Japanese scroll depicting ‘Battle of Farts’ is truly a work of (f)art

Public domain via Wikipedia Commons


Art is very personal. An abstract piece evokes different emotions in each individual. A piece of junk to one man is worth millions to another. Some would pay in the millions for a vase while others will treat it like a playground basketball. An incredibly deflated basketball.

It isn’t often that work of craft bring out the same reactions from anyone lucky enough to gaze upon the creation. A Japanese portrait titled He-gassen might be the exception to the rule. Ask anyone — critic or cynic — their gut reaction to the 200-year-old piece and all will have the exact same interpretation. Actually, it might not even be a statement, but more a question, that leaves their lips as their eyes transfix on the priceless painted scroll.

“Um, are those dudes having a fart war?”

No. It’s a fart competition. Actually, it’s a fart battle, because He-gassen roughly translates to “fart battle” and keep that information in your back pocket to dazzle the crowd at happy hour.

Created by unknown artists, the scroll depicts several of different scenes, all linked by the recurring theme with at least one character is blasting vapors towards another character. It’s like a peek into the school notebook of a juvenile from another century.

While the whole exhibit sounds sophomoric, the scene does have a deeper meaning. This is art. It can’t be just about farts.

“While the He-gassen scroll looks ludicrous now,” explains The Daily Mail, “it was a comical depiction of Japan’s serious xenophobia toward the end of this Edo period. This was the era of the Tokugawa shogunate, which is characterised by a suspicion of foreigners and a ruthless persecution of Christians. 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.”

Click here for a look at the entire scroll. If you want to order it for your home, check Spencer’s or that company that makes Fatheads.

Chris Illuminati avatar
Chris Illuminati is a 5-time published author and recovering a**hole who writes about running, parenting, and professional wrestling.