Well blow me down! These fantastical, bizarre, hilarious scrolls date from the Edo period in Japan, which spanned the years 1603–1868 for those too lazy to Wikipedia it (I know because I Wikipedia’d it). Authorship for them is unknown, which leads me to believe that they were a very refined form of bathroom graffiti, like those beautiful Japanese ceramic figurines that used to appear in Playboy under the heading “Ribald Art” or something that would reveal the figure’s naughty lady parts if you turned it upside down.
At any rate, these things are a positive treat, featuring fleshy Japanese folks using the awesome power of their flatulence to zap kitty cats or an uprooted tree (!), while potential victims use fans to redirect the stinky gusts back at the perpetrators. Fart power on horseback! Some poor dude and his rice cooker are tossed upside down. Some farts can even break through protective screens. Who knew?
“Japanese battle fart scrolls” sounds weirdly serious, and they look a little bit serious too. But of course they are not, they appear to have been a form of satire (no duh), a way to vent frustration over this or that popular outrage. Kenneth Henshall, in his A History of Japan: From Stone Age to Superpower, isolates an example in which the target was those damned foreigners:
In any event, the rule of the shoguns, which had lasted for almost 700 years, was at an end. The foreign devils were back, and did not look like leaving. When these devils had first appeared, a popular cartoon, based on the Japanese tradition of “farting contests (he-gassen), had shown westerners being blasted away by Japanese farts. But such a scenario was, so to speak, just so much hot air. The foreign devils were not blown away. On the contrary, it was the foreigners who metaphorically speaking, had finally blown open the doors of the closed country. Western fart power had prevailed.
A couple of the scrolls have those black boxes to protect innocent eyes from the glories of the naked human body, we tucked those two way down at the bottom for that reason.
In 1992 Christie’s auctioned off a few of these delightful fart scrolls; they went for £935 (roughly $1750 in 1992 dollars, which translates to about $3,000 in today’s dollars). Pretty good for a few doodles of people farting, don’t you reckon?