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Tsukimi: The Playful Dialogue of a Married Couple Enjoying the Full Moon Together

A scene set in a room with a round window, with sake and delicacies at hand. The woman spurs on her spouse to drink from a shallow red lacquered cup, even during their love-making in a seated position.


At first sight one get the impression that this is a secret encounter between a couple in their heyday, in an ‘assignation teahouse’ (deia-jaya), or a sexual encounter between a geisha and a client. However, the man is relaxing in a cotton bathrobe and so it would be odd to interpret this as an assignation teahouse.

Happily married couple during Tsukimi‘ (c.1788) from the series ‘Koshoku zue juniko (Erotic Illustrations for the Twelve Months)‘ by Katsushika Shuncho

This feeling is further enhanced in the accompanying dialogue:

Man: “Maybe because it’s moon-viewing night (Tsukimi)*, you ‘taste’ really good.

Woman: “Mmm, I’m feeling really good tonight too, I’ve come no less than five times.”

Man: “Well, let’s take a break and have a drink.

Woman: “Please don’t be drinking sake all the time, it’s poison for your body.”

Man: “You’re the poison, not the sake.

Full Moon

From the playful dialogue we can clearly see that this is a married couple who have prepared to enjoy the full moon together. With this in mind, we notice that autumnal bushclover outside the round window and surely there is a full round moon shining brilliantly in the night’s sky.

Witty Wordplay

Also we can just make out that the woman’s teeth have been blackened (ohaguro) which was the custom during the Edo period among married women. So the wife is concernedly warning her husband about his drinking, he banters back at her with witty wordplay, and we realize that they are a happily married couple.

Click HERE for another exciting shunga design referring to the moon..!!!

* Moon-viewing night is the 15th of the eighth month, when there was a festival for viewing the full autumn moon. The custom, known as Tsukimi, has its origins with Japanese aristocracy since the Heian era (794-1185).

Source: ‘Shunga, Sex and Pleasure in Japanese art‘ published by the British Museum

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