Oiran

February 17, 2014

by Maria Kakiuchi and Akane Ogawa

Oiran was a kind of ‘woman of pleasure’ of the Edo period (1600~1868) in Japan. Unlike common street prostitutes, oiran were glamorous courtesans, who were cultivated in the traditional Japanese arts, the classics, calligraphy, tea ceremony, waka poetry, the shamisen (Japanese harp), and the game of go. This made them primarily entertainers. They were very popular in the brothels of the Yoshiwara in Edo (now Tokyo), Shinmachi in Osaka, and Shimabara in Kyoto. One can read about oiran in traditional Japanese literature, as well as see images of them in ukio-e, a genre of woodblock prints and paintings. Of course the oiran seen in ukiyoe works is more opulent than real.

The Way of Oiran

Back in the Edo period, sometime prostitutes were put on display behind bars for potential customers to look at. This practice was called harimise. Oiran, however, did not practice harimise. On the contrary, oiran took an active role in the process of selecting a customer. In this way, we might say that the oiran chose the customer, rather than the other way around.

If a man really wanted to be with an oiran, he first had to make contact with a tea house and have lots of money. Next, he had to engage in a three-step process to get together with an orian. In the first step, the oiran just sits and observes the customer. She does not eat, drink, or talk, but rather just gets a feeling for the potential customer. If he passes that stage, the next time he comes, the oiran gets closer to the customer, but doesn’t interact much. This is also a testing period. Finally, if the man makes it to the third stage, he can go into a room with the oiran. He must present her with a set of chopsticks with his name engraved into them, along with an envelope of congratulatory money. From that point, he is forbidden to visit other prostitutes. To do so would be considered cheating, and would be seen as a great insult.

What is Oiran-Dochu?

In edo period, the oiran would dress in their best costumes to go and collect their valued customers and bring them to the teahouse and on a special day. Then they would parade around the area of the pleasure quarter with their most beautiful and ornate clothing on display. This included the wearing of two combs, and six Japanese hairpins in the front and six in the back. This style of Japanese hairpin was particular a sign of nobility.

Differences Between Oiran and Geisha

Some people might certainly ask the question, “What is the difference between a geisha and an oiran? Aren’t they the same thing?” The answer is, “No.” Although they appear to be similar, in that they both dress up in beautiful traditional clothing and entertain guests, the geisha never were involved in prostitution like the oiran were. Instead, the geisha specialized in playing the host at private parties, with dancing, music, and games. In fact, the rise of the geisha corresponded with the fall of the oiran. They were much more accessible to the common visitor, rather than just for rich men who wanted sex.

Dress Up Like Oiran for a Day

Although the oiran have died out, the tradition of dressing like one still remains. In fact, you can experience dressing like oiran yourself right here in Kyoto! The place is called, Oiran Keiken Studio Yumekoubou, which translates into something like ‘Oiran Experience Dream Studio.’ If you want to take some amazing photos of yourself dressed like an Edo period Oiran, there are the steps you need to take:

1. Call to book an appointment. You should try to book one as soon as possible, because sometimes it’s already fully scheduled.

2. Go to the studio on the day and time of your appointment and the staff will give you some information about oiran.

3. Get your face made up by professional make-up artist. Then, if you have an image that you want to be, for example, looks big eyes, be sexy, pretty and so on, just tell your image to them and they will make it happen. It doesn’t matter if you are already wearing make-up or not when you arrive. They will take care of everything. If, however, your skin is weak or has some alleges, you should tell your artist about it before he or she gets started. It’s okay to put contacts on, but it could be a bit uncomfortable, so make sure you bring your contacts case with you in case you have to take them out. Also, if you really want to put on the make-up by yourself, you can. But there is no telling how it will look.

4. Choose your hairstyle. There are mainly 2 styles.

http://search.creativecommons.org/
Classic style. This is a wig. Ornamental hairpins are the main characteristic. We recommend it for people who have short hair.
Modern stylehttp://search.creativecommons.org/
Modern style. This is done with all of your real hair. No wigs involved.
You can choose the hairstyle you want, and the artists will do it for you.
The classic style is popular with most customers because it gives them the traditional image of being Japanese, just like the oiran really were back then.

