The image above (larger version here) dates back to Japan’s Edo period, which ran from 1603 to 1868. And the image, quite clearly, depicts a man on horseback, farting gloriously at the man in green, much to the latter’s chagrin. It’s part of a larger work of art by an unknown artist — a scroll measuring 29.6 cm wide by 1003.1 cm long titled He-Gassen (really) or, in English, “The Fart Battle.” There are a handful of other images, each of which somehow involve flatulence. For example, there’s one in which some of the would-be victims defend themselves with fans, as seen below:
And then there’s one in which the two warring sides stockpile gas for future use:
And there are others as well — there are about a dozen such depictions of people farting at each other over the length of the scroll.
Despite the fact that such a thing would be widely ridiculed today, He-Gassen was probably meant as serious commentary on the life and times of a Japanese citizen of its era. During the Edo period, Japan was run by the Tokugawa shogunate, a military group. The shogunate believed that Japan should, by and large, remain isolated from the rest of the world, and especially from Europeans. According to the Daily Mail, “by the middle of the 17th century, only China, the Dutch East India Company and a group of English traders were allowed in restricted sections of Japan. Any other Europeans who landed in Japan were arrested and executed without trial. While the He-gassen scroll looks ludicrous now, it was a comical depiction of Japan’s serious xenophobia toward the end of this Edo period.” Quite literally, the artist was showing Japan farting on the West.
The entire scroll — which can fairly be considered rated R — can be seen here.
From the Archives: It’s a Gas: It’s about jokes. And about… well, you can probably figure that out.
Related: There’s a book titled “Farts From Around the World.” It’s one of those books where you press buttons as you read it and it makes noise. And, for some unknown reason, there’s a copy of it in my house. I didn’t buy it. But I own one.