Describe The Role Of Women In Tokugawa Society

Describe The Role Of Women In Tokugawa Society – It has been 400 years since the Yoshiwara pleasure districts were established in Edo (now Tokyo). The area has changed greatly throughout its history, but its importance to the development of Japan’s distinctive traditional culture – particularly the Edo culture – should not be forgotten.

Yoshiwara, the name of the famous state-sanctioned pleasure districts in Edo, present-day Tokyo, conjures up a series of images. Some may consider it a place of lavish romantic culture, an environment for

Describe The Role Of Women In Tokugawa Society

Describe The Role Of Women In Tokugawa Society

Prints by artists such as Torii Kiyonaga and Kitagawa Utamaro or a place that influenced the development of kabuki, traditional music and fashion. For others, it was a place where buyers stopped by

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None of these images are wrong, but each is limited to one perspective. A comprehensive view is needed to understand Yoshiwara, who was a “system of systems” consisting of a complex relationship of multiple factors.

In 1618, the shogunate established Yoshiwara in Edo around the same time as other licensed districts in Kyoto (Shimabara) and Osaka (Shinmachi). At first near what is now Nihonbashi, in 1657 he moved to Asakusa. Sometimes the two locations are distinguished, with the first being called Moto-Yoshiwara to denote the “original” and the second Shin-Yoshiwara (New Yoshiwara). However, they are often simply joined together as Yoshiwara. In addition to brothels, the district had teahouses that introduced men to these establishments and

Hiroshige II, Tōto Shin-Yoshiwara ichiran (View of Shin-Yoshiwara in the Eastern Capital), 1860, private collection. The Yoshiwara precinct was about 266 meters long and 355 meters wide, surrounded by a moat and generally accessed only through a large central gate. Nakanochō’s main street, lined with cherry trees, had teahouses that served as brothels.

Most of the prostitutes were girls from poor households who worked to pay back the money that the brothels gave to their parents. The system was irrational and did not take into account whether young girls were suitable for sleeping with random male customers. While undoubtedly true, to focus only on this point is to see only one side of Yoshiwara. As values ​​and ethics change over time, trying to understand Yoshiwara from a modern perspective can lead to major misinterpretations.

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When Tokugawa Ieyasu set out to develop Edo, one of his policies was to establish Moto-Yoshiwara (now Nihonbashi Ningyōchō in Chūō). A similar mindset led to the creation of the Recreation and Entertainment Association for Organized Prostitution for American occupation troops in Japan after World War II. The

The system, whereby the daimyō spent every other year living in Edo, meant that a large number of vassals were stationed in the city. As there were also many migrant workers, women far outnumbered men.

In the Edo period (1603–1868), there were a limited number of jobs that women could do, and earning a living as a mistress or sex worker in Yoshiwara were considered possible options. In large institutions it was possible to stand up

Describe The Role Of Women In Tokugawa Society

Count—where people are considered one year old at birth, with one year added each New Year—women would reach the end of their service and, in the case of a high-ranking courtesan, could gain their freedom through the proposed position of wife or mistress to a wealthy samurai or a merchant.

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It is hard to imagine now how the citizens of Edo would feel sleeping with Yoshiwara courtesans. The works of art depicting them are called the most beautiful depictions of prostitutes in the world, and

The images would excite Edo men like today’s pinup idols, while the women imitated the hairstyles and fashions of the courtesans.

Keisai Eisen, Edochō itchōme, Izumiya-uchi, Senju (Senju of Izumiya, Edochō Itchōme), 1821, private collection. Complex hairstyles with lots of kanzashi decorations and enchanting kimonos made courtesans fascinating for women as well. A small inscription in the title in the upper right gives the names of the kamura (attendants), Shikano and Kanoko.

As Japan’s most famous entertainment district, Yoshiwara was known for providing the foundation of Edo period culture. He influenced a wide range of arts and disciplines, including kabuki, vocal music, flower arranging,

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Puppet theatre, and acted as patrons of kabuki actors. They also trained women of pleasure, as

And customers. The painter Sakai Hōitsu (1761 – 1829) was the younger brother of the leader of the Himeji domain. He bought the freedom of the courtesan Kagawa from the Daimonjiya brothel and perfected his art at his Ugean (Rain Flower Hermitage) studio in Negishi (now in Taitō, Tokyo). He was also a patron of kabuki actor Ichikawa Danjūrō ​​VII, and was skilled in composing

Poetry. Hōitsu’s witty conversations with high-class prostitutes were recorded by the owner of the Chūshuntei restaurant near Yoshiwara and published in a collection

Describe The Role Of Women In Tokugawa Society

Regular customer Ōyodo heard that Hōitsu also visits her sometimes and became jealous that they might be close. When the rumor reached Ōyodo, she wrote a poem, “These days the lake is clouded by the early summer rains,” and showed it to Hōitsu. This affected the second character in her name (洉), which could mean “pond”, while the expression “muddyed the pond” also suggested a loss of reputation.

