Marijn Kruijff
1 min

Sensual Interpretation on the Fated Lovers 'Osono and Rokusaburo'

1 min
utamaro Osono and Rokusaburô shunga

Osono and Rokusaburo‘ (c.1802) from the series ‘On the Road: Love Songs for the Thick-necked Shamisen (Michiyuki koi no futozao)‘.

Osono and Rokusaburo

Another erotic design by Utamaro based on a doomed love story (see also Osato and Yasuke). The tale of the courtesan Osono and and the carpenter Rokusaburo is inspired on a notorious real-life event that first was dramatised in Osaka in 1749 in a play called ‘Multi-layered mists and the Grasses of Naniwa Shore (Yaegasumi Naniwa no hamaogi)‘ and in a other play that was first performed in 1759, called ‘Taihei Chronicles: the Kikusui Volume (Taiheiki kikusui no maki)‘.


The story tells about the courtesan Osono who is the daughter of the owner of Fukushimaya teahouse in the unlicensed pleasure district Fukugawa. Her future husband Chobei has heard rumours about her pregnancy, and he also notices a tattoo on her arm of Rokusaburo’s name, a confirmation of their relationship.

utamaro - shunga - osono and rokusaburo

B&W edition of the ‘Osono and Rokusaburo‘ design (c.1802)


The vindictive Chobei conspires with Kashiku no Omatsu, a daughter of Rokusaburo’s wetnurse, to trick Osone into taking a medication that will make her abort the baby. As part of the complicated scheme that evolves around a stolen piece of gold, Osono and Rokusaburo visit Osono’s father, Seibei, on their way to the place where they plan to commit double suicide so that they can be together forever.

When they arrive, Seibei is praying for the dead, in a festivity known as obon. He gives each of the two lovers a kosode (short-sleeved robe), which they will wear along the road.

Rokusaburo: ” When we play around like this, having sex and kissing, even [boring] days such as obon and the first day of the year are not tedious any more. I pay my respects to Seibei, and deal with Chôbei, working hard to protect your reputation. So there’s no one busier. And besides that, there is this lascivious letter…”

Osono:  “If I make an effort to please Chôbei, he will [pay] for five or more years. But I am against benefitting like that and won’t do it. Stop playing around and put it in quickly!”   based on a translation by Laura Moretti)

Click here for an interesting article on Utamaro’s ‘Poem of the Pillow‘ and more…

Are you unfamiliar with shunga? Click HERE for an extensive introduction!

Source: Fitzwilliam Museum