Mesmerizing Vagina Close-up Designs as Portrayed in Japanese Shunga
Marijn Kruijff
6 min

Mesmerizing Vagina Close-up Designs as Portrayed in Japanese Shunga

6 min

Designs featuring vagina close-ups in shunga are among the collector’s favorite subjects. Normally these kind of images were added in the beginning and/or the end of shunga books (ehon) to emphasize its contents. In some rare cases the theme of the vagina close up was applied to shikake-e (toy print) in a most original way.


Shikake-e were trendy during the first half of the nineteenth century. Many were published in the small koban-sized format but they also can be found in ehon (picture book). At first sight these kind of images show a virtuous scene that reveals a provoking, often explicit picture, when the additional cover or flap is lifted or folded out.

Toy prints, which were costly to produce, were almost entirely made for shunga. This is proof that shunga were treasured items that were high in demand.

Sliding Doors Bedroom

The following piece is a fold-out “envelope” that shows a close up portrait of a novice courtesan (probably an older kamuro) holding a lantern on the front side while the backside depicts the closed sliding doors to a bedroom. The triangular lower panel features a heron near a stream. When folded-out the consecutive images reveal a little more each time, first a geisha pillow (takamakura), then a piece of cloth featuring a sakura* flower, an intimate couple, and finally different kinds of vagina close-ups.

toy print featuring a geisha      trick picture featuring closed folding doors and herons

fold out shikake-e with vagina close ups intimate couple and geisha pillow

print with vagina close ups

print with multiple vagina close ups

two vagina close ups

Various Types of Vaginas

A rare set consisting of 6 various seperate pieces featuring a close-up of the female lower body with five different types of genitalia that can be added to the missing part on the panel featuring the lower body.

The text on the backside of the ‘private part’ -pieces reveals some kind of a rating system for each of the individual pieces on the basis of the specific (visible) details and goes as follows (see pictures of the backside from left to right!):

1.The Best
2. Great
3. Virgin
4. Good
5. Slut

This set was published around 1850 by an unknown member of the Utagawa school.

front and backside of trick print booklet

vagina close up

5 vagina close ups

4 vagina close ups shikake-e

Shy Lady

A lovely and highly detailed piece consisting of a paper phallus that can be inserted to the private parts of the shy young courtesan depicted on the panel. This set was published in the 1840s and might be designed by Koikawa Shozan (1831-1907)

vagina close up with phallus puppet

shy geisha vagina close up with penis figure

vagina close up with phallus

intercourse close up with phallus

close up intercourse with penis figure

Non-trick shunga with vagina close-ups:

double print with geisha close up and vagina-faced buddha

On the right ‘The patriarch Bodhidharmas in red drapery with a vulva-shaped face‘ (c.1840s) attributed to Utagawa Kunimaro (act.c.1830s-1860s)

phallus-headed audience, phalus-headed teacher, sex toy and vagina close up

The Origin of Female Adoration of the Buddha (Honzon memeko nyorai engi)‘ (early 18th Century) by an unidentified artist (Honolulu Museum of Art)

two vagina close ups

Various pussy Lips‘ (c.1820s) by Katsushika Hokusai (Picture by Tuyashun)

vagina close up

Scroll painting on silk depicting ‘Various types of vagina‘ (c.1900) by an unknown Meiji artist

vagina close up: painting Taisho era shunga

Taisho era painting

Frontispiece depicting a ‘Close-up of a Female Genitalia‘ (c.1857) from the series ‘36 Excellent Selections of Beautiful Gems‘ by Koikawa Shozan

Close up of the previous print

Close up of a male hand stimulating the female vulva by Kikugawa Eizan

Close-up of a male stimulating his female lover’s vagina‘ (c.1820s) by Kikugawa Eizan

'Vagina close up' (Meiji era) by an unknown Meiji artist

Vagina close up‘ (Meiji era) by an unknown Meiji artist

vagina close up Makuro Bunko

Frontal and Realistic Depiction of a Vagina‘ (c.1820s) from the shunga book ‘Contest of Colors, Pink Peach Blossoms and White Plum Flowers‘ by Keisai Eisen

vulva close up eisen

Eight Illustrated Tips for Sexual Intercourse‘ (1823 – Bunsei 6) from the series ‘News from the Bedroom: The Pillow Library‘ by Keisai Eisen

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*The Sakura is the Japanese national flower. It means ‘accomplishment’ and ‘beauty of heart’. The flower is connected to the festivals in Japan held during the spring season and the spring is strongly linked to shunga.

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