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きのふけふ洉の濁や皐月雨 Kinō kyō / yodo no nigori ya / satsukiame These days the lake is cloudy with early summer rains.

They did not enjoy the early summer rains.” As she develops her poem’s themes, her puns create an alternative reading with

Meaning “carp”— noting that Ōyodo “had not yet tasted the carp of the Yodo River in Osaka,” said to be the finest in the country, or in other words he did not know the subtleties of love.

洉鯉のまま味しらずさ月雨 Yodokoi no / mada mishirazu/ satsukiame The koi in the pond did not enjoy the early summer rains.

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Ōyodo responded with another song, “It’s hard to wear a kimono wet from the early summer rains.” This refers to a common idiom where “wet clothes” indicate false accusations. The two of them were laughing and drinking sake together at Masuya Eel Restaurant.

ぬれ衣を着る身はつらし皐月雨 Nureginu o / kiru mi wa tsurashi / satsukiame It is difficult to wear a kimono wet from the early summer rains.

Songs accompanying the dances at the great festivals (Tenka Matsuri) associated with Kanda Myōjin Shrine and Sannō Gongen (now Hie Shrine). Songs for them were composed by male geisha, who were high-class musicians in Yoshiwara. Male geisha also created music to accompany kabuki. They took the work songs and comic songs of the migrant workers who came to Edo and rearranged them into sophisticated ones

Describe The Role Of Women In Tokugawa Society

In addition to being a center of social and artistic exchange, Yoshiwara was also the cradle of Edo culture.

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Utagawa Kunisada II, Yūri hakkei, Shin-Yoshiwara Kakusenrō-uchi Itsumiki (Eight Scenes, Courtesans of the Pleasure Quarter: Itsumiki of Kakusenrō, Shin-Yoshiwara), 1869, private collection. A painting of a courtesan in an unusual landscape format. The moon shines above Nakanocho and the great gate.

The collection also features Wakamatsuya Tōemon, a brothel owner who treated the prostitutes who worked for him with respect in the early nineteenth century.

The book says that when the prostitutes came out to Yoshiwara’s main Nakanochō street to find customers, Tōemon greeted them and rang the bell. Even when they returned alone, he would repeat the ritual. When the cashier reported that sales had reached three

(in the currency of the time), the bar was closed for the day, even if the prostitutes were lined up in

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, a room in the front part of the brothel where customers could see them through the lattice facade. Tōemon said it was enough money to make a living, so he didn’t overwork them, and if the brothel didn’t make three

, always closed at ten in the evening. They ordered clothes as cheaply as possible from the Okadaya store, so the girls didn’t have to go into debt to buy them.

When fires broke out and prostitutes had to evacuate to Daionji Temple, Tōemon’s father Uemon let them pass through his house and calmed them down with tea and water.

Describe The Role Of Women In Tokugawa Society

The book goes on to say that there was no physical punishment for bad behavior. If the prostitutes did not listen to the warnings at first, they would do so under the threat of being transferred to another institution. If their parents needed money, the brothel would lend it to them. These payments were gradually returned, but the prostitutes’ working years were not extended, and sometimes part of the debt ended up remaining unpaid.

Edo Period Fashion

Of course, the treatment of sex workers varied depending on the size and nature of the establishment, and some owners were exploitative and physically abused. However, the above account shows that there were kinder owners like the two generations of Wakamatsuya.

The passing of a decree freeing all geishas and prostitutes in 1872 brought a cultural transformation to Yoshiwara. Abolishing public prostitution, banning human trafficking, regulating labor contracts and writing off debts meant the closure of 20 large brothels. Establishments that hired prostitutes by giving sums of money that had to be returned had to face a lack of capital. Although prostitutes were said to continue to work at will, the entry of many smaller brothels meant that the strict customs of the Edo period were lost. The cultural position of Yoshiwara could no longer be maintained, and

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