Oiran Dochu is a reenactment of a procession from the Edo period (1603-1867) with men and women dressed up in Edo period costumes. The parade ends with a meeting between the tayu (senior most oiran) and her customer.
Oiran, skilled in many art forms, are high-class courtesans, who enjoyed the status of celebrities during the Edo Period. Oiran wear an elaborate, almost gaudy, kimono with several layers.
Their hair ornaments are just as opulent as the kimono.
The top ranking oiran (or tayu) shows her feet in her 20 cm high sanmaiba geta (three-toothed wooden clogs).
The entire outfit weighs about 30 kg.
The oiran usually arrive after the following characters have set the stage for the procession. Let’s see who are the main characters that add spice to this procession.
First you have funny characters wearing masks including a kappa (mythical water-dwelling creature), kitsune (foxes considered to bring good luck), as well as shishi (lion) blessing those in the crowd.
Musicians playing traditional instruments warm up the audience.
Once the musicians and comical characters have entertained the onlookers, you see male attendants (otoko shu, 男衆）walking with an iron staff with rings on top (kanabou, 金棒). Traditionally, these members were like guards in the Edo period.
Then you see tekomai (手古舞), women who are intentionally dressed up as men. You can see how intense the makeup is and there is a reason for this! In the Edo period, geisha would dress up to look like men so that they could lead or pull a dashi (festival float, 山車).
Followed by a man holding a lantern that has the name of the Oiran written on it.
Beautiful young girls dressed in elaborate kimono called kamuro (禿) who worked as servants for oiran and aspired to be future oiran follow. They hold a kiseru (tobacco pipe with a metal tipped stem, キセル) and a tabako-bon (tobacco tray, 煙草盆).
Finally, you see the Oiran dragging her feet in the shape of an eight. The man next to her lends his shoulder for support and is called Katakashi no Otoko-shu (肩貸しの男衆). The one holding the umbrella is called Kasa Mochi no Otoko shu (傘持の男衆). Each one has an important role and adds an air of significance that is associated with an oiran.
At the end of the parade are furisode shinzo (振袖新造), slightly older than the kamuro but have not yet reached the stage of being an oiran.
Something you can only see during special events, even most Japanese don’t get a chance to see Oiran, which makes these events extremely popular! Want to be a part of this extravagance and feel like you’re traveled back in time? Check out our article on the various events where Oiran Dochu is held.