the rear‘ (c.1850) by a member of the Utagawa school

shunga tattoo

Sashichi and Koito‘ (c.1840) by Utagawa Kunisada (1786-1865)

shunga tattoo

Tattooed male and geisha on the second floor of a brothel‘ (c.1835) from the series ‘Hana goyomi (Calendar of Flowers)‘ by Utagwa Kuniyoshi (Image by KuniyoshiProject.com)

shunga tattoo

After Kuniyoshi‘ by Alina Bushman

The heavily-tattooed fireman Sashichi is having intercourse with his lover, the geisha Koito. At the end of this tragic love story he will stab her to death. In the heart-shaped cartouche we can see a sedan chair, a lantern and the knife that marks the end of their affair.

This video features more striking shunga tattoo designs:

Mijn film (Tattoos)

Contemporary tattoo artists are still using the ancient shunga designs as inspiration for their artwork:

shunga tattoo   kuniyoshi ghost

shunga tattoo   shunga tattoo

shunga tattoo

Shunga Tattoo by Senju Shunga

shunga tattoo

Picture of a tattooed Yakuza member (early 1900s)

shunga tattoo

Shunga tattoo of Hokusai’s The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife (in reverse)

shunga tattoo

Tattoo designn ‘Phallus frog‘ by Alina Bushman

shunga tattoo

Shunga tattoo designs by Dan Sinnes

shunga tattoo

Shunga Yokai‘ by Arron Burton

shunga tattoo

Tattoo of a ‘genital demon

shunga tattoo

‘Tattoo inspired inspired by Kunisada

shunga tattoo

Geisha demon with vulva face

tattoo shunga

Preparatory drawing for a tattoo

Click HERE for striking shunga art by Kuniyoshi that is among the tattoo artists’ favorites…!!!

Some of the above pieces are available for sale in our gallery and the prices can be found by clicking on the concerning picture…!!!

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