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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Yokohama-e Woodcut Print - Kinda Pervy

My friend Matthew - a gentleman I have known for 25 years now - kindly sent me a link with some great ukiyo-e images attached... only they aren't ukiyo-e images... they are something called Yokohama-e... a woodcut sub-genre of ukiyo-e that was produced  back in the 1860s in the then-small fishing village of Yokohama.

Yokohama is hardly a small fishing village nowadays, but back then it was one of the first ports (along with Nagasaki) in Japan to open itself up to foreign trade after the United States forced Japan from its 200+-year-old isolation from the world back in 1854.

Nicknamd yokohama-e, these woodcuts were created to sell to the Japanese locals a description of the strange foreigners who had come to their land (uninvited, I should add), known as the Americans... from that distant far-off land known as the United States of America.

Just as the Americans et al were fascinated to catch a glimpse of a real Japanese back in the 1850s up, so too were the Japanese interested in seeing what all the hubbub was about regarding these strange westerners.

With photography still in its infancy - and certainly no Japanese in possession of such technology, the best and easiest method was to purchase ukiyo-e prints.

The image above shows a well-dressed American  - I'll assume he's a sailor - on leave, chatting up a pretty Japanese woman.

The image would have you believe that the ukiyo-e is only meant to show the interesting and strange garb of the foreigners. Not only the hue of their skin, but their hair... strange facial concoctions... their haberdashery... their hats... and of course, their shoes.

As for the woman... no... the woman is NOT a prostitute, as one would assume... and my only view on why I say that is because of the number of hair pins in her hair.

Generally speaking, a prostitute might only have one or two hairpins, but as one moves up the heirarchy of social class the more cultured a woman, the more hair pins she would have in her well-coiffed hair.

Now... the woman in this ukiyio-w/yokohama-e has six hairpins, so I feel comfortable in assuming she's perhaps a merchants daughter... as merchants in Japan were a step below the samurai who were a step below royalty.

Of course... the woman could be a higher-level professional. She is dressed well,  but is scene here with one hand hiking her kimono up to show a bit of ankle.

Gaaaarrrw... I love me a bit of well-turned ankle.

Now... the woman is trying her best to help the man get drunk to perhaps later engage in a form of hanky-panky.

So yes... call me a pervert, if you must, but I found this image to be a bit sexually-charged in a very sly manner.

What I found extremely interesting in this image were two things. One... the placement of the bottle of sake in the woman's hand... right over the man's crotch... as though she was holding onto his penis. The fact that it's a large bottle is perhaps wishful thinking, but it's certainly not a small bottle of sake for Pete's sake.

Secondly... that bottle is covering up a strange-looking fold in the man's trousers... as though it slightly covers up his pointed excitement of hanging around with the Japanese beauty. Sch-wiiiinnnng.

Seriously... now that I have pointed it out... take a closer look at his pants and tell me YOU don't see the fold pointing directly towards the Japanese woman.

Hey... I just calls'em likes I sees'em.

Still, it's nice to see that even 160 years later, gaijin men are still the same. 

Andrew Joseph

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