Futanari, Between and Beyond : From Male Shamans to Hermaphrodites in The Illustrated Scroll of Illnesses

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In ancient and medieval Japan, female shamans had the task of divining messages from the gods. Yet there were also male shamans (otoko miko) who donned female clothing. The "Futanari" section of Yamai no sōshi (The Illustrated Scroll of Illnesses) depicts one such figure: an intersex (futanari) soothsayer. The scroll is thought to have been completed in the late twelfth century, around the zenith of Emperor Goshirakawa's cultural influence. It was Goshirakawa who compiled the collection of imayō (popular songs) entitled Ryōjin hishō (Songs to Make the Dust Dance on the Beams), which includes songs that ridicule male shamans for belonging to the marginal cultures of the eastern hinterlands and the emerging warrior class. This same mocking gaze is cast upon the intersex soothsayer by the figures in the scene and potentially by the contemporaneous reader/viewer for "Futanari." By focusing on representations of male shamans, as well as Buddhist teachings that informed the treatment of intersex figures, this essay explores the basis of the multiple meanings of "Futanari" and futanari.


  • Journal of Asian Humanities at Kyushu University

    Journal of Asian Humanities at Kyushu University 3, 77-85, 2018-03

    Kyushu University, School of Letters, Graduate School of Humanities, Faculty of Humanities


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