In this scroll, the yōbutsu kurabe 腰物くらべ (phallic comparison or contest), groups of men display their significantly sized members to judges and competitors or watch the proceedings. One exciting aspect of our scroll is that it appears that the artist is aware of the Mitsui Museum Kachi-e emaki or one of its copies, as the scenes and certain specific details reflect that iconic scroll.
The initial scene shows a surging crowd that has gathered around a screen being held at bay by two guards with bows. Further on, some competitors sit waiting by a table, while others are being measured with what appears to be a rope and by a judge with a ruler. The scroll ends with an overweight competitor with a fan sitting with other men by a striped screen. Details such as this and the unusual shape of a guard's head, the stripes on the screens, the official with the ruler and the overall position of the men in each scene, duplicate that of the Mitsui Museum handscroll, though with less proficiency of the brush.
The scroll is unmounted, with fraying to the edges, rips at top and bottom and toning throughout. Repairs to the back along seams in places. Large holes at the beginning of the scroll and dampstaining that affect the artwork.
[hōhi gassen 放屁合戦] [farting match]
Paper scroll approx 38cm x 687cm with over 40 drawings of men engaged in displays of gaseous emissions. Color, unsigned, no date.
In this hōhi gassen 放屁合戦 (or he-gassen 屁合戦), farting match, the path of the gas is colored a mustard-yellow and extends further than one would think possible. Men take aim to simultaneously attack and impress their fellow competitors.
The scroll is unmounted, with fraying to the edges and toning throughout. Various repairs to the back along seams in places and rips at top, largely unaffecting the artwork.
The themes of formal farting matches and phallic competitions can be traced back to the medieval period in Japan. The oldest and perhaps most well-known of the genre known as kachi-e 勝絵 (competition or victory art) is held by the Mitsui Memorial Art Museum (Mitsui Kinen Bijyutsukan 三井記念美術館). In the scroll, both matches are included in one scroll (the yōbutsu kurabe preceding the hōhi gassen). There is also a hōhi gassen 放屁合戦 handscroll in the Suntory Museum of Art dated 1449. Though there are no clear winners in either of these types of scrolls, it is clear that each man is certainly trying his best.
We are offering the scrolls together as from an examination of the artwork, size and paper quality, it seems that the same artist drew both of our scrolls, and because there is evidence that kachi-e emaki originally consisted of two handscrolls, one of each type of battle.
If you find the conceit of an artistic scroll with such competitions difficult to believe, please see the academic research by Yano, Akiko. "Historiography of the 'Phallic Contest' Handscroll in Japanese Art." Japan Review, no. 26, 2013, pp. 59-82. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/41959817. Accessed 10 July 2020.
https://nichibun.repo.nii.ac.jp/? (Inventory #: 90652)