Tag Archives: shunga and japanese art

Ando Hiroshige: a glimpse of Japan and duality! Part 1

Ando Hiroshige: a glimpse of Japan and duality!  Part 1  

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Ando Hiroshige is deemed to be one of the finest artists to bless the country of Japan and his art influenced famous artists like Van Gogh.  Hiroshige leaves a lasting impression on the imagination and Katsushika Hokusai clearly influenced Hiroshige and was an inspirational figure even if from afar.

Collectively Hiroshige and Hokusai helped to generate great interest in Japanese art albeit if this influence grew after their respective deaths. Of course, many other famous artists have been born in Japan and the rich nature of Japanese art is clear for all to see.

Time, space, nature, color schemes and symbolism fuses together just like Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, and Shintoism fused aspects of Japanese culture in the past alongside the influences of China. However, amidst the serenity you have the backdrop of shunga which was erotic and explicitly sexual and this art form teaches much about the psyche and sexual reality of Japan. 

Within the visions of serenity, sublime nature and stunning landscapes you have multi-dimensional realities which may clash in other cultures, irrespective if “Eastern” or “Western” thought patterns; however, open sexuality and conservatism within the same “inner-self” is based on thought patterns that are difficult to grasp from a non-Japanese point of view.

Therefore, in the last years of Hiroshige’s life he entered into the spiritual plain of Buddhism and the reality of depicting strong sexual images would not appear to be contradictory nor would it be viewed to be openly sexual within the cultural norm of Japan.

This article is not based on giving a deep background of Hiroshige because the images on show express themselves without words.  Therefore, the main theme is based on the duality of Hiroshige and this applies to sublime landscapes and sexual images and the fact that he was born a samurai but died a Buddhism monk. 

This contradictory factor is often missed by outsiders but within the cultural norms of Japan it is very different and clearly understandable.

Therefore, the Fifty-three Stages of the Tokaido Road, the Eight Views of Lake Biwa, and the Hundred Views of Edo remain firmly entrenched when thinking about the genius of Hiroshige. However, when you delve deeper into other aspects of Hiroshige’s work then just like Hokusai you can envisage the sexual nature and cultural norms of Japan.


This article is dedicated to Chikako, Kimiko, Toshiko, and Yoshihiro, who reside in Ikebukuro or have a business in Ikebukuro.  Over the years our interaction and talks about important issues opened up different aspects of Japanese culture in the environment of Tokyo.  

In my article I state that “This contradictory factor is often missed by outsiders but within the cultural norms of Japan it is very different and clearly understandable.”

The above quote is based on their thinking and while you can read books and study the truth is that open cultural interaction makes you understand much more deeply.

Thank you!

Lee Jay

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Posted by on June 27, 2011 in Japan


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