Mine was on a subway train in central London, late one September afternoon. It was , shortly before I moved to Japan. My impression of the country I would soon be living in had just been thoroughly shaken up. As if to reinforce its academic intent, the book contained only a few discreet color reproductions of these. These days, shunga is mainstream both in terms of its accessibility to the public — confirmed by a major exhibition at the British Museum in — and its place on the spectrum of shock, with far more extreme images just a click away online.
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While rare, there are also extant erotic painted handscrolls which predate ukiyo-e. Following the aesthetics of everyday life, Edo-period shunga varied widely in its depictions of sexuality. As a subset of ukiyo-e it was enjoyed by all social groups in the Edo period, despite being out of favour with the shogunate. Most ukiyo-e artists made shunga at some point in their careers.
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