Ian Buruma*1 “The joy of art: why Japan embraced sex with a passion” http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2013/sep/27/joy-art-japan-sex-passion
10月３日から始まる大英博物館の日本春画展、Shunga: Sex and Pleasure in Japanese Art*2に因んでの寄稿。
Buruma氏の主張は、日本は「エロティック・アート」が「主流」であり得た唯一の文化伝統だということである。それは何故？ Buruma氏は、その原因を、古代的な「生殖力信仰（fertility cults）」が抑圧されずに「神道」のコアとして保存されていることに求める；
The question is why were Japanese – compared not just with Europeans, but other Asians, too – so much more open to depicting sex? One reason might be found in the nature of Japanese religion. The oldest native ritual tradition, Shinto, was, like most ancient cults, a form of nature worship, to do with fertility, mother goddesses, and so forth. This sometimes took the form of worshipping genitals, male as well as female.
Whereas in many cultures, later patriarchal traditions – Christian, Confucian, or even Buddhist – buried older fertility cults, Japanese nature-worship never really disappeared. There are still Shinto shrines today, where women go to stroke wooden phalluses in the hope of getting children. In certain rural festivals, phallic objects are carried through the streets to be joined with sacred vulvas produced from other shrines.
This could be one explanation for a convention that might strike people as curious: the extraordinary, even grotesque size of male and female genitals in Japanese erotic art. Even though realistic representation was rarely the aim of classical Japanese painting, the genitals in most shunga seem particularly out of whack.
Erotic images sometimes had a talismanic function. Prints were tucked inside a suit of samurai armour to lend strength to the warrior who wore it. Merchants used them to ward off fires in their storehouses. As is true of so much in the Japanese tradition, this goes back to Chinese sources. In fact, the term "spring pictures" is originally Chinese: chun-hua. Already in the sixth century, Chinese aristocrats owned erotic pictures. Another Chinese term for them was "fire-avoiding pictures".
However, China being China, the purpose of these works was didactic rather than hedonistic. They were mostly sex manuals, meant to instruct men in particular how to conserve their vitality and improve their health. Human vitality is expressed in the word "qi", meaning life force or vital energy. Semen was thought to be a concentration of this life force, and it was best to conserve it by avoiding ejaculation. To what extent Chinese men lived by this rule, I do not know. But Chairman Mao was probably not the last Chinese potentate who believed that his longevity required frequent sexual communion with much younger women*3.
The Japanese were far less bothered with the medical aspects of erotic art, and more interested in the possibilities of pleasure. A 16th-century Japanese doctor, named Manase Dosan*4, translated an ancient Chinese sex manual, but as the scholar Aki Ishigami observes in her catalogue essay: "In place of the Chinese emphasis on maintaining health and longevity, it explained in detail how to enjoy sex." The same thing happened in art. Shunga, in prints and paintings, might originally have had a purpose in educating newly wedded couples, or fending off fires, or expressing cosmic harmony, but they were primarily meant to be enjoyed.
Another term for erotic images was warai-e, literally "pictures for laughter". There is a rich tradition of satire and comedy in Japanese erotic art. This type of laughter is not the sniggering associated with British drag shows or Benny Hill*8, which betrays a puritanical unease. Rather it shows a rebellious spirit against social conventions and a taste for the grotesque. Here, too, there is probably a religious angle, which might best be illustrated by one of the most ancient Japanese myths.
One day the sun goddess Amaterasu Omikami withdrew into her cave in a huff, depriving the world of light. To entice her back, the gods staged an orgy outside the cave's entrance and one of them performed a striptease, which caused so much laughter among the gods, that Amaterasu couldn't resist emerging from her hiding place. And so there was light.
Since Tokugawa Japan (1603-1868) was a highly authoritarian society, political satire was rarer, but not at all unknown. And it was the rebellious laughter at the expense of officialdom that got artists into serious trouble with government censors. Nishikawa Sukenobu*9's salacious images of an 11th-century aristocratic ruler having sex with a famous poet showed sufficient disrespect for the social order that it might have provoked the ban in 1722 on erotic publications*10. Later, the great Kitagawa Utamaro got into trouble for poking fun at Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the 16th-century warlord who unified Japan. The point, then, was not sex per se, but political or social subversiveness.
