Graceful Oiran – 花魁の衣装


The highest rank of courtesan was the tayū (太夫), followed by the kōshi (格子).Unlike courtesans of a lower status, tayū had sufficient prestige to refuse clients. Their high status also made the services of tayū extremely pricey — a tayū‘s fee for one evening was between one ryo and one ryo, three bu, well beyond a labourer’s monthly wage and comparable to a shop assistant’s annual salary.

Though many courtesans could be registered in one area, extremely few reached tayū status; a guidebook published in 1688 listed the contemporary numbers of high-ranking courtesans in comparison to all the courtesans listed in one area:

  • 13 tayū were registered in Shimabara out of 329 registered courtesans
  • tayū were registered in Shinmachi out of 983 registered courtesans
  • tayū were registered in Osaka and Yoshiwara out of 2,790 registered courtesans

A Yoshiwara guidebook published in 1792 listed the six extant ranks of oiran, including tayū and kōshi, who had, by the time of the guidebook’s publication, been dormant, with no courtesans in these roles in Yoshiwara, for 30 years:

  1. Tayū
  2. Kōshi
  3. Yobidashi Tsukemawarashi
  4. Sancha
  5. Tsukemawarashi
  6. Zashikimochi

In 1761, the last tayū of Yoshiwara retired, marking the end of the tayū and kōshi ranks in that pleasure quarter, though both tayū and kōshi continued to work in Kyoto and Osaka.[The word “oiran” therefore appeared in Yoshiwara as a polite term of address for any remaining woman of courtesan rank. … …. description based on Wikipedia

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