Thought Japan was all refined manners, cherry blossom and sensitive pictures of Mount Fuji? You may need to think again. A new exhibition at the British Museum will blow the lid off the modern image of the Japanese as shy, demure people — and reveals what an extremely sexually liberated nation they once were. From 1600 to 1900 — before Westerners turned up and filled their heads with prudish thoughts — they produced some of the most sexually graphic, yet openly published, art the world has seen.
So graphic is the British Museum’s show, in fact, that for the first time curators are to introduce an age limit for visitors. Any children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult, and parents with children under 14 will be warned that the show features sexually explicit images.
Shunga is unique in pre-modern global culture. The shunga school of art flourished just as Japan’s geisha girls were at their peak. These were professional hostesses who entertained men with games, dancing, classical music – and sometimes more
Shunga: Sex And Humour In Japanese Art, 1600-1900 opens at the British Museum in October
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