Shunga in Ukiyoe prints

561 Words3 Pages
The advent of shunga in ukiyo-e prints during the Japanese Edo period reflected the ripples of change and development in its economic, technological, demographical and social terrain. All of these factors contributed and calumniated in the widespread rise and use of shunga. Technological advancement and intensification of printing exponentially widened the production of text and images from the 1680s. Basic education became prevalent. The shogunal capital of Edo became a vibrant printing hub amidst a backdrop of economic prosperity. A significant amount of people began to commission or consume ukiyo-e works. Most inhabitants of Edo originated from the rural areas and other parts of Japan. They had come to work and largely for reasons of servitude. Most of them served in the Edo palaces and were under the daimyo. As many of them lived in large quarters with other males, they were starved of contact with females. In this artificial and disenfranchised demographical construct, where stringent laws were present, the path for the proliferation of auto-erotica was paved. Shunga images often had representations residing in them such as musical instruments and quite pertinently; lakes, water and waves, which were emblematic of the themes of sex and entertainment. This was a main theme in Edo culture which inextricably associated sex with water. This is exemplified in Kitagawa Utamaro’s Lovers, from a shunga album Ehon hitachi obi, which has a screen in the background that depicts a figure experiencing an erection alongside a cascading waterfall. In some prints, the iconography of water was also present in the designs of the costumes and robes on the figures depicted. Geishas, courtesans, and popular entertainers of the Edo period also enjoyed representation in shunga art from time to time. For the majority of the working class who for one reason or another could
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