Finding The Lonely House on Adachi Moor

Posted on Tue, 26 November 2013


Here is the story of how I came by an authentic ukiyo-e print of The Lonely House on Adachi Moor, the master piece by Yoshitoshi that inspired many of the great shibari artists. The piece was written my good friend KabukiJoe for his blog on the Japanese SM scene, SM Detective.

"I met up with Esinem and Electric Fairie today (actually yesterday) and, as planned, we had lunch at the Korean BBQ place, the same place Esinem and I had eaten at a little over a year ago. It hadn't changed a bit and the food was as good as I remembered. We rendezvoused just outside the Shin-Okubo station, a short train ride from where the pair are currently staying in Ikebukuro. A little further for me which is why I was 20 minutes late. Fortunately, Esinem came equipped with a mobile phone which had been lent to him by Osaka-based photographer Rik Sanchez, and I was able to inform him of my late arrival.

After eating, we noticed a little shop that was selling those unique polka dotted pieces of cloth that you often see used as gags in Japanese SM photos. They were cheap and Esinem got himself a nice supply. There was one with a large, red kanji character on it. He seemed drawn to it. The kanji said "matsuri" (festival). I advised against it. Not authentic and too touristy. I'm not sure if he bought one of those while I wasn't looking. After this, we decided to head over to Jimbocho on the subway. Jimbocho is also known as Book Town as there are tons of shops in this area selling used books. I didn't have used books on my mind, though. There is one store in particular there that sells the most amazing movie posters. I have been able to find posters there that I have not seen anywhere else. Two of my prized posters which were bought at this shop feature one of my favorite SM actresses, Oka Naomi.

However, a funny thing happened as we were heading to this location. We spied a sign that said Ukiyo-e. Ukiyo-e are the famous woodblock prints which were a popular artistic form up until the turn of the last century. Now, I had been to Jimbocho at least three times prior but it never occurred to me to check these out. So we dispensed with the poster plans (temporarily I thought) to see what was available on the ukiyo-e front. What we discovered completely blew us away and the poster hunt had to be indefinitely postponed. As soon as we ascended the stairs and entered the small store/gallery, we came face to face with one of the most iconic images in the world of SM, east or west: a large print from 1885 entitled The Lonely House on Adachi Moor. It was hanging on the wall in a beautiful frame. I have seen this image a number of times on the net but actually seeing an authentic print of this infamous scene took my breath away. I was in for another shock. The price of this masterpiece was 400,000 yen, or roughly $4,000 US. A little out of my price range. This really whet our appetite and we asked what else they had. We were soon treated to some art magazines, books and smaller, plastic-encased prints of various scenes of seme-e. Seme-e is basically the genre of art depicting women in bondage, torture and execution. I would be interested to find out how many of you (especially Westerners) know who created this work of art known as The Lonely House on Adachi Moor. No dictionaries. No Wikipedia. Just spit out the answer. I really would be curious to know your responses.

We eventually headed over to another store and found even more treasures. Previously, I must admit, I was never much of an art fan. And my knowledge of art is practically zero. After visiting these shops, however, I now feel compelled to become a collector. The only problem is, this is a hobby for the rich. One fantastic book we were shown (used but in mint condition) was going for 70,000 yen (around $700 US). The other items were only slightly less expensive. It sure was a lot of fun to window shop, however. I desperately wanted to buy some of these pieces but I'm afraid I'll have to win the lottery first. If you are interested in these types of works, I can strongly recommend the two shops we visited. The staff were extremely friendly and knowledgeable. Here is where we went: Book Komiyama Bohemian's Guild Needless to say, this seme-e stuff is just a small part of what these shops carry. If you're a fan of ukiyo-e in general, Jimbocho (and these shops in particular) is the place to go. We just had an amazing time in Jimbocho on Friday. At one point we were having difficulty finding one of the shops. I was misinterpreting a small, hand-drawn map another shop attendant had made for me. First, a young woman stopped and offered to help us. Then, a salaryman stopped, got on his mobile phone and called I don't know who for directions. In the end, they got us to our destination successfully. More adventures await. KabukiJoe"

Well, I went away and I thought about it. I had money in investments that only had a rather dull certificate to show that sat at the back of a drawer and could be worthless after another Black Monday type crash. It didn't take too much convince myself to return and make an investment in the history of kinbaku that I could enjoy every day and would be unlikely to lose value overnight. So, to cut a long story short, a little gentlemanly haggling ended in this print now hanging on my wall only a few feet away as I write this.