Or: What the captions say on Hokusai’s ‘Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife’
Warning: sexiness. Well, in my view totally hilarious rather than sexy. The two things can of course coexist, but in this case I’m declaring my personal preference for the hilarious interpretation. I think James Joyce’s letters to his Mrs are also lurking somewhere in that particular no (wo)man’s land. My article regarding old Jim’s fat mickey and what he’d like to do with it is still one of the most popular posts I’ve ever done here, along with the one about Japanese manga onomatopoeia, so when I was inspired to research the book that this famous print comes from it immediately became clear that I should share my findings with the perverts who visit this site. Edo sex onomatopeia! Bizarre erotic material! Japanese stuff! It hits all the blogging G spots.
The print generally known in English as The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife is in Japanese simply 蛸と海女, Tako no ama (Octopus and Shell Diver). I’m a long way from being Mr Politically Correct, but right there we’ve got what seems to be a glaring piece of casual Western imperialist sexism, since she might well be somebody’s wife but the most salient fact is that she’s actually a fisherwoman in her own right. It’s not even an accurate description because the fisherman isn’t part of this scenario. Presumably his presence would impede this young lady’s hook ups with such fine specimens of cephalopod manhood as are shown here. It’s the kind of a work-related fling that happens when your colleagues are mainly molluscs.
Katsushika Hokusai, he of the iconic The Great Wave Off Kanagawa, also worked openly and to equal acclaim, popularity and prestige on erotic prints (春画 shunga) like the one under discussion here. This particular print is from the novel Kinoe no Komatsu (Young Pines, 1814), a title which is probably as euphemistic as calling the whole thing a novel; I should imagine if it has any novelistic qualities at all it would still be the kind of novel you’d read with one hand. For those who don’t know already, the print depicts a naked woman in a consensual sexual encounter with sea creatures. If you’re on the front page, clicking READ MORE (or whatever it says above the break) will show it to you. Don’t click the link if you or your employer are not inclined towards enjoying things like that. It’s visible on the wall in the background of my current profile picture on my own website, among other places, to the outrage and disgust of absolutely nobody. You’ll probably see worse by accident when you Google something you’d previously thought was innocent (I know I have)… but whatever, those who need warning should consider yourselves warned.
I do read a bit of modern Japanese, but I’ve never had the patience and/or the ability to decipher all the calligraphy here. So I was very glad to discover this translation of octopus sex talk by James Heaton and Toyoshima Mizuho from ‘Erotic Expression in Shunga‘, Kyoto Journal 18, 1991. As I previously suggested regarding Joyce’s sex letters, I recommend having the following dialogue read out by a voice synthesiser for maximum hilarity. If you’re a proper weirdo with a lot of time on your hands you could try to do an Xtranormal animation with it.
“Inside, squiggle, squiggle, oooh!”
As I said at the top, I’m not really seeing the sexy in this, but I’ll admit she does quite a good job of selling me on the pros of having squiggling tentacles up inside you. A razor-sharp beak in proximity to a person’s genitals… not so much.
LARGE OCTOPUS: My wish comes true at last, this day of days; finally I have you in my grasp! Your “bobo” is ripe and full, how wonderful! Superior to all others! To suck and suck and suck some more. After we do it masterfully, I’ll guide you to the Dragon Palace of the Sea God and envelop you. “Zuu sufu sufu chyu chyu chyu tsu zuu fufufuuu…”
MAIDEN: You hateful octopus! Your sucking at the mouth of my womb makes me gasp for breath! Aah! yes… it’s…there!!! With the sucker, the sucker!! Inside, squiggle, squiggle, oooh! Oooh, good, oooh good! There, there! Theeeeere! Goood! Whew! Aah! Good, good, aaaaaaaaaah! Not yet! Until now it was I that men called an octopus! An octopus! Ooh! Whew! How are you able…!? Ooh! “yoyoyooh, saa… hicha hicha gucha gucha, yuchyuu chyu guzu guzu suu suuu….”
LARGE OCTOPUS: All eight limbs to interwine with!! How do you like it this way? Ah, look! The inside has swollen, moistened by the warm waters of lust. “Nura nura doku doku doku…”
MAIDEN: Yes, it tingles now; soon there will be no sensation at all left in my hips. Ooooooh! Boundaries and borders gone! I’ve vanished….!!!!!!
SMALL OCTOPUS: After daddy finishes, I too want to rub and rub my suckers at the ridge of your furry place until you disappear and then I’ll suck some more. “chyu chyu..”
Update, November 2013: Courtesy of the British Museum’s Shunga exhibition, another (not as good, in my opinion, and definitely less complete) translation of the same text: Shunga? I hardly even know her!
Oh, and since I wrote the main part of this post, Xtranormal went tits up. I suggest making Siri read it to you instead.
Another update, 2015: Peggy Olsen, after some initial resistance…
… makes an absolutely glorious entrance with Bert Cooper’s framed Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife tucked under her arm, in S07E12 of Mad Men. Previously seen on Cooper’s wall (accompanied by his casual, conventional misogynist understanding of it) in season 3.