SOAS University of London

Japan Research Centre

Workshop: Shunga in its Social and Cultural Context

The list of speakers is confirmed in the programme

Date: 13 September 2010Time: 9:30 AM

Finishes: 14 September 2010Time: 5:30 PM

Venue: Vernon Square Room: VG06

Type of Event: Workshop



This workshop is part of the three-year Research Project begun in May 2009 on Shunga Japanese Erotic Art, supported by a grant from the Leverhulme Trust, run jointly by SOAS, the British Museum, the International Research Center for Japanese Studies, Kyoto and Ritsumeikan University.

This third workshop follows the inaugural meeting held on 6 August 2009 in London to launch the project and a second meeting at Ritsumeikan in Kyoto 4-5 December 2009, which had 16 presentations and was accompanied by an exhibition of shunga at Ritsumeikan.

Details of this symposium, ‘Shunga Books and Prints in Context’, and the full web exhibition are available online: Exhibition and Symposium

Shunga (art and literature that explicitly portrays sex) is pornography in at least the sense that shunga publications were banned by the Tokugawa government from as early as the 17th century. The production of explicitly erotic books, prints and paintings, however, continued throughout the Edo period into the modern era with only a few intermittent years of strict censorship. After the Kyôhô censorship edict of 1722, shunga books and prints went ‘underground’ in the sense of being illegal publications that did not contain the details of author/artist, publisher and date required by the authorities. We are only gradually discovering how many works have survived because of the modern taboo on shunga in Japan, which has meant that no libraries or museums openly collected shunga until very recently. Therefore most works are in private collections. Estimates suggest that there are as many as 2000 illustrated shunga books, and many more prints and paintings. Many famous artists including many from schools other than ukiyo-e, composed shunga paintings, books and prints. Research on shunga has also until recently been restricted by the modern taboo cast over this genre.

The aim of the project is to examine works in detail, including the extensive text in the books and prints, asking questions such as:

  • How do these works relate to non-shunga genres?
  • Are the works pornography in any of the meanings of this term?
  • Who were the audience for these works?
  • Why was the production and reception of shunga so extensive in Japan?
  • Were the works created only for light entertainment only?
  • Do any shunga aim to express more significant artistic or literary meaning?
  • Is the world of sex presented in shunga simply a male fantasy?
  • Were women an audience for shunga?

The workshops will lead to publications and will support the preparations for an exhibition at the British Museum.


All presentations in English unless otherwise noted. Presentations in Japanese will have outlines in English. 

Please note that the schedule may change due to unforeseen circumstances that may arise between now and September.

Monday, 13 September 2010
9:30Registration and Coffee/Tea
10:00Opening remarks: Andrew Gerstle (SOAS)
10:10Ellis Tinios (Leeds University)
Shunga in context
10:35Monta Hayakawa (International Research)
春画を楽しんだ人々―老若男女、貴賎を問はず― (日本語)
Who enjoyed Shunga in the Edo period? (In Japanese)
11:00Questions and Discussion
11:35Timothy Clark (British Museum)
Exhibiting Shunga at the British Museum in 2013: Key Messages
12:00Ricard Bru (University of Barcelona)
Shunga Japonisme: European artists and Japanese erotic prints
12:25Questions and Discussion
14:30Amaury A. Garcia (El Colegio de México, Colmex)
Nishikawa Sukenobu: One hundred women, two stories, and a reconsideration
14:55Jenny Preston (SOAS)
Pushing boundaries: Nishikawa Sukenobu, Fufu narabi no oka and the Kyoho reforms
15:20Laura Moretti (Newcastle University)
Onna enshoku kyôkun kagami and Onna genji kyôkun kagami: parody or counter-discourse on women's sexuality?
15:45Questions and Discussion
16:30Aki Ishigami (Ritsumeikan University)
The influence of Nishikawa Sukenobu on shunpon produced in Edo
16:55Fumiko Kobayashi (Hosei University)
Was Ôta Nanpo ‘Seisôsai’, the author of shunga books?
17:20Questions and Discussion
17.35Comment: Ewa Machotka (Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, Stockholm)
Tuesday, 14 September 2010
10:00Yukari Yamamoto (Ukiyoe Gakkai)
Tsukioka Settei’s shunga paintings
10:25John Carpenter (SOAS)
The shunga and surimono of Harukawa Goshichi
10:50Questions and Discussion
11:25Ryo Akama (Ritsumeikan University)
Kabuki and shunga (In Japanese)
11:50Kenji Hinohara (Ota Memorial Museum of Art)
艶本免の音色』にみる北尾重政の春本制作 (日本語)
Kitao Shigemasa’s shunpon production: an analysis of his Ehon yurushi no ne-iro (c. 1779)
12:15Questions and Discussion
12:35-14:25  Lunch
14:30Rosina Buckland (National Museum of Scotland) Lusty Women in Hokusai's Shunga
14:55Monika Hinkel (SOAS) Utagawa Kunisada's Shunshoku hatsune no ume 春色初音之六女 (1842)
15:20Questions and Discussion
16:25Comment: Timon Screech (SOAS)
16.30Final General Discussion


Andrew Gerstle,

Organiser: Centres & Programmes Office