5. Choose a kimono. There are about 30 different kinds of kimono in the studio, so you can choose the one you want to try. Kimono are all the same cost, so you can choose the color and design freely.

6. Take pictures. A professional photographer will take your picture. The purpose of taking the picture is you get right into oiran. Then, the photographer will capture your beauty. A space is also provided so that you can take pictures with your own camera. You can’t have an experience like this so often, so this is a perfect opportunity to capture your memories of Japan.

Our photoThe authors of this article dressed as oiran.

7. Choose the photos you want to keep. If you see some really good ones, you can buy them directly from the studio.

Points to note

* Pregnant women cannot dress up like oiran, because of the tight girdle they must wear.

* There is no parking area. Therefore, you should come by bus or taxi. The studio is very close to Gion bus stop.

How to get there from Kyoto station…

  • Use the bus…Catch the bus that number 100 or 206 and get the bus off by Gion bus stop. Then, your back toward to Yasaka shrine and go straight the Shijyo-street. When you can see “Akaneya”(あかねや), turn right.
  • Use the taxi…Tell the driver “Shijyo-kiritoshi”. You go about 50m in Kiritoshi, then the place is left side.
  • Any photos you buy are sent to your house one month later.
  • It takes about 3 hours from start to finish to complete the dressing up like oiran process.
  • There is no age limit, so anyone can dress up like oiran.
  • There are people who can speak English, so don’t worry about language.

You want to make good memories in Japan, why don’t you try it!

Access

花魁体験STUDIO 夢工房
Oiran Keiken Studio Yumekoubou

http://www.kyoto-oiran.com/index.html

京都市東山区八坂新地末吉町86
Kyoto-city, Higashiyama-ku, Yasaka shinchi sueyoshi86

Mamezushi

Junya Kitagawa and Miki Suzuki

 Mamezushi

As sushi is now well known all over the world, there are many sushi bars located in many different countries, and a lot of people have become familiar with it.  All over Japan you can find sushi bars serving many different kinds.  “Mamezushi”, which we would like to introduce here, is one type that originated in Kyoto.

“Mamezushi” is often called “Maiko zushi”, too, because its birthplace was Gion, in Kyoto, an area which is also famous for Maiko, or apprentice Geisha.  Maiko have a cute little button for a mouth, with the perfect size and shape for eating sushi.  Mamezushi means small sushi bean in English, as the shape is small and spherical.

In top-class Japanese restaurants, 15 kinds of Mamezushi are presented in a box and served to customers.  The kinds of mamezushi shown here, are from the upper left, squid sandwiched between sheets of kelp, mackerel oshizushi, bamboo shoot, pickled tuna, masuzushi, pouch of fried bean curd stuffed with vinegared rice, shrimp, butterbur, egg, pickled rape blossoms, kelp boiled in sweetened soy sauce, eel, Japanese ginger, with squid and pickled ginger to the lower right.  When the customer first removes the lid to begin to eat, they cannot help but be impressed with the beautiful colors before them, and almost always feel the urge to take pictures of it.  However they not only look elegant but also have a very refined taste.  Each one tastes different to the others, and we do not have to put on any soy sauce, which makes it a little healthier for us.

Mamezushi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Restaurant Mametora

There is really only one place where we can eat Mamezushi in Kyoto, and this is the top-class restaurant “Mametora”.  This restaurant has a calm atmosphere and is peaceful and comfortable.  The restaurant is located on Hanami-Koji Street, which is actually quite  noisy, however, you do not notice that once inside the restaurant.  There are 3 types of seating available here:  the counter seat, where you can see the inner garden, a private room, where you can eat lunch or dinner in privacy and relaxation, and on a covered table placed over a recess in the floor of a Japanese-style room.  Of course, you can enjoy a special lunch or dinner whichever seating arrangement you choose.

