Tokyo museum to exhibit sex art, breaking ‘shunga’ taboo


The nation’s first major exhibition of shunga (erotic art) will take place later this year at a museum in Tokyo following the success of a similar show recently held at the British Museum in London in late 2013, organizers said. Entry will be restricted to those 18 or older.

The exhibition of sexually explicit works mainly from the Edo Period (1603-1868) will feature about 120 shunga (literally “spring pictures”) in the form of wood prints and paintings depicting men and women having sex in various settings.

They include works by renowned ukiyo-e artists Katsushika Hokusai and Kitagawa Utamaro, who were active in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

About half of the 170 pieces shown at the British Museum will appear.

Shunga were once banned in Japan as obscene. The taboo continues to persist, as about 10 facilities declined to host the exhibition, sources said. The proposal was finally accepted by the Eisei-Bunko Museum in Tokyo, where the exhibition is scheduled to open on Sept. 19 and run through Dec. 23.

Tadashi Kobayashi, chief of the International Ukiyo-e Society, welcomed the news, calling shunga “the world’s preeminent painting for adults’ pleasure.”

  • jcbinok

    Funny when a country was more progressive on this topic 300 years ago than today.

  • spengler1

    Anglo-Saxon puritanism has smothered a society which used to be pretty relaxed about mixed bathing and sex. Now we have a tense society increasingly addicted to drugs.

    • jcbinok

      So, it’s someone else’s fault? That’s convenient.

      • Jeffrey

        It was two fold. Ukyou-e fell out of fashion during the Meiji Restoration and, yes, the U.S. is to blame for some of the rather odd changes in Japan’s pre-war “morality.” That this has led to a “tense society increasingly addicted to drugs” is patently false as Japan’s drug addition levels are still extremely low compared to most Western countries and whatever uptick has occurred contemporarily is long removed from changes in attitudes about various “moral issues” that began during the occupation.