The three great capital cities of Japan were rivals in the Imperial era. Edo (near present-day Tokyo), Osaka and Kyoto were known respectively as the political, commercial and cultural capitals of Japan. Each city had sprawling entertainment districts that included famous brothels—and the pleasures offered in each city were the subject of lively comparison. This rare and complete set of twelve prints, dating 1710-15, depicts sexual encounters in the pleasure quarters of the three capitals, with each city represented by four prints. A small, round disc in each print indicates the city where the scene takes place. The prints, titled Love in Three Capitals, belong to the shunga genre, an erotic art tradition that began in the Heian period (794-1125) and remained popular in Japan up to modern times.
The prints are by artist Okumura Masanobu (1686-1764) and show his characteristic use of thick, black lines. Masanobu also produced paintings and prints on less titillating themes, such as landscapes and images of legendary figures. In addition to overtly sexual content, these prints also contain interesting details such as interior furnishings and the elaborate textiles worn by the figures. Due to the mature subject matter represented in these prints, this exhibition is limited to an adult audience.