Saturday, April 24, 2010

Tradition in Slow Motion

Oiran Dochu, roughly translated as courtesan procession, is a practice that dates back to the Edo Period (1600- 1868). Oiran were prostitutes of the highest class – the ancient Eliot Spitzer variety – and they could choose their lovers from the richest of men. They could only operate inside walled pleasure districts inside major cities. Tokyo housed the most famous one known as Yoshiwara. While they were trained in the arts, music, conversation, etc, they did not receive the kind of training a geisha did. I know many of you read ‘Japanese courtesan’ and go right to your cinematic or literary memories of Memoirs of a Geisha, and you would not be the only one to do so, but you would also not be the only one to be mistaken. Oiran came about before geisha and to oversimplify it a bit, geisha were more artists than prostitutes and the opposite is true of oiran. This parade of sorts was done when they were escorting their honored guests. The oiran would wear 6 inch geta, wooden clogs, place 8 or more pins in their hair, and were up to 60 pound of ornate clothing for these walks! To make it even harder, they walked VERY slowly and moved their feet in a slow figure-eight pattern. The pictures do more than I ever could to describe the ancient beauty being reenacted here. So the next time you start complaining about wearing heals or that your clothes feel uncomfortable, just imagine putting on 60 pounds of priceless robes, 5 inch wooden-heals and placing enough metal in your hair to pick up XM Radio.

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