Japanese Tradition: Oiran

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Oiran

Cortigiane che dettavano moda.

photo credit: pinterest

Nell’antico Giappone le “donne di piacere” erano le Yūjo (遊女). Questo termine ne indicava il mestiere e marcava la differenza tra le prostitute comuni e le cortigiane ovvero le Oiran  (花魁).  La figura che vedremmo nel seguente articolo è proprio quella delle Oiran.

Il termine deriva dalla frase ‘oira no tokoro no nēsan’ (おいらの所の姉さん) ovvero “Mia sorella maggiore”.  La traduzione del nome potrebbe però anche essere “Il fiore che primeggia” scritto con i kanji: 花 (Hana) “fiore” e  魁(Sakikage) “leader”.  Questo temine fu coniato per le prostitute di alto rango del distretto a luci rosse di Yoshiwara (吉原) a Edo, l’odierna Tokyo. Venne usato successivamente per indicare le cortigiane.

photo credit: pinterest

Le Oiran svolsero la loro attività nel periodo Edo, nei Yūkaku quartieri del piacere (da non confondere con le Hanamachi dove vivevano solo le Geisha). Questi quartieri venivano costruiti fuori dal centro città di Kyoto, Osaka e Edo, unici luoghi dove la prostituzione non era illegale. Al contrario delle Yūjo che vendevano i propri favori sessuali, le Oiran intrattenevano il cliente non solo con il corpo ma anche con le loro abilità. Queste comprendevano il Sadō o cerimonia del Tè, l’Ikebana, l’arte dei fiori, suonare vari strumenti, leggere e avere un’ottima cultura generale.  Infatti dovevano essere in grado di intrattenere il cliente anche  sostenendo con lui una brillante conversazione. Il rango più alto era costituito dalle Tayū (太夫) le quali potevano avere il privilegio di rifiutare i clienti.  Seguivano le Kōshi (格子). I loro clienti  erano parte dell’élite della società, come daimyō e ricchi feudatari, poiché la loro parcella era molto dispendiosa. Basti pensare che solo una notte con una Oiran equivaleva al salario annuale di un lavoratore. Per avere un incontro bisognava essere inviati dalle stesse per poi entrare in liste d’attesa di settimane.

L’ultima Oiran ufficiale visse fino 1761. C’è da notare che con la fama crescente delle Geisha man mano diminuivano le richieste per le Oiran. Oggigiorno non viene più svolta questa professione nel senso vero della parola ma ha la finalità di far rivivere le tradizioni del Paese, i vecchi usi e costumi.

La cosa affascinante di queste figure era che per via dell’isolamento dovuto alla legge sulla prostituzione (erano relegate in zone periferiche) vennero idolatrate e mistificate. In più dettavano mode e costumi. Erano loro che portavano le acconciature più particolari e i kimono più estrosi e ricchi, con Geta (sandali Giapponesi) alti quindici  centimetri.

photo credit: tokyocheapo.com

Shinano, Sakura e Bunsui.

Esistono diversi eventi durante l’anno che celebrano queste donne.

Il primo di questi si svolge in aprile a Tsubame nella regione di Hokuriku ed è il Bunsui Sakura Matsuri Oiran Dōchū. Si tratta di una parata famosa in tutto il Giappone dove ragazze di ogni regione si sfidano per avere il ruolo delle tre Oiran protagoniste: Shinano, Sakura e Bunsui. I nomi derivano dai fiori che nascono da tre specie diverse di ciliegi. Le ragazze sfilano davanti ad un corteo di minimo di settanta figuranti diversi tra Kamuro le loro aiutanti, servi e concubine. Ogni figurante viene selezionato ogni anno con la più massima accortezza.

photo credit: wikipedia

A settembre la parata Oiran Dōchū percorre Shinagawa, ed a inizio ottobre a Nagoya, intorno al tempio Ōsu Kannon, c’è lo Ōsu Street Performers Festival dove migliaia di spettatori assistono a due giorni di parata. Qui le Oiran sfilano nelle gallerie dei negozi dell’Ōsu Kannon district con tutto il loro entourage. Esso è composto dagli Yojimbo simili ai Samurai ma che hanno il ruolo di bodyguard, e dalle apprendiste.

Affascinanti, sensuali e misteriose come tutto in Giappone, donne dai mille volti e dai mille talenti, bellezze di un tempo passato.[:en]

Oiran

Courtesans that led fashion

photo credit: pinterest

In ancient Japan ‘women of pleasure’ were called Yūjo (遊女). This word identified their job and also marked the difference between common prostitutes and courtesans, also called Oiran (花魁). The figure of the Oiran is the one we will analyze in this article.

The word Oiran derives from the sentence ‘oira no tokoro no nēsan’ (おいらの所の姉さん) that means ‘My older sister’. However, the literal translation would also be ‘The leader of all flowers’ since it is written with the kanji of 花 (Hana) “flower” and the kanji of 魁 (Sakikage) “leader”. At first, the word referred to high-class prostitutes of the Yoshiwara district (吉原) in Edo, today’s Tokyo. But later it was used in reference to courtesans.

photo credit: pinterest

Oirans carried out their activities during the Edo period in pleasure districts called Yūkaku (that is not to be confused with the Hanamachi were only Geishas lived) . This districts were built outside the city center of Kyoto, Osaka and Edo, and were the only places were prostitution was legalized.
Unlike Yūjos, that sold their sexual favors, Oirans entertained their clients non only with their body but also with their abilities. These included the Sadō or the Tea ceremony, the Ikebana or the art of arranging flowers, being able to play different instruments, reading and having a good general knowledge. In fact, they had to be able to entertain the client also with their brilliant conversation skills.
The highest rank was that of the Tayū (太夫) that had the privilege to refuse a client if they wanted to. They were followed by Kōshi (格子). Their clients were part of the elite of the society like Daimyōs and rich feudal lords, and this was because the fee for a Oiran was very high. Just think that one night with an Oiran was equivalent to a whole year of a worker’s salary. To be able to meet one of them, clients had to be invited by the Oiran herself and had to enter a waiting list even weeks long.

