The Oiran Dochu is a parade of what was an everyday scene in old Yoshiwara. It is a meeting between a tayu, a high-ranked oiran (courtesan) and her costumer.
One of the popular tourist destinations in central Tokyo is the district of Asakusa. A place where early movie theaters in the country flourished, it was known as an entertainment center during the 20th century. It is also home to the oldest and grandest Buddhist temple in Tokyo, the Senso-ji.
Seeing Asakusa today from the eyes of an outsider, one would not know that just half a century ago, its northern land was one the most famous red light districts in Japan. And it bloomed for a span of more than 300 years.
Yoshiwara literally translates to “goodluck meadow”. It is also the name of the biggest “licensed quarter” in Edo, the present day Tokyo. The area had thousands of women, catering customers of all social classes. In Yoshiwara, whether you are a lowly commoner or a high ranking samurai, as long as you have enough money, you will be treated equally as everybody else.
The district’s bright lights finally faded when in 1958 prostitution was illegalized in Japan and the brothels of Yoshiwara were closed.
Today, Senzoku, the former Yoshiwara, is nothing more than a quiet neighborhood in Tokyo – a complete opposite of its historical reputation. But during spring, a glimpse of the old Yoshiwara can still be witnessed through the Oiran Dochu procession. It is a reenactment of the actual activities that took place during the district’s heyday.
Oiran is a term used for courtesans, high-class women of pleasure of Yoshiwara. Skilled in many forms of art and entertainment, they were the celebrities of their time. Oirans are often mistaken to be geishas but there is a clear divide between the two.
While both are masters of entertainment, geishas are not prostitutes. The white makeup is common but looking closely at the way they dress, one would notice the difference. A geisha‘s kimono is more simple, her hair pulled back and feet covered in tabi socks.
An oiran‘s attire on the other hand is more elaborate and complex, primarily for getting more attention. She is covered in different layers of bright silk while her hair is decorated with different colorful ornaments. A top ranked oiran, or tayu, gets to show off her feet, while walking on a tall platform sandals or geta.
The Oiran Dochu is a parade of what was an everyday scene in old Yoshiwara. It is a meeting between a tayu and a costumer. Girls from the neighborhood dress up as they reenact its most accurate depiction.
And though for some people, Yoshiwara may ring a sense of infamy, for the people of Senzoku, the Oiran Dochu is an important part of their culture and history. So, once a year they hold this parade as part of their tradition.
The Oiran Dochu is usually held every second Saturday of April, coinciding with the Ichiyo Sakura Festival. The event is free to watch and attracts quite a big crowd. If you’re visiting Tokyo during spring, it is one event that is good to add on your itinerary.
Read more about this event here http://asakusa-kannonura.jimdo.com/
How to get to Senzoku (Yoshiwara) for Oiran Dochu
The Oiran Dochu is held at Oku-Asakusa Komatsubashi Dori Street. Here are the nearby train station around Senzoku.
- Minowa (Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line)
- Asakusa (Tokyo Metro Ginza Line)
- Iriya (Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line)
- Minami-Senju (JR Joban Line)
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