The cat and mouse game between artists, using sexual imagery or grotesque caricature, and official censors continued until very recently. One of the most notorious Japanese court cases of the 1970s surrounded the hardcore cinematic masterpiece, In the Realm of the Senses*11, directed by Nagisa Oshima. Specifically, it related to the book of still photographs from the film; the movie had already been butchered by the censors. Oshima was tried for "obscenity", but the real issue was his rebelliousness: he had always been a leftist critic of the political establishment. The case was less about public morals than about his politics. Or, rather, as Oshima himself put it, public morals were a highly political issue.
This was probably the case in 1722, too – without too much effect. Erotic art just went underground for a while. But it reoccured in a more serious way after 1868, when the old samurai order collapsed and was replaced by a modernising, westernising state. Modernisation along western lines – western clothes, a modern army, an overseas empire, a parliament, universities and so on – was meant to be a defence against the very western powers that Japan was mimicking.
Part of this effort was an official obsession with respectability. Old, "primitive" ribald Japan had to be cleaned up. Public nudity, mixed bathing, wild kabuki plays were all now disapproved of. So there was no way that shunga could remain in the mainstream. Indeed, in the eyes of the Meiji period (1868-1912) patriarchs, it would have been best to get rid of erotic art altogether.
The novelist Yukio Mishima likened Meiji Japan to a bourgeois housewife sweeping all the dirt away before guests come to call. Of course, much of this was superficial. Artists, in photography as well as painting and prints, continued to produce erotic stuff. Indeed, the most democratic period of prewar Japan, the "Taisho democracy" of the roaring 20s, was known for ero guro nansensu culture, short for "erotic, grotesque, absurd".
But the anxieties of the Meiji state, which came as part of westernisation, remained after democracy and freedom of expression had been restored, even strengthened after the second world war. As in the past, the censors were more worried about subversion and social disorder than sex. Cracking down periodically on pornography was a way for officials to show who was in charge. For a long time, censorship was focused on the very thing that make traditional Japanese erotica so distinctive: the genitals.
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*1:See also http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20061021/1161440194 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20080418/1208455455 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20110829/1314543718 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20130806/1375761335
*2:http://www.britishmuseum.org/whats_on/exhibitions/shunga.aspx Mentioned in http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20130518/1368859123
*3:Michael Yahuda “Bad element” http://www.theguardian.com/books/2005/jun/04/featuresreviews.guardianreview10
*4:曲直瀬道三。See eg. http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E6%9B%B2%E7%9B%B4%E7%80%AC%E9%81%93%E4%B8%89 「医人小伝：曲直瀬道三」http://www5f.biglobe.ne.jp/~yoshi3/ijin1.htm 「曲直瀬道三」http://aeam.umin.ac.jp/siryouko/ikadata/manasedousan.html 矢数道明「曲直瀬道三（まなせどうさん）」http://100.yahoo.co.jp/detail/%E6%9B%B2%E7%9B%B4%E7%80%AC%E9%81%93%E4%B8%89/
*5:英語でwet sceneと言って通じるだろうか。wet dreamといえば夢精のことだけれども。
*7:Mentioned in http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20060927/1159366397 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20061014/1160795465 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20101228/1293511035
*8:英国のコメディアン。See eg. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benny_Hill Kathryn Flett “Benny was gauche - and he liked to get his hands on a couple of poached eggs“ http://www.theguardian.com/books/2002/apr/21/biography.features “Benny Hill” http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/7547472/Benny-Hill.html
*11:日本語のタイトルは『愛のコリーダ』。Mentioned in http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20060127/1138377731 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20061017/1161107110 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20070320/1174383864 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20090707/1246939532 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20100608/1276018679 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20110821/1313861365 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20111213/1323788819 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20121019/1350608158 http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20130116/1358264648
*12:http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/exhibitions/masterpieces-of-chinese-painting/about-the-exhibition/ See also Kate Kellaway “Unscrolling the history of China's art” http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2013/sep/29/history-of-china-art