The restaurant has two service times, lunch time and dinner time.  Lunch time is from 11:30 a.m. to 02:00 p.m. and dinner time is from 05:00 p.m. to 09:00 p.m.  At lunch time two options are available, one is “Mamezushi-Zen”, which consists of five courses.The main course Mamezushi, is served 4th, and before that courses containing foods in season are offered, with the final course being a dessert.  The other option is “Mamezushi-Sara Zen”, which consists of 6 courses, and offers many kinds of foods in small dishes in addition to the courses of “Mamezushi-Zen”.  At dinner time there are other options.  The first is ”Mamezushi-Kaiseki”, with different courses.  With this you can eat Mamezushi, deep-fried food, grilled fish, meat, or chicken, and 4 courses containing foods in season.  The second is “Choice Mamezushi-Kaiseki”, which offers 6 courses.  In addition to the courses offered in “Mamezushi-Kaiseki” we can eat one-pot type dish cooked at the table.  “Mamezushi-Kaiseki” costs ¥3,800 per person, “Mamezushi0-Sara Zen ” costs ¥5,800 per person, “Mamezushi-Kaiseki” costs ¥9,680 per person, and “Choice Mamezushi-Kaiseki” costs ¥13,200 per person.  As the dinner courses are so expensive, we recommend you try the lunch courses.  They are very reasonable and you can enjoy plenty of Mamezushi.  Fundamentally, the restaurant does not close on a regular day, however, on holidays, there will surely be a lot of customers and few empty seats.  Therefore, making a reservation before arrival is certainly a good idea.  You can actually now make reservations either by telephone or online.

Access

 There are a lot of ways to access this restaurant because it is located in the heart of Kyoto city, and near some famous places, for example, Kiyomizu-Temple and Yasaka-Shrine.

・Kyoto City Bus: you can take the “Gion Express” bus from Kyoto Station to Gion Bus Station, and thereafter it is a 3 minutes   walk to the restaurant.

・Keihan-train: if you take the train, please get off at Sanjo-Keihan Station, and thereafter take a 5 minute walk to the restaurant.

・Hankyu-train: if you take this train, please get off at Kawaramachi Station, and then take an 8 minute walk to the restaurant.

・phone number:075 532 3955

Additional informationI

In addition to enjoying this great traditional cuisine, please visit the two places of interest mentioned before.  Kiyomizu-Temple is very famous, and many travelers wish to visit it.  The view from this temple is really beautiful, and will give great memories.  Yasaka-Shrine is also famous, and especially for its connection to the “Gion festival”.  If you have time, please visit these wonderful places, too.

Biglietti da visita per geisha

Akichika Taniguchi

Vi voglio parlare delle geisha, che fanno parte della cultura tradizionale di Kyoto.
In Giappone si usa scambiarsi i biglietti da visita durante le presentazioni.
Anche le geisha lo fanno, ma i loro biglietti da visita sono diversi dagli altri, e si chiamano “hanameishi” (hana vuol dire fiori , e meishi biglietti da visita). Le geisha li usano sempre, ma anche le persone normali li possono usare in occasioni particolari
Voglio spiegarvi le caratteristiche di questi biglietti da visita.



①Perché questi biglietti si chiamano hanameishi?
→A Kyoto le maiko e le geiko distribuivano biglietti su cui era scritto il loro nome d’arte nelle zone dove lavoravano come geisha o a volte come yujo. (Si veda la “Guida” sotto.) Queste zone erano chiamate hanamachi (machi vuol dire quartiere), e perciò hanno cominciato a chiamare questi biglietti hanameishi.

② Come sono gli hanameishi?
→Grandezza: sono grandi quasi la metà dei normali biglietti da visita. Quelli che ho potuto vedere direttamente sono alti 8 cm e larghi 2,7 cm.
→Disegni: si possono scegliere disegni che rappresentano le quattro stagioni, il ciclo sessagesimale, giochi o attrezzi tradizionali.
→Colori: si puo’ ordinare il colore preferito. In genere le donne scelgono il rosso e gli uomini il blu.

