When we picture samurai warriors, images of honor, discipline, and fierce sword battles come to mind. However, there is a hidden and often overlooked aspect of samurai culture that was both peculiar and, at times, downright vulgar. Prepare to delve into the obscure world of ancient samurai fart battles, where warriors engaged in bizarre contests of flatulence, testing not only their mettle but also their control over bodily functions. Though unconventional, these contests were a genuine component of samurai folklore and provide a unique glimpse into the lighter side of their lives.

The oldest living visual example of such contests comes from an Edo period (1603–1868) scroll called He-Gassen (Japanese: 屁合戦, literally: “Fart competitions”). Created by an unknown artist or artists, the scroll depicts the flatulence humour of samurai enjoying their downtime in the relative peace and stability of the era. However, this gaseous pastime has been mentioned all the way back around the end of the Heian Period (794–1185) by artist-monk Toba Sōjō.

As this period had little need for samurai warriors, this became a somewhat hedonistic time for these men—focusing not on war, but on politics, philosphy, and the comfort found in geisha girls. Despite this, a counter-culture formed to keep the practice of the Bushido code alive in this peaceful times in the form of fart battles. Participating in sparing matches required more than simply releasing gas. Samurai warriors develop techniques to control the volume, duration, and even the tonal quality of their flatulence. These techniques were honed through specific diets and physical exercises aimed at enhancing their digestive systems and producing resonant and impressive farts.

Samurai Fart Battles He-Gassen

Despite their childish nature, these samurai fart battles are depicted with an unusual ferocity as these wind-breaking warriors are seen uprooting trees, punching through walls, and even toppling buildings with their noxious emissions. Demonstrating the discipline and strength samurai are known for. Whilst this is probably not true to life, vastly exaggerating the sheer power displayed visually, these tales and artwork depicting these battles have been preserved, providing a glimpse into this peculiar aspect of samurai culture and historical Japanese culture.

A portion of the He-Gassen scroll

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