Welcome back to “This is Japan.” This week is a good one because I have something delightfully stinky to share with you today. Japanese fart scrolls.
Japanese fart scrolls
When I was still living in Canada several years ago, I learned about Japanese fart scrolls. I was immediately confused, and amused. I though Japanese art was beautiful calligraphy, wood block prints, and everything peaceful. Yet this was different. Somehow in my years of studying Japanese and learning about Japan, I missed out on Japanese fart scrolls.
Japanese fart scrolls are pieces of art from the Edo period by an unknown artist. In Japanese, they’re called He-Gassen, which means “fart battle” or “farting competition.” The scrolls depict men and women (sometimes naked), on all fours, tooting and pooting with a power you wouldn’t believe. Their farts are often directed at each other and have the strength to blow an opponent right off the ground.
You can see them huddled around bags and farting into them. Possibly to save for later? They are farting trees right out of the ground and blowing cats through the air. Farts are directed at other farts, and some people are using fans to redirect farts back to their farter. The farts are blowing holes through walls. Farters are farting while also escaping on horseback. Finally, the bag of farts is being released to an unfortunate group of people who can no longer stand.
The reason for the art is not clear, and there is no final answer as to what they mean. Maybe it’s political commentary? Or is it because it’s just plain funny? Maybe it’s aliens? Personally, I’m going with the fact that it’s because toilet humour is just plain funny. Who doesn’t laugh at a fart?
Probably no one. And clearly Edo period Japanese were no different and took fart humour to a much grander level. These pieces of art are brilliant and noteworthy masterpieces of Japanese fine art.
If this doesn’t make you laugh, I don’t know what will.
You can view the whole archive from Waseda University here.
This is Japan is regular blog series where I write something about my life in Japan. It might be something about Japanese culture, a story about living in Japan, something random and funny/weird, or something else that doesn’t fit with the rest of my blog. If you like to read This is Japan, subscribe to join my email newsletter community. And leave a comment below below and let me know your thoughts on this post!