History Of Guro

The history of ero guro nansensu may surprise those who think of Japanese culture as monolithic and sedate. In fact, there are noticeable comparisons between Japan and Germany in that both are generally seen as ordered and regulated with a serious side, but both during the 1920s in particular showed a very different side to the world.

The movement emerged in Tokyo popular culture at a time when the Weimar Republic was showing similar deviant, nihilistic and hedonist characteristics in Germany. It was described by Jim Reichert in the Journal of Japanese Studies as “a prewar, bourgeois cultural phenomenon that devoted itself to explorations of the deviant, the bizarre and the ridiculous.” However, the roots can be seen in the mid-19th century work of Tsukioka Yoshitoshi who lived from 1839 to 1892 Entomolonookyand was the last great Japanese master of woodblock printing.

In the 1860s, a time of lawlessness in Japan, Yoshitoshi’s woodblocks were predominantly pictures of graphic violence and death. He also produced shunga, or erotic art, and was influenced by the T’ang Dynasty Chinese erotic painter Zhou Fang who in his art portrayed unfeasibly large male genitals. (The literal translation of shunga is “spring” and spring is a common Japanese euphemism for sex).

Also influential was Utagawa Kuniyoshi, who before his death in 1861 produced woodblock prints showing bondage, rape and erotic crucifixion.

The elements of ero guro nansensu began to come together as a whole in Japanese literature in the 1920s and 1930s. Central to its development was the story of Sada Abe, a real-life Japanese woman who strangled her lover on May 18, 1936 before cutting off his penis and testicles and carrying them around with her in her kimono. This story was known throughout Japan and has been the subject of art, film and novels.

The guro movement can be detected in Japanese theatre, film, music, art and manga comics.