Press "Enter" to skip to content

Medieval Japan’s prolific predators weren’t plagued by Tiger traps

Sunday Mainichi Jan. 24
Sunday Mainichi Jan. 24
Eiyu iro wo konomu (heroic men like sex), goes a famous old Japanese saying. University of Tokyo historian Hirofumi Yamamoto uses the phrase in the context of medieval warlord Oda Nobunaga (1534 – 1582), who fathered 22 children before being cut down in the prime of life.

“Even before Nobunaga wed Kicho at the age of 15, he’d engaged in any number of clandestine affairs with women,” Hitoshi Ejima, a researcher into sexual practices, tells Sunday Mainichi (Jan. 24). He adds that Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder of the Tokugawa shogunate, went from preferring older widows in his salad days to a preference for Lolitas in later life, still managing to romp with a 13-year-old at the ripe old age of 68.

This impressive data about Japan’s cocksmen of yore is slipped in as a sidebar to the main story, titled “Golf and Sex: The 19th Hole Where Sexual Athlete Tiger Woods Became Entrapped.”

Another 16th century warlord, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, was less prolific. Despite a wife and some 16 concubines, Hideyoshi produced few offspring. “But he certainly liked the ladies, and used to go prowling for them in the towns,” says Ejima.

But it was the 11th Tokugawa Shogun, Ienari (1773-1841) who was probably the most prolific of all. With some 40 concubines over his long rule, he fathered over 50 offspring.

“In former times when concubinage was accepted, Japanese views on sex were much more open-minded,” says Todai’s Yamamoto. “After the Meiji era, however, monogamy was imposed through the influence of Christianity. And those above enforced morality on the common people, so that old rural practices such as yobai (“night crawling”) were treated as indecent.”

Even as late as the Taisho period, however, free spirits like journalist Gaikoitsu Miyatake continued to flaunt their fascination with sex.

“Miyatake researched all manner of things, such as fertility festivals and sounds of sexual ecstasy,” Ejima says. “He was repeatedly imprisoned and his writings banned, but he still managed to marry four times. At age 73 he married a woman in her 30s.” (K.S.)

Source: “Nihon, sekai no seigo to sono jijo,” Sunday Mainchi (Jan. 24, page 117)