The last official Oiran lived until 1761. The increasing popularity of Geishas made the request for Oirans decline. Nowadays this profession is not carried out anymore, if not with the meaning of preserving traditions and customs.
The most fascinating thing about Oirans is that due to the isolation they were forced into by the anti-prostitution law (prostitutes were to live in peripheral areas only) they were also idolized and mystified. They also led fashion and customs. They had the most peculiar hair-styles and the most rich and fancy kimonos with Getas (Japanese traditional shoes) fifteen cm high.

photo credit: tokyocheapo.com

Shinano, Sakura e Bunsui.

There are many events that celebrate these women during the year.

The first one, that takes place in April in the city of Tsubame, Hokuriku region, is the Bunsui Sakura Matsuri Oiran Dōchū. It is a parade famous throughout Japan were girls from different regions parade along the streets in order to obtain the role of one of the three leading Oirans : Shinano, Sakura and Bunsui. These names derive from the flowers of three different types of cherry trees. The girls parade ahead of a minimum of seventy different accompanying figures like Kamuros, their helpers, servants and concubines too. Each figure is selected every year with utmost care.

photo credit: wikipedia

In September in Shinagawa there is the Oiran Dōchū parade, and every early October in Nagoya, around the Ōsu Kannon temple, there’s the Ōsu Street Performers Festival were thousands of spectators can attend a two-days parade. Here Oirans walk down the shopping galleries of the Ōsu Kannon district with their whole entourage. Part of this entourage is the Yojimbo, similar to samurai but that actually has the role of a bodyguard, and there are apprentices too.

Charming, sensual and mysterious, like everything is in Japan, women of thousands faces and talents, beauty of an ancient time.[:ja]

Oiran

Courtesans that led fashion

photo credit: pinterest

In ancient Japan ‘women of pleasure’ were called Yūjo (遊女). This word identified their job and also marked the difference between common prostitutes and courtesans, also called Oiran (花魁). The figure of the Oiran is the one we will analyze in this article.

The word Oiran derives from the sentence ‘oira no tokoro no nēsan’ (おいらの所の姉さん) that means ‘My older sister’. However, the literal translation would also be ‘The leader of all flowers’ since it is written with the kanji of 花 (Hana) “flower” and the kanji of 魁 (Sakikage) “leader”. At first, the word referred to high-class prostitutes of the Yoshiwara district (吉原) in Edo, today’s Tokyo. But later it was used in reference to courtesans.

photo credit: pinterest

Oirans carried out their activities during the Edo period in pleasure districts called Yūkaku (that is not to be confused with the Hanamachi were only Geishas lived) . This districts were built outside the city center of Kyoto, Osaka and Edo, and were the only places were prostitution was legalized.
Unlike Yūjos, that sold their sexual favors, Oirans entertained their clients non only with their body but also with their abilities. These included the Sadō or the Tea ceremony, the Ikebana or the art of arranging flowers, being able to play different instruments, reading and having a good general knowledge. In fact, they had to be able to entertain the client also with their brilliant conversation skills.
The highest rank was that of the Tayū (太夫) that had the privilege to refuse a client if they wanted to. They were followed by Kōshi (格子). Their clients were part of the elite of the society like Daimyōs and rich feudal lords, and this was because the fee for a Oiran was very high. Just think that one night with an Oiran was equivalent to a whole year of a worker’s salary. To be able to meet one of them, clients had to be invited by the Oiran herself and had to enter a waiting list even weeks long.

The last official Oiran lived until 1761. The increasing popularity of Geishas made the request for Oirans decline. Nowadays this profession is not carried out anymore, if not with the meaning of preserving traditions and customs.
The most fascinating thing about Oirans is that due to the isolation they were forced into by the anti-prostitution law (prostitutes were to live in peripheral areas only) they were also idolized and mystified. They also led fashion and customs. They had the most peculiar hair-styles and the most rich and fancy kimonos with Getas (Japanese traditional shoes) fifteen cm high.

photo credit: tokyocheapo.com

Shinano, Sakura e Bunsui.

There are many events that celebrate these women during the year.

The first one, that takes place in April in the city of Tsubame, Hokuriku region, is the Bunsui Sakura Matsuri Oiran Dōchū. It is a parade famous throughout Japan were girls from different regions parade along the streets in order to obtain the role of one of the three leading Oirans : Shinano, Sakura and Bunsui. These names derive from the flowers of three different types of cherry trees. The girls parade ahead of a minimum of seventy different accompanying figures like Kamuros, their helpers, servants and concubines too. Each figure is selected every year with utmost care.

photo credit: wikipedia

In September in Shinagawa there is the Oiran Dōchū parade, and every early October in Nagoya, around the Ōsu Kannon temple, there’s the Ōsu Street Performers Festival were thousands of spectators can attend a two-days parade. Here Oirans walk down the shopping galleries of the Ōsu Kannon district with their whole entourage. Part of this entourage is the Yojimbo, similar to samurai but that actually has the role of a bodyguard, and there are apprentices too.

Charming, sensual and mysterious, like everything is in Japan, women of thousands faces and talents, beauty of an ancient time.[:]