20 Bizarre and Disturbing Japanese Woodblock Prints

(This article is recommended for mature audiences only. It contains images of graphic violence and sexual content.)

This is a gallery of mostly 19th century woodblock prints. Many of them were made by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, an artist who pioneered the muzan-e (“bloody print”) genre in the 1860s. This collection also features prints by Utagawa Kuniyoshi, Takato Yamamoto, Utagawa Kunisada, Katsushika Hokusai, and Utagawa Yoshiiku.

20. “Sakuma Daigaku Drinking Blood from a Severed Head.” Sakuma was a mid-16th century samurai who served Oda Nobunaga, an important historical figure who paved the way for the unification of Japan when it was engulfed in social and political turmoil during the Sengoku period (1467-1603).

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi.

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi.

19. “People Join Together to Form Another Person.”

Utagawa Kuniyoshi.

Utagawa Kuniyoshi.

18. “Reizei Hangan Takatoyo”. Takatoyo was a 16th century samurai and poet. He is shown here committing seppuku.

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi.

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi.

17. “Night of the Scarlet Moon.” This is actually the work of a modern artist. You can visit his official site right here.

Takato Yamamoto.

Takato Yamamoto.

16. “Bound to Death.” Scene from the kabuki play Yotsuya Kadian.

Utagawa Kunisada.

Utagawa Kunisada.

15. “The Demon’s Arm.”

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi.

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi.

14. “The Lone House.” The old woman in the center is the Hag of Adachi Moor, a deranged serial killer and cannibal who ran an inn.

Utagawa Kuniyoshi.

Utagawa Kuniyoshi.

13. Not sure about the title of this one, or if it’s even by Yoshitoshi.

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi.

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi.

12. “Cat Janken.” Janken is a Japanese game similar to Rock-Paper-Scissors.

Utagawa Kuniyoshi.

Utagawa Kuniyoshi.

11. “Greedy Old Woman.”

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi.

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi.

10. That “monster” coming out of the tanuki is actually one of its testicles. Kuniyoshi created a whole series about tanuki and their gonads.

Utagawa Kuniyoshi.

Utagawa Kuniyoshi.

9. “Gosho Gorozo Battling a Shadow.” Possibly a scene from a kabuki play called Gosho no Gorozo. 

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi.

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi.

8. “Two Severed Heads in the Reeds.”

Katsushika Hokusai.

Katsushika Hokusai.

7. “Princess Shiranui and Captive Man.” Princess Shiranui was the wife of Minamoto no Tametomo, a 12th century samurai who committed seppuku after being surrounded by enemy soldiers during the Genpei War.

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi.

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi.

6. “Furuteya Hachirobei Murdering a Woman in a Graveyard.”

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi.

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi.

5. “The Prostitute Oyaku and a Seated Ghost.”

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi.

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi.

4. “Seimonya Keijuro.” I think this is a scene from a kabuki play of the same name.

Utagawa Yoshiiku.

Utagawa Yoshiiku.

3. “Naosuke Gombei Ripping Off a Face.” I’m not exactly sure, but I believe this Naosuke Gombei was an 18th century servant who killed his master, his wife, and their three children.

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi.

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi.

2. “The Lonely House.” Another depiction of the Hag of Adachi Moor, getting ready to kill a pregnant woman.

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi.

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi

1 This piece seems a bit obscure; I have no idea who made this or what it’s called.

bizarre21

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