Shunga are erotic Japanese prints. Shunga literally means springtime pictures.
Shunga prints were produced and sold either as single sheets or - more frequently - in book form, called enpon.
The images on Japanese shunga prints are mostly sexually explicit. Westerners would categorize most of the scenes as pornographic. Sometimes the scenes depicted are covered with a blanket, and only two lovers are to be recognized. In other words, some Japanese shunga prints can be shown to minors.
Japanese shunga prints and books were bought for several reasons. One was certainly for the fun of viewing sexually stimulating erotic images. But they served also for the sexual education of young men and women. It was even a tradition that the bride of a daimyo - a high-standing feudal lord - brought a collection of shunga prints together with their wedding furniture.
Japanese erotic art was made by all ukiyo-e artists. It was more profitable than "normal" art. Few shunga prints however bear signatures or seals. At times, they were subject to an official censorship. In practice, restrictions in producing and selling erotic shunga art, were never very strict. But most artists may have considered it wise to publish their works anonymously.
The tradition of Japanese erotic prints continues to live in the modern manga and anime images. Like ukiyo-e, also the manga and anime pictures have a genre that aims at the depiction of explicit sexual scenes.
Watch the first of several podcasts by Honolulu Museum of Art. Thanks for sharing this with the public audience.
Japanese Erotic Prints, Shunga by Harunobu and Koryusai. Author, Inge Klompmakers, Hotei Publishing - 'Shunga by Harunobu and Koryusai'.
Author: Dieter Wanczura