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The earliest weapon associated with the samurai was the longbow, and many were also proficient with polearms. Neither is what first springs to mind for most people when they think of Japan’s warrior class, though. To many, the image of two opposing samurai grasping their swords, ready to duel, is by far the more iconic image.

But while the bow is technically the most traditional, the polearm arguably the most practical, and the katana certainly the most dramatic, none of these are anywhere near as funny as the depiction in this centuries-old scroll of samurai battling each other with their farts.

The picture scroll is called “Hegassen Emaki,” literally “Picture Scroll of a Fart Battle,” and that title is by no means a clever metaphor. Not all Japanese fine art is of rarified subject material, as some of its most iconic images are comical in nature, such as the “Choju Giga” which depicts a mass wrestling match between a group of rabbits and another of frogs. Still, we don’t think we’ve ever seen one quite as out and out weird as this one.

“Hegassen Emaki” is part of the collection held by Waseda University, one of Japan’s finest institutions of higher learning, even for subjects outside the flatulent arts. The artist is unknown, but experts believe the university’s scroll, kept at its library in Tokyo’s Takadanobaba neighborhood, is an 1846 reproduction of the original, which is thought to have been painted during the Muromachi Period which lasted from 1333 to 1573. If you’d like to know a little more about the history of “Hegassen Emaki,” click here, but for now, let’s get straight to the fart jokes.

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Like all scrolls from the era, its contents are meant to be read from right to left. Early on, nothing seems (or smells) particularly foul, as the scroll begins with a few groups of men sitting, riding, and walking.

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We next come to a few cauldrons of food being prepared, plus a pair of diners who have already begun eating.

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From the painting, we can’t tell exactly what’s on the menu, but we’re guessing whatever it is, it contains a lot of beans, giving what follows right after this.

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The fart battle has begun.

This isn’t the kind of thing to take lying down, though, and those being attacked quickly take defensive action, such as this man who has widely wrapped a strip of cloth over his nose and found a man-sized plank of wood to use as a shield.

▼ The only thing worse than a coordinated fart attack by three men is a coordinated fart attack by three naked men.

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Some would argue though that the best defense is a good offense, so these two men get to work fanning their compatriot’s flatulence for extra potency.

▼ With proper utilization of battlefield technology, one soldier can do the farting of three.

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All-out attack seems like an even wiser strategy when we see that it’s possible to pierce a defender’s shield with enough technique and/or gumption.

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The second farter from the top in the unit on the left shatters an illusion many men cling to by proving that not only do women fart, they have for hundreds of years.

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Here we see a man stripping a woman for quite possible the oddest reason ever: so she can more effectively help him and his pals fart on some dudes.

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Tragically, the perspective here makes it a little hard to tell what’s going on, so the sorcery behind amplifying your flatulence so much that it can literally knock someone’s shoes off has been lost to the ages.

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Among the most venerated skills of the samurai was yabusame, or horseback archery, which apparently can be adapted into a less deadly yet far more pungent attack.

▼ But why isn’t the horse farting, too?

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Still, the scroll shows that even at this early date, cavalry’s slide towards battlefield irrelevance had already begun, since the easiest way to counter mounted units is to simply disable their steeds.

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The pincer attack, though, remains as viable a tactic now as it was in the time when the Hegassen Emaki was painted.

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We’re not sure if this guy’s gas is so bad it can whither plant life, or if he just farted out a dead tree. Either way, we do not want to stand behind him.

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How down is this guy’s girlfriend, who looks happy as can be to cuddle with him in the middle of the fart war?

▼ “Naw baby, that wasn’t me!”

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Ah, cherry blossoms, the symbol of Japan, fluttering in the wind…

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…the wind produced by four weapons-grade anuses.

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Flatulence experts use a three-tiered scale to rank how rank gas is, starting with “Ordinary” before rising to “Curry Contest Aftermath.” Here we see the highest level, “So Bad It Can Levitate a Cat.”

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If no cat is available for measuring purposes, you can also substitute an old man and all his earthly possessions, although we must stress that this method is not considered as accurate by the international scientific community.

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It’s often said that while dramatic narratives from one culture can easily be understood by another, comedy is a much more difficult thing to translate. But as the “Hegassen Emaki’s” country of origin and age prove, fart jokes are not only borderless, but timeless as well.

Sources: Daily News Agency, Waseda University
Images: Daily News Agency