“Poem of the Pillow”, Shunga art book

Poem of the PillowBook Review: “Poem of the Pillow”, Shunga art book written by Ness

“Poem of the Pillow and other stories by Utamaro, Hokusai, Kunlyoshi and other artists of the Floating world” is a book by Gian Carlo Calza. This book consists of 384pages mostly of Shunga Erotic art (images of spring). The book has been put together beautifully and is in hardback. There is a small removable outer cover made from handmade opaque paper with the blurb and title printed in bronze, this outer cover is held in place by a clear plastic book protector.
Shunga art is a form of Japanese drawings and prints that became popular within the Edo period. As some of you already know I adore most things Japanese, and I especially enjoy learning and reading about the history behind the Edo period in particular. Shunga art is still popular in modern Japanese society and it has slowly worked its way into western cultures.  Shunga art is very different to western nude art. It use to be used as a form of self-help guide to new brides, advertising and climbing the social tower, and was also used as good luck charms by travelling samurai.
The author starts the book with a small guide to how to understand the pictures, pronunciation, and when certain history periods happened within Japan. Page’s 7-9 acts as an introduction into the way how shunga should be perceived, how it changed as society advanced, and how traditional prints were made.
The rest of the book is split into sections of arists and or types of art forms from certain periods. There is a small amount of written information regarding the authors and styles of art.  You will also find a little text regarding certain pictures within these sections. I found these very helpful in helping me understand what the picture is meant to mean, and why the picture was created.
Here are a few of the more interesting pictures found within the book:
Shunga Book




 ‘Erotic Painting’ by Nishikawa Sukenobu, c.1725. In this picture a woman was caught sleeping with another man, while her husband sees it as a great opportunity to join in…. his wife has very different ideas and pushes him away.


Japanese Erotic Art


Clean Copy of Female Beauty (Fumi no kiyogaki), 1801. This is a picture of a prostitute masturbating with a pestle, while a client watched.



Erotic Manga


Another scene from ‘Clean Copy of Female Body’. This is a picture of two women using a strap-on dildo. Apparently the shell within one of their hands contains lubricant.


Sex Toys in Japanese History



Pining for Love (Kinoe no Komatsu), 1814. This is one of the most well known pictures regarding shokushu goukan (tentacle rape/ erotica).


Japanese erotic
This picture is part of a story (Mirror of the Vagina, c.1823), where a couple make love one night and the woman turns into a skeleton, they both commit suicide after the experience.
And here are my personal favourites:
Pillow Book
I like this one because the couple seem very comfortable with each other. Also I’ve been known to read while having sex.


Japanese sex guide


Poem of the Pillow (Utamakura), 1788.
I found this one very beautiful and strangely relaxing to look at.
Overall, this is a very beautiful collect of Shunga style erotica. Even though there isn’t much written information in this book there is enough that you are able to get a general understanding of Shunga art. It’s also very interesting to see how sex positions and sex toys developed over 1568-1868. I have to admit that even though the pictures are erotic I don’t find them sexually stimulating. Some of the pictures are almost painful to look at due to how oversized the penis’s are drawn.

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