oiran by KUNITOMI


Prints with the pleasure quarters and courtesans in particular have been popular since the beginning of print making, but the prints that show off courtesans on their own and specifically advertising the address and name of the brothel, seem to be more from the 19th century than from earlier periods. Names of courtesans and their brothels were found on prints, but more as dedication to these women than as advertising. Many of the artists that made prints spend a lot of their time and money in the prostitute/pleasure quarters, as was normal in those days.

But the fact that from the early 1800´s addresses of brothels were found on prints, must mean that there was a shift in the reason why these prints were produced. Also the addresses found on the prints mainly refer to brothels and streets within the New Yoshiwara in Edo (or sometimes written as Yedo, the earlier name for Tokyo).

Apparently from the early 19th century the courtesans business was dwindling at least at the level of tayû and oiran, mainly because of the competition of the geisha, and measures to advertise the ladies had to be taken.

In the latter years of 1700, prints were made about the courtesans but more to immortalise them than to advertise them. With the upcoming popularity of the geisha, the important position of the tayû and oiran was threatened and they tried to combat this by changing their looks and fashions. Unfortunately though for them, the geisha gained more and more importance and interest and influence of the OIRAN diminished.

The prints were one way of advertising their existence and business in a more and more competitive business. The geisha were gaining more importance and influence and the oiran becoming more of a normal prostitute. In their heyday, the oiran were regular visitors to the elite and had a large influence on fashion, which was now taken over by the geisha.