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Info on the real Historical Japanese Courtesan: Oiran

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  • art_fetish
    Over the past few years I have studied these beautiful, and almost mythological figures in Japanese history. These women have influenced much of the culture,
    Message 1 of 1 , May 31, 2010
      Over the past few years I have studied these beautiful, and almost
      mythological figures in Japanese history. These women have influenced much of the culture, and are a major subject in Japanese art and theater.

      Regarding my own persona, I am considering the likes of a tea merchants wife. Another persona I am considering is the hostess of a tearoom, or school of tea. My future posts will most likely be historical works, and publications regarding schools of tea, and their masters.

      Here is a very brief introduction to the Oiran that I have written as an ice breaker for anyone curious. If nothing else, please check out the photos I linked towaqrd the bottom, and marvel at their beauty. Concerning dates and periods of time, there are several conflicting reports concerning the span of time these women come from. The Oiran are at their end in the 1800s. Most figures date the roots of courtesan structure back to the 1600s.

      So this all is outside of period, all the same its closer to the period the SCA uses, much closer then the Geisha. The Geisha appeared around 1751, well these ladies predate such by around 150 some years, and really were courtesans.

      I'm working on a more solid timeline. I've found bit of conflicting info in several respected books, and respected sources online. Nothing too major, but enough that I'm having to sort through the details.

      Nicknames: Castle destroyers, Castle topplers, Caged Birds

      Ranks of courtesans: Yujo (generic common women who are prostitues, lower end), Kamuro (young female students), Shinzo (senior female students), Hashi-joro (low ranking courtesans), Koshi-joro (high ranking courtesans below Tayu), Tayu (high ranking courtesans), Oiran (highest ranking courtesans).

      *Name: The title Oiran comes from 'Oiran no tokoro no nesan', which translates into "my elder sister".

      *Court Rank: The Oiran held Imperial court status and rank so they could attend court at the pleasure of their clients. Otherwise, without this rank, they could not enter into court.

      *'Mizu Shobai' - refers to 'the water trade'.
      *'Seiro' - translates to greenhouse, location that houses courtesans.
      *'Joruri' - narrative music sung by a Tayu for her clients entertainment, often
      paired along with a shamisen. this is a respected form of storytelling.

      *The oiran tie their obi in the front. This is why many Japanese still today do not tie their kimono obi in the front. It is believed that the courtesans began tying their obi in the front on the lower end street level so they could pass as their clients wives while in public. Initially maried women tied their obis in the front. Over time, the married women began tying their obi in the back and just the courtesans kept it tied in the front.

      *Unlike lower ranking prostitues, the Oiran could pick and choose who they slept with. That a man might buy time to spend with her, however it did not ensure him time in bed with her. In that regard, an Oiran was as much an entertainer as a courtesan. They were trained in various arts, and provided entertainment much like in the way geisha do.

      *Geisha are NOT courtesans. Geisha are not, and have never been prostitues. The first female Geisha came onto scene around 1751ad. It's not uncommon to hear the term 'Geisha' as a generic term for Japanese courtesans. The use of the title 'Oiran' might be much better, and accurately suited.

      Photo of an Oiran: http://www.flickr.com/photos/agustinrafaelreyes/4588797591/
      Photo of an Oiran: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kost_jap/4533455177/
      Photo of Tayu: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mazisexton/4500063594/
      Photo of Oiran-dochu (parade):
      Photo of shoes worn in processions:
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