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18 July 2017 

The Dialogue Between A Copulating Couple At Sea In This Meiji Era Shunga Masterpiece

This suggestive image attributed to Terazaki Kogyo (1866–1919) is one of the best-known shunga designs of the Meiji era. It features a young couple wearing the latest fashion making love while standing in shallow water.

Intimate couple at sea

Intimate couple at sea‘ (c.1899) from the series ‘Izumo no chigiri (Pledge of Izumo)‘ attrib. to Terazaki Kogyo

Meiji-era Erotica

The design is from a set of twelve prints entitled Izumo no chigiri (Pledge of Izumo). In terms of its themes, characters, novel scenarios and palette of bright lithographic colours, the set is represantitive of late Meiji-era erotica. The title clearly plays on the popularity of Yakumo no chigiri (Poetic Interlude aka. Pledge of Yakumo) by Tomika Eisen, while referring directly to the ancient Izumo shrine in Shimane prefecture.

Intimate couple on the beach

Intimate couple on the beach‘ (c.1890s ) attrib. to Ikeda Terukata (1883-1921)

Seaside Bathing

The custom of seaside bathing was introduced in the Meiji era (1868-1912), and provided the opportunity for women to socialize with men and to show off their figures in fashionable new bathing suits.


In the dialogue the woman here says, ‘Stop! Someone might see. We should go home.’The man replies, ‘I can’t wait till we get home. There’s no one around; it’s fine. But mind your footing, and hang on to my neck.’ He is obviously oblivious to the other bather close by.

Intimate couple in the dunes

Intimate couple in the dunes‘ (c.1899) from the series ‘Izumo no chigiri (Pledge of Izumo)‘ attrib. to Terazaki Kogyo

Click HERE for an article on the masturbating woman design from Eisen’s famous Yakumo no chigiri !


Source: ‘Shunga, Sex and Pleasure in Japanese art‘ by Timothy Clark et al. (The British Museum)


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