③ Come si fanno?
→Si stampano il nome e il disegno a mano in modo tradizionale su carta giapponese, utilizzando blocchi di legno usati anche nelle epoche passate.
Poiché sono fatti a mano, sono uno diverso dall’altro.

④ A che scopo ci si scambiano questi biglietti?
Si usano come i biglietti normali, ma per chi come me non è una geisha è importante distinguere le situazioni in cui è opportuno usare hanameishi da quelle in cui conviene usare i biglietti da visita ordinari.Questo perché sugli hanameishi si possono scrivere poche informazioni. Gli hanameishi sono efficaci quando si vuole fare una buona impressione.

⑤ Dove si possono comprare?
Ci sono tanti negozi che li vendono. Vi presento quello dove li ho comprati io, Ikuokaya (幾岡屋).
→Accesso:
Autobus⇒Dalla stazione JR di Kyoto, autobus municipale no. 206, si scende alla fermata Gion (祇園), e da lì sono 3 minuti a piedi
Metropolitana e treno⇒Metro municipale: alla fermata di Kyoto fino a quella di Shijo (四条), da lì 20 minuti a piedi.
⇒Linea Keihan (京阪): due minuti a piedi dalla stazione di Gionshijo (祇園四条駅).
⇒Linea Hankyu (阪急): 5 minuti a piedi dalla stazione di Kawaramachi (河原町駅).

HP:http://www.ikuokaya.com/index.html

⑥Vi descrivo i miei hanameishi.
Poiché mi piace il Togetsukyo (渡月橋, un famoso ponte di Kyoto), ho scelto il disegno della luna (getsu), e il rosso per il testo, perché il giallo della luna sta bene con il rosso che ha una tonalità calda. C’è anche l’immagine di un coniglio, che ho scelto perché mi piace e perché nella mia città c’è una leggenda sul coniglio.

⑦Prezzo: Quando si ordinano su misura il prezzo è alto. Io ne ho ordinati 100 e ci sono voluti circa 15,000 yen.
Non mi è importato pagare molto, perché mi piacciono tantissimo.

 

    • La differenza tra geiko e maiko:

→Geiko: sono le geisha di Kyoto.
→Maiko: sono apprendiste che stanno imparando l’arte delle geiko.

    • Un malinteso sulle geisha: la differenza tra geisha e shogi (yujo);

→Shogi: erano prostitute che lavoravano nelle hanamachi.
→Geisha: sono artiste specializzate nell’intrattenere ospiti con musica, danze, giochi e conversazioni raffinate.

    • Dove si possono vedere le geisha di Kyoto?

→Gionkobu (祇園甲部), Pontocho (先斗町), Miyakawamachi (宮川町), Kamishichiken (上七軒), Gionhigashi (祇園東). Queste cinque zone di Kyoto si chiamano Gokagai (五花街, cinque hanamachi).

  • L’Italia e la carta giapponese usata negli hanemeshi:

→Nella Cappella Sistina la carta giapponese è stata usata nel restauro degli affreschi di Michelangelo.

Dressing Up as a Maiko in Kyoto

by Naoko Iseki and Hajime Yozaki

Maiko and geiko are traditional performers whose job it is to add zest to a dinner by singing, dancing, and playing the shamisen. They are also a symbol of traditional Japanese culture. Are you interested in maiko and geiko and the kimono they wear? Kimono is one of the most well-known traditional costumes in Japan. Perhaps, we associate kimono with maiko and geiko. They are really beautiful!

Visitors to Kyoto can also dress up as a maiko. Here is what some customers said about their experience:

  • “I study about Japanese culture at a university in the United States. I became interested in Japanese culture when I first saw kimono. Though I have been to Kyoto three times, it was the first time for me to dress up as a maiko. Kimono was easier to wear than I expected. There are lots of beautiful kimono, and it is very hard to find a kimono I love.”
  • “Becoming a maiko was one of my dreams since I was a child. The material of kimono is very good, and also the staff were very helpful.”
  • “My daughter was very pleased to dress up as a maiko. And through the experience of dressing up as a maiko, she seemed to be able to understand Kyoto’s traditional culture.”
  • “When I dressed up as maiko, many foreigners believed I was a real maiko and took pictures of me.”
  • “I felt that face powder was cool. At first, I was shy to apply ruby lipstick because I’m not accustomed to using make up.”
  • “Because I wore a beautiful kimono, I tried to walk deliberately, I could become a maiko.”

