The dream of the fisherman’s wife in times of isolationism

Photographer: Myriams-Fotos via Pixabay.

From Kino-e-no-komatsu Collection, 1826. Translation of the inscription by: James Heaton and Toyoshima Mizuho. Published in the Kyoto Journal, No. 18, 1992

STORY. Japan closed its borders to the world for 250 years, between 1603 and 1853. No one, foreign or Japanese, could enter or leave Japan under pain of death. All European foreigners were expelled from Japan.


Autarchy, or the discreet charm of autonomy, generated unity and interior stability and a time of everlasting splendour. They learned, like the anchorites or hermits, from their inner life. I have heard it said that the long confinement and the isolated life turned the Japanese into a kind of extraterrestrials.

Agriculture, technology and communications improved. A diverse and original urban culture flourished and contributed to a new artistic pluralism. The relationship between painting, poetry and calligraphy was characteristic of artistic expression in Japan. The development of polychrome woodblock prints produced cheaply and in large quantities made possible the production and consumption of art on a scale previously unknown in Japan.

One of the best-known artists of the time is the teacher Katsushika Hokusai (1760 -1849). He was born in Edo (present Tokyo). One of his most recognised woodblock prints is the explicitly erotic woodcut known as ‘The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife’ (in Japanese ‘Tako to ama’, ‘The Octopus and the Girl Diver’ ).

The image has mistakenly been interpreted as representing a rape with a diabolical or terrifying meaning according to a folk tradition of monsters, in a country that feeds on fish and shellfish. They have not read the text included in the work.

The original Japanese text arranged by Hokusai in the space around the three interlocking bodies says something eloquently different and more blissful. The creator’s intentions had creative bases. The work is parodic and imaginative, like all great works are, almost like an erotic comic.

What is it?

It is an octopus performing cunnilingus on a beautiful woman while another sea creature kisses her while introducing its beak into her mouth and caressing her nipple. The play is a frenzy of imagination and eroticism between a woman and her slimy lovers as they talk joyously.

What do they say?

Listen to the lust:

OCTOPUS MAXIMUS: 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 envelope you. ”Zuu sufu sufu chyu chyu chyu tsu zuu fufufuuu…”

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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….’

OCTOPUS MAXIMUS: All eight limbs to intertwine 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….!!!!!!

OCTOPUS MINIMUM: After daddy finishes, I too want to rub and rub my suckers at the ridge of your furry place until you disappear. Then I’ll suck some more, ”chyu chyu…”



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