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Oiran Dochu


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Oiran Dochu Procession (おいらん道中)
Bunsui, Niigata (新潟 分水)

The Oiran courtesan of the Edo period is escorted by young female attendants. Her steps are exaggeratedly slow swinging from the hip to gain attention. The feet take figure-8 strides so that the man's shoulder is needed to steady her. This top-ranking woman (known as tayu) was summoned to a client's residence by formal invitation. Her transit to assignation was a matter of public display as she formally processed through the streets accompanied by maids and parasol bearers. A tayu’s attendants in child-age were meant to become prostitutes. Some were practically dumped by their parents, some were literally bought, and the rest were relatives of the tayu. These kids called kamuro (禿) were dragged everywhere to show the tayu’s prestige. 

The Oiran courtesans were worthy of being a companion to a daimyo and therefore also known as daimyo dogo (lord’s goods). A popular epithet for them was keisei (castle toppler) because their influence could ruin men and destroy kingdoms. Being entertained by them was so expensive that a castle of a wealthy and infatuated lord could be pushed over by the expenses. The oiran were witty and self-confident. They were skilled in calligraphy and accomplished at poetry and the tea ceremony.