Now, we will introduce some shops where you can dress up as a maiko in Kyoto.

Shiki

The main office is located near Kiyomizu Temple. After being transformed into a maiko, you can go for a walk around Kodaiji Temple, Nene Road, Sannen-zaka, Ninen-zaka, Yasaka Shrine, and Chion-in Temple. Shiki has 200 kimono, and you can choose which one you want to wear.

Sample Plans

Maiko Studio Photography Plan
Cost: 9,975 yen
Time required: two hours and ten minutes
・Contents: twelve poses taken in the studio, and a photo book containing twelve pages

Maiko Stroll Plan
Cost: 13,000 yen
Time required: two and a half hours
・Contents: twelve poses taken in the studio, a stroll lasting an hour, and a photo book containing twelve pages

Samurai Plan (for men)
Cost: 8,500 yen
Time required: one hour and 50 minutes
・Contents: twelve poses taken in the studio, and a photo book containing twelve pages

Information

Address: 351-16, Masuya-cho, Kodaiji-Minamimon, Higasiyama-ku, Kyoto, JAPAN
Access: a five-minute walk from the city bus stop “Kiyomizu-michi”
Tel: 075-531-2777 Fax: 075-533-2244
E-mail:

info@maiko-henshin.com
HP: http://www.maiko-henshin.com/index2.html

Shiki also has two branches, Sakura and Kitano.

Sakura

The first branch is located in Gion. You can take a walk around Kiyomizu Temple, Yasaka Shrine, Maruyama Park, Sanjusangen-do, and Kenninji Temple. Sakura has 150 kimono, and you can choose which one you want to wear.

Sample Plans

Maiko Sakura Plan
Cost: 6,500 yen
Time required: one hour and 50 minutes
・Contents: two poses taken in the studio, and an album containing two pages

Maiko Studio Photography Plan
Cost: 8,900 yen
Time required: two hours
・Contents: six poses taken in the studio, and an album containing six pages

Samurai Plan (for men)
Cost: 6,500 yen
Time required: one hour and 20 minutes
・Contents: two poses taken in the studio, and an album containing two pages

Information

Address: Building-Shiki, 110-9 Tatsumi-cho, Todaiji-Matubara noboru, Higasiyama-ku, Kyoto, JAPAN
Access: the shop is front of the city bus stop “Kiyomizu-Michi”
Tel: 075-533-6666 Fax: 075-533-6667
E-mail and HP are the same as the main office

Kitano

The second branch of Shiki is located near Kinkakuji Temple. Nearby are Kitano-Tenmangu Shrine and Ryoanji Temple. Kitano has 150 kimono, too, and you can choose which one you want to wear. The plans available at Kitano branch are almost the same as the main office, Shiki.

Address: 54-4, Hiranotoriimachi-Cho, Kita-ku, Kyoto, JAPAN
Access: Near the city bus stop “Wara-Tenjin-Mae”
Tel: 075-462-3777 Fax: 075-462-1117
E-mail and HP are the same as the main office

※If you want to dress up as a geiko, you have to pay an additional 2,100 yen.

Maika

The shop is located near Kyoto Station. Maika has 400 kimono, and you can choose which one you want to wear.

Sample Plans

Okigaru Plan
Cost: 6,500 yen
Time required: one hour
・Contents: two pictures, and free photography in the shop

※If you want to dress up as geiko, you have to pay an additional 1,500 yen.

