…because it might turn out to be something you’d rather not explain to dinner guests!
Let’s say you’re browsing around a flea market in Japan, and you discover this jolly woodblock print of five samurai-era men having a little chin-wag. Naturally, because it’s a flea market, you snag it at a bargain price! What a great souvenir to hang on your wall back home!
Until someone who can read the squiggly writing around the edges asks how you became fascinated by…
…the five types of men who frequented the pleasure quarter of Yoshiwara, each defined by his, er, “twigs and berries”!
If you’re a reader of Victorian delicacy, you may wish to stop here and move on to the alternative delights of cherry blossom season in Hirosaki, but if your mind (like mine!) won’t say no to an occasional stroll through the gutter, read on to discover what kind of wedding tackle these five fine flaneurs are flaunting…
#1 – Mr. One Size Fits All
#2 – Mr. Unforgettable
#3 – Mr. Big
#4 – Mr. Dark Horse
#5 – Mr. Bee’s Knees
Which just goes to show, those neglected blocks of gray text in our coffee table art books just might be a goldmine of surprising info!
* As one might guess, “the gate” is Yoshiwara slang for the corresponding female anatomy
The Thing I Learned Today is a new feature I’m adding because I thought you might enjoy the truly odd nuggets I’ve been discovering amid the stack of academic tomes I’ve been reading for book research!
This woodblock print and the translation quotes are from Julie Nelson Davis’s “Utamaro and the Spectacle of Beauty,” published by University of Hawaii Press. The print is called “Five Male Types” and it’s from Utamaro’s “Illustrated Book: First-time Princesses”
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Jonelle Patrick writes mystery novels set in Tokyo, and blogs at Only In Japan and The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had