Takeuchi Keishu: Never-Before-Seen Images of His Rare Erotic Masterpiece
20 mei 2019 
13 min. read

Takeuchi Keishu: Never-Before-Seen Images of His 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 Keishu (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.

girl after the bath by Takeuchi Keishu

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

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.”

Picture portraying the artist Takeuchi Keishu (circled)

Fig.2. Takeuchi Keishu is the first one depicted on the back row from the left (c.1887 – Photo source: shisly.cocolog-nifty.com)

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.

Design from Pledge of Yakumo by Tomioka Eisen depicting couple in a passionate pose

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.

Design from Takeuchi Keishu's Cherry Blossom at Night with young passionate couple

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

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: print with young aroused girl observing an intimate couple in the other room

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

Shinju - double love-suicide by takeuchi keishu

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

Takeuchi Keishu - Intimate couple under a large yellow striped blanket with the man massaging his lover's private parts by Takeuchi Keishu

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

A male embraces his lover's lower legs while penetrating her by Takeuchi Keishu

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

A male lover wearing a checkered blue-and white kimono deeply penetrates his female partner by Takeuchi Keishu

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

A middle-aged man sporting a black silk kimono alternately makes love to two young submissive women by Takeuchi Keishu

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

Takeuchi Keishu print of a married intimate couple in the

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

Unusual pose with the woman sitting on the lap of her lover while suckling one of her breasts by 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

a young monk performing cunnilingus on a young beauty by Takeuchi Keishu

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

Threesome with two males and one female by 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

 Two sensual lovers wearing a scarf by Takeuchi Keishu

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

A subtle intimate encounter by 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

print depicting a meditative scenewith pine trees on mountain tops by 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 of Takeuchi Keishu….!!!

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

Who is your favorite Meiji artist?

About the author
Marijn is the founder of shungagallery.com. 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.


on 14 Feb 2020

He'd drawn probably the most beautiful love-suicide scene!



on 14 Feb 2020

Thanks Darya, I totally agree. According to Rosina Buckland this is the most memorable design from the set, capturing the moment of a love-suicide with the lovers clasped in a final embrace as they throw themselves from a bridge. Their robes billowing out and their love letters fluttering around them. Kunisada also produced two designs on this story. One design of the bridge scene and one depicting them when they are http://www.akantiek.com/shunga/Utagawa-Kunisada.Naked-Woman.boat-scene.Kikugawa-Eizan.p1531.jpg" rel="nofollow">found in the water...!



on 15 Feb 2020

Thank you for the link. The contrast between two pieces is remarkable. While Keishu depicted this tragedy with a romantic overtone and made it esthetically perfect, Kunisada showed us a mundane side of what happened, like an afterword, where the life is going on in it's simple earth-bound form.



on 15 Feb 2020

Beautifully phrased Darya! I've got nothing else to add!



on 07 Mar 2020

Artists repeat some poses in shunga very often, but this way of embracing the legs as in Fig. 8 I've noticed http://www.akantiek.eu/shunga/p1125.jpg" rel="nofollow">only here. Probably Keishu was inspired by this design.



on 07 Mar 2020

Is possible, but there are more. Such as the one by the Osaka artist Harukawa Goshichi (b.1776).. I'll see if I have a picture of it somewhere..

Place comment

Secrets revealed of an erotic art genius Find out in our free E-Book