Aoi Plan
This is the most popular plan in this shop!
Cost: 13,650 yen
Time required: one hour and a half
・Contents: four pictures, 60 minutes’ free photography, and a 30-minute stroll from the shop to Ebisu Shrine

Miyako Plan
Cost: 15,750 yen
Time required: one hour and 45 minutes
・Contents: four pictures, 60 minutes’ free photography in the shop, and a 45-minute stroll from the shop to Kenninnji Temple

Okigaru Samurai Plan
Cost: 6,500 yen
Time required: one hour
・Contents: two pictures, 60 minutes’ free photography in the shop

Shinsen-Gumi Plan
Cost: 12,600 yen
Time required: one hour and 20 minutes (max.)
・Contents: two pictures, and 60 minutes’ free photography in the shop

Information

Address: 4-297, Miyagawa-suji, Shijo-kudaru, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto, JAPAN
Access: a three-minute walk from the station “Gion-Shijo,” on the Keihan line or a five-minute walk from the station “Shijo-Kawaramachi,” on the Hankyu line
Tel: 075-551-1661
HP: http://www.maica.tv/index.htm

Maikozaka

This shop is located near Kiyomizu Temple.

Sample Plans

Hannari Plan
Cost: 8,800 yen
Time required: one hour
・Contents: a post card, and a free photograph
※This shop accepts only 3 groups per day for the plan.

Maiko Geisha Henshin Plan
Cost: 19,800 yen
Time required: one hour and a half
・Contents: four pictures, and free photography
※With this plan, you can experience dressing up as both a maiko and a geiko.

Shinsen-gumi Plan
Cost: 9,000 yen
Time required: 40 minutes
・Contents: two pictures, and free photography
※Women also can experience this plan.

Information

Address: 6-583-70, Gojobashi-higashi, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto, JAPAN
Access: a five-minute walk from the city bus stop “Gojo-Zaka”
Tel/ Fax 075-531-1166
HP: http://www.maiko-taiken.com/index.html

Japanese beauty, Maiko

by Mariko NAKAMURA
Kyoto is a place where you can encounter the traditional, beautiful, and slender , a “Maiko”. Maiko paint their faces white, have red lips, wear beautiful kimono, and have arranged hair with ornamental hairpins. They seem like dolls, and their appearance, and dance fascinates many people. Their job is entertaining guests by serving sake, performancing dance, songs,and playing instruments.

Maiko and Geiko

Firstly, most people know about “geisha”. Actually, “geisha” is a term used in Kanto area; people call them “Geiko” in Kyoto. Besides, “maiko”, which is Kyoto dialect, is called “hangyoku” in the Kanto area. After graduation from junior high school, a girl will debut as “maiko”. They mainly dance in front of guests because they have practiced only for a few years. They work as maiko until the age of 20. After that they become Geiko, sing and play instruments, because these take a long time to acquire. There is no age limit for being Geiko.

History of Maiko

The origin of Maiko can be traced back 300 years. At that time, women served guests green tea and dango, a traditional dessert, in teahouses. These women then began to dance and sing songs to attract customers, and serve Japanese sake instead of green tea. This was the origin of Geiko. Girls started to wear pretty kimono, and dance at the end of a flirting contest. This was the origin of Maiko.

Maiko’s daily life

Maiko dance and sing beautifully in front of their guests, and their lives look gorgeous. Their daily lives, however, are hard and strict. In the morning, they strive for progress in their skills. They usually practice Japanese dance, tea ceremony, shamisen, a Japanese traditional stringed instrumental, flower arrangement, and so on. They learn a lot of Japanese culture. After lunch and a rest, they start to prepare for work by making up, arranging hair, and putting on kimono. At night, they entertaion customers in a Japanese-style room by serving alcohol, dancing, singing and playing shamisen. They finish work around one or two. Their daily lives are really hard, but they take great pride in their job.
They are one of Japan’s cultural treasures.

* Maiko can often be seen in kagai districts where there are many okiya, or geisha houses. There are five such districts in Kyoto: “Kamishitiken”, “Gionkoubu”, “Gionhigashi”, “Pontochou”, and “Miyagawachou”.