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20 mei 2019 

Never-Before-Seen Images of Takeuchi Keishū's Rare Erotic Masterpiece

Before we’ll examine one of the best shunga works produced at the end of the nineteenth century, let’s take a closer look at the designer of this late erotic masterpiece, Takeuchi Keishū (1861-1942). Who was he?


Keishū was born in Edo (nowadays Tokyo) in 1861. The second son of a feudal underling of the Kishū daimyo. He had no formal art training, but one day boldly walked into the studio of the great Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-1892). The latter was impressed and kept him as a pupil. Keishū specialized in kuchi-e*, and worked as an illustrator within that genre in the 1890s.

Takeuchi Keishū

Fig.1. ‘After the bath‘ (c.1901) frontispiece from Bungei Kurabu 文藝倶楽部 vol.7, no.5. by Takeuchi Keishū

Meager Living

To keep himself alive, he also worked as a porcelain painter before he started to design woodblock prints. Although Kuchi-e were popular and produced on a large scale towards the end of the 19th century, it offered a meager living. When his son expressed his ambitions to become a painter too, Keishū replied, “If you are able to live on air and water, you may become an artist.”

Takeuchi Keishu

Fig.2. Takeuchi Keishu is the first one depicted on the back row from the left (c.1887 – Photo source:

War Triptychs

Later in Keishū’s career, partly because he was a member of a literary coterie called Kenyūsha (Friends of the Inkstone), in went better and he always had enough work. He also produced some woodblock triptych designs in the senso-e (war) genre depicting the Russo-Japanese war (1904-05) but these are rarely found.

Collecting Dolls

In his later years he devoted himself to making and collecting dolls. In 1937 he was honored by the mother of Emperor Shōwa who requested that he paint a picture of court dolls for her.

Fig.3. ‘Couple in passionate pose‘ from the series ‘Yakumo no chigiri (Pledge of Yakumo)‘ by Tomioka Eisen

Pledge of Yakumo

Takeuchi Keishū’s earlier mentioned shunga masterpiece is entitled ‘Leaves of Cherry Blossom (Hazakura)‘ (c.1897). It is the third and last in a series of three deluxe albums issued by the publishing house Hakubunkan. They were produced in response to the success of Tomioka Eisen’s Pledge of Yakumo (Fig.3.) issued in 1896 by the rival publishing house Shun’yōdō.

takeuchi keishu

Fig.4. ‘Young couple‘ (c.1897) from the series ‘Cherry Blossom at Night (Ozakura)‘ by Takeuchi Keishū

Fluid Dripping

Ohashi Otawa, the head of Hakubunkan commissioned Keishū to produce an album of equal quality. In format and design it is very similar to Pledge of Yakumo (Fig.3.) The printing effects are always of the highest quality. Figure 4 exhibits elegantly gradated shading (bokashi) on the woman’s sleeve, elaborate silver highlights, burnishing on the black of both protagonist’s hair producing a sheen, gauffrage on the collars and sash, and shell-white (gofun) applied to indicate the fluid dripping from the woman’s private parts.


It includes some discerning images on traditional themes including two threesomes, a great double-love suicide scene, a young skillful monk performing cunnilingus and a lovely take on the peeking masturbating girl. All designs, except for the first two, are focused only on the involved protagonists. No other details are portrayed.

But enough talk, get ready for some refined sensuality…

takeuchi keishu

Fig.5. ‘Aroused peeking girl‘ (c.1897) from the series ‘Hazakura (Leaves of Cherry Blossom)‘ by Takeuchi Keishu

takeuchi keishu

Fig.6. ‘Double love-suicide (shinju) scene

Takeuchi Keishu

Fig.7. ‘Intimate couple under a large yellow striped blanket with the man massaging his lover’s private parts

Takeuchi Keishu

Fig.8. ‘A male embraces his lover’s lower legs while penetrating her

Takeuchi Keishu

Fig.9. ‘A male lover wearing a checkered blue-and white kimono deeply penetrates his female partner

Takeuchi Keishu

Fig.10. ‘A middle-aged man sporting a black silk kimono alternately makes love to two young submissive women

Takeuchi Keishu

Fig.11. ‘A married intimate couple in the “tantra pose” while kissing

Takeuchi Keishu

Fig.12. ‘Unusual pose with the woman sitting on the lap of her lover while he lifts her with his arms underneath the back of her knee and suckling one of her breasts

Takeuchi Keishu

Fig.13. ‘A young monk appears to be an accomplished seducer as he performs cunnilingus on a young ecstatic female

Takeuchi Keishu

Fig.14. ‘Another threesome with this time two middle-aged males and one young female. They are in a hurry as the woman still wears her tabi socks

Takeuchi Keishu

Fig.15. ‘An intimate couple is wary during their love-making. Both wear a scarf around their heads while they look anxiously around them

Takeuchi Keishu

Fig.16. ‘A less explicit image with the private parts hidden behind the screen. The female holds a bundle of tissues in her mouth while she is mounted from the rear

Takeuchi Keishu

Fig.17. ‘A meditative closing design with pine trees on mountain tops

Click HERE and compare this set with another masterpiece by a famous contemporary….!!!

*Kuchi-e are frontispieces of books, especially woodblock printed frontispieces for Japanese romance novels and literary magazines published from the 1890s to the 1910s.

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