Mochi or Marital Aid?

Ladies and other ladies and a gentleman or two, may I direct your attention to iroha, the silky new toys from Tenga.

It’s tough to know how to express the amount of squee that built up when I first beheld these little mochi balls gracing a full-page ad near the back of BUST magazine. There’s a symmetry to them, in color, in size, and in form which makes it evident that someone — or quite a lot of someones — thought very long and, um, hard about their design. That kind of attention to detail moves me. It’s why I go on architecture tours, drive a Mini Cooper, buy Apple products, and keep the Ikea catalogue on my nightstand like it’s some kind of backup for when the man is away. I worship great design.

So, apparently, do the Germans. Last year the Tenga 3D Series of masturbation sleeves for men has received a product design award called The Red Dot. I guess you could say the honor is courtesy of my father’s Fatherland. When you see these items all lined up together, it’s not, um, difficult to see why:

The sleeves are designed to be displayed with their textured sides facing outwards. Roll one on, however, and those hills and valleys are on the inside.

 2013 03 21 tenga3d

I asked Mr. Tungsten about which sleeve he’d like to try. He was ho-hum about  he realized their inside-out design. Then he immediately pointed to the irregular column second from right. Personally, though, I’d like to have all five, plus a big room full of white and clear furnishings. It might be a kind of litmus test at parties. The people who jumped back, aghast, once they found out what the Tengas were, would not be invited back.

Anyway, back to the iroha.

These toys appear to have a link to Japanese culture. Are they named after the famous Heian-era poem that is remarkable not only for its beauty, but for the different ways it can be organized? Written out in kanji, you get a neat block of text. I might be off, but the dimensions of this polygon do seem to have a golden ratio.


In hiragana, the phonetic alphabet used to write native japanese words, the Iroha is even more notable. Each character in the hiragana syllabary is used just once, so for hundreds of years the poem was used to teach scholars their ABCs. That’s why modern Japanese uses the term “iroha” to mean “the basics” like English-speakers would say “the ABCs of . . . . “, as well as to designate the notes in a musical scale. Are we meant to make this connection? Is the iroha meant to be a fundamental part of a woman’s routine? Something simple and yet profound, like series of musical notes?

In English, the poem is a lovely thought on the transience of all things, a very Buddhist concept. There are many translations, but the one I like best is from Wikipedia:

Even the blossoming flowers
Will eventually scatter
Who in our world
is unchanging?
The deep mountains of vanity —
We cross them today
And we shall not see superficial dreams
or be deluded

Is this the link? Is the the pleasure that a woman gets from an iroha meant to be seen as a metaphor for the fleeting and mercurial nature of life? Or is the device itself meant to be the medium that allows us to cross those mountains and see ourselves for who we really are?  Either way, this is some heavy stuff. It’s not like you’re going to encounter this level of subtlety or ingenuity with something from the Hustler store.

The upshot is a very un-Buddhist sentiment; I want one.

Featured image by iroha-tenga

4 responses to “Mochi or Marital Aid?

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