Yanagawa Shigenobu, Willow Storm - Kabuki Male Prostitute

Yanagawa Shigenobu, 1787-1832

Willow Storm: Kabuki Male Prostitute
(Yanagi no arashi: Kabuki wakushu)

a kabuki wakushu (young male prostitute) wraps his arms around the thick neck of a burly patron; the customer scowls as he pushes his tongue past the young man's lips while simultaneously penetrating him; the composition is framed by the edge of a folding screen which is draped with a garment decorated with a pattern of plovers and waves which are embellished with metallic printing, the white collar of the wakashu's underobe with karazuri ('blind printing') geometric pattern, ca. 1832

oban yoko-e 9 7/8 by 15 1/4 in., 25.2 by 38.6 cm

Wakashu or iroko (male prostitutes) also worked as onnagata, the actors who portrayed female characters in the kabuki theater. The young men were required to shave their forelock, which they covered with a purple cloth called a murasaki-boshi (purple hat). The dialogue reveals that the iroko is actually from Osaka, but came to Edo in the company of a regular customer.

Hayashi Yoshikazu, The Complete Ukiyo-e Shunga, no. 4, Shigenobu, Yanagi no Arashi, 1996


Scholten Japanese Art is open Monday - Friday, and some Saturdays by appointment only

Contact Katherine Martin at
(212) 585-0474 or email
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site last updated
May 5, 2021

Scholten Japanese Art
145 West 58th Street, suite 6D
New York, New York 10019
ph: (212) 585-0474
fx: (212) 585-0475