Item ID: 9822 Iwatsutsuji 岩津々志 [Wild Azaleas]. Kigin 北村季吟 KITAMURA.
Iwatsutsuji 岩津々志 [Wild Azaleas].
Iwatsutsuji 岩津々志 [Wild Azaleas].
Iwatsutsuji 岩津々志 [Wild Azaleas].
Iwatsutsuji 岩津々志 [Wild Azaleas].
Iwatsutsuji 岩津々志 [Wild Azaleas].

“The World’s First Anthology of Male-Male Erotic Literature”

Iwatsutsuji 岩津々志 [Wild Azaleas].

Six double-page woodcut illus. 37 folding leaves. Two parts in one vol. 8vo (270 x 158 mm.), orig. blue wrappers (exteriors of wrappers rather worn), block-printed title label absent from upper cover, new stitching. From the penultimate leaf: “Osaka: Iyoya Heibei, Kemaya Hachiroemon, & Setomonoya Seibei,” n.d.

The very rare Osaka edition, an early printing of Iwatsutsuji [Wild Azaleas], a title that “accrued rich associations of male-male eroticism for Japanese readers during the Edo period. The familiarity of this emblem was ensured by the publication in 1713, of a work that Paul Schalow and Noguchi Takenori have dubbed the world’s first anthology of male-male erotic literature, which bore the name of that flower for its title. Compiled by Kitamura Kigin originally in 1676, Itwatsutsuji consisted of a selection of excerpts and summaries of literary references to the love of youths culled from Japanese poetry and prose — a task for which Kitamura, as a haikai master and scholar of classical literature, was superlatively qualified…

“The work’s title derives from the earliest item in the collection, a verse from a tenth-century imperial anthology, whose anonymous author (alleged by Kitamura to be Shinga Sōzu, one of Kūkai’s disciples) compares his secret love to the ‘stone silence’ of the rock azalea — no less ardent for its muteness — and whose addressee Kitamura identifies as none other than the youthful Ariwara Narihira. In addition to securing the place of the rock azalea as an enduring symbol of nanshoku, Kitamura’s anthology did much to solidify a literary tradition of male-male eroticism whose elements reached deep into the Japanese past but had never before been brought together in such a systematic fashion.”–Gregory M. Pflugfelder, Cartographies of Desire (University of California Press: 1999), pp. 88-89.

The fine six double-page woodcuts have a common theme: the longing by an older man for a male youth.

The first edition of this work was published in Kyoto in 1713 by Sawada Kichizaemon. Our Osaka edition reuses the original 1713 woodblocks after scraping away Sawada’s name. The blocks have remained fresh and sharp.

“In seventeenth century Japan, male love was not stigmatized and had traditionally been integrated into the literary canon, so the existence of an anthology of male homoerotic poetry and prose must be explained in other ways. Iwatsutsuji was inspired in part by seventeenth-century haikai poetics, in which male love and female love came to be modulated as elements of haikai’s innate sensory code, in part by the large literary process of historicising male love evident in kana-zoshi vernacular writing in the seventeenth century…

“In Iwatsutsuji, Kigin gathered thirty-four homoerotic love poems and prose passages from sixteen classical works of literature in order to show how men of the past — primarily monks and priests — expressed their love for youths, usually their chigo, or acolytes. His purpose was to provide a model of behavior for men and youths of his day, a purpose consistent with the didactic nature of most kana-zoshi

“Male love as practiced in Japan was always supposed to involve an age-based hierarchy between an adult man and an adolescent youth…

“In our time, the anthology still stands as the definitive collection of its sort, another tribute to the propensity of Japanese literature to anticipate literary notions and genres that develop only later in the West.”–Paul Gordon Schalow, “The Invention of a Literary Tradition of Male Love. Kitamura Kigin’s Iwatsutsuji” in Monumenta Nipponica, Vol. 48, No. 1 (Spring 1993), pp. 2, 3, & 9 (& see the entirety of this wonderful article for a detailed account of the book).

Japanese erotic books devoted entirely to male - male love “have suffered even greater attrition than heterosexual erotica, particularly in the 20th century.”–Shunga. Sex and Pleasure in Japanese Art (British Museum: 2013), p. 443. WorldCat lists one copy of our Osaka edition, at USC (accession number 1280530847).

Provenance: With the seal of Obama Toshie (1889-1972), journalist, politician, and important bibliophile. His library was sold upon his death. There is a note pasted in — probably Obama’s — stating that he bought this book in 1944 from Muraguchi Shiro, Sorimachi’s arch-rival and the other great antiquarian bookseller of the time in Japan.

Nice copy, preserved in a chitsu. Occasional minor worming touching images and text. A few minor stains.


Noguchi & Schalow, “Homosexuality” in Kodansha Encyclopedia of Japan (Kodansha: 1983), Vol. 3, pp. 217-18.

Price: $19,500.00

Item ID: 9822