Researching Oiran and Tayû in Japanese
Resources for English speakers whose Japanese is less than fluent
The few English-language resources available on the flower and willow world are excellent, but if you rely on them, you're peering at Japanese history through the tiniest of tiny pinholes. The resources available to Japanese speakers are several orders of magnitude greater than those translated into English: from primary texts like saiken, to Edo-era novels, to the rich Japanese tradition of Yoshiwara scholarship.
For quick scanning of page content, I use Google Chrome's built-in translator. It does a poor job and it chokes on specialized vocabulary, but it's quick and easy. When I need a second reading of a passage, I run it through Bing Translator. It's also lousy, but lousy in a different way.
Denshi Jisho lets you look up kanji by reading, stroke order, or radical. Also an impressively large dictionary with subsets for proper names, technical terms, etc.
Introduction to Kuzushiji is a good explanation of hentaigana (変体仮名) and kuzushiji (崩し字), with a printable sheet of hiragana and their kuzushikana forms.
NengoCalc converts era names to Western years.
Half the battle is knowing what to put in the search engine.
Words for "Prostitute"
|Oiran||花魁, 華魁 (uncommon alternate spelling)||Edo-area term for all courtesan-level women. Used from the 1750's on. Used in modern Japanese as a term for all courtesans except (sometimes) the tayû.|
|Yûjo||遊女||Prostitute. Formerly a Tokugawa-era government term for licensed prostitutes, but adopted by the trade as a term for all prostitutes, licensed or otherwise. Now the ordinary Japanese word.|
|Tokugawa-era term for unlicensed prostitutes.|
|Jorou||女郎, 上臈 (older spelling)||Prostitute. Formerly the ordinary term, but considered uncultured; mostly replaced in modern Japanese by yûjo.|
|Keisei||傾城||Castle toppler. A term for high-ranking courtesans adopted from the Chinese; by the 17th and 18th centuries, it could be applied to any prostitute. Now obsolete, and occasionally applied to tayû and other very high-ranking courtesans.|
Ranks, Courtesan and Otherwise
|Tayû||太夫||The highest rank of courtesan.|
|Koushi||格子||The second-highest rank, beneath tayû.|
|Tenjin||天神||A rank that replached koushi in some areas. Also "tenshoku."|
|Yobidashi||よびだし, 呼出し, 呼び出し||"By appointment only." Placed before a woman's rank name. A yobidashi courtesan had to be requested by appointment, and did not sit in the latticed parlor for selection.|
|Sancha||散茶, さんちゃ||A Yoshiwara rank invented when illegal teahouse "waitresses" were rounded up and sent en masse to the Yoshiwara. Originally below the koushi; separated into chûsan and other high ranks after the tayû and koushi disappeared.|
|Umecha||梅茶||A low-ranking subgroup of the sancha. Separated into other ranks after the disappearance of the tayy and koushi.|
|Chûsan||昼三, 中三||The highest Yoshiwara rank after the tayû and koushi disappeared from the Yoshiwara.|
|Tsukemawashi||付廻, 付廻し||A mid-level Yoshiwara oirank rank, etymology unknown.|
|Zashikimochi||座敷持||"Owner of an apartment." The lowest rank of Yoshiwara courtesan; when the rank was first introduced, it was not an oiran rank, but it rose.|
|Heyamochi||部屋持||"Owner of a room." The rank of prostitutes just below the zashikimochi.|
|Shinzô||新造 (newly made, the most common spelling), (newly launched)||
In the 17h century, any courtesan who had recently made her debut. From the 18th century on, a teenaged or early 20's prostitute who served in a courtesan's retinue and tried to find a patron to help her reach a higher rank. Sometimes translated as "apprentice courtesan," though shinzô ranked below heyamochi.
All shinzou were either furisode-shinzô, tomesode-shinzô, or bantô-shinzô.
|Bantô-shinzô||番頭新造||An older shinzô who acted as a courtesan's personal secretary and manager of her entourage. May or may not be a prostitute.|
|Ban-shin||番新||Short for bantou-shinzô.|
|Tomesode-shinzô||留袖新造||Short-sleeved shinzô. A shinzô who had changed to short sleeves, usually around age 16-17. Furisode-shinzô who found a patron might move up to tomesode-shinzô as a sign of increased maturity and rank.|
|Tome-shin||留新||Short for tomesode-shinzô.|
|Furisode-shinzô||振袖新造||Long-sleeved shinzô. A shinzô young enough to wear long fluttering sleeves. Girls of the era generally changed to short sleeves when they were 16 or 17, though prostitutes who wanted to look younger might wear long sleeves for as long as they could get away with it.|
|Furi-shin||振新||Short for furisode-shinzô.|
|Tsubone||局||"Cubicle." Initially a very high rank, in imitation of the court ladies' rank named tsubone. Long after the title fell out of fashion, it was revived as a name for the very low-ranking prostitutes who worked in cubicles.|
|Yarite||やりて, 遣手||Brothel overseer, sometimes translated in early texts as "madam" (not a prostitute)||Kamuro||禿||Child attendant of a high-ranking courtesan. (Not a prostitute.)|
|Hikikomi kamuro||引込禿||Withdrawn kamuro, an older kamuro who was withdrawn from active service to receive extra training in order to prepare her to debut as a courtesan.||Odoriko||踊子||Dancing girl. The forerunner of female geisha. Sometimes, but not always, prostitutes.|
|Geisha||芸者||Hired performer. (Not a prostitute.)|
|Taiko-shinzô||太鼓新造||A shinzo who remained in the parlor and played the drum to entertain patrons. Not a Yoshiwara term.|
|Taiko-jorô||A variant of the taiko-shinzou.|
|Shirabyôshi||白拍子||High-class dancers of the Heian era who performed in male clothing. Technically not courtesans, but often considered the forerunners of tayû and other highly accomplished courtesans.|
|吉原遊女||Common Japanese term: "Yoshiwara prostitutes"|
|Yûna||湯女||Bathhouse worker who engaged in illegal prostitution on the side.|
|Wakaimono||若い者||Male servants of the brothel (not prostitutes)|
|Shinzôzuki?||新造附||"Shinzou + attached." Appears in the aijirushi of the 1834 saiken (and other saiken?) as the top rank.|
|Yoshiwara||吉原||The licensed pleasure quarter of Edo (江戸).|
|Shin-Yoshiwara||新吉原||New Yoshiwara. The full name of the Yoshiwara.|
|Moto-Yoshiwara||The later term for the original site of the Yoshiwara before it was moved away from the city center.|
|Azuma Monogatari||あつま物かたり||Book c. 1642 giving first listing of courtesans in Yoshiwara. Monogatari - 物語|
|Saiken||細見||A directory of the pleasure quarter. Literally "a close look at..."|
|Saikenki||細見記||An alternate word for saiken.|
|Yûjo hyôbanki||遊女評判記||Books that evaluated and ranked the women of the pleasure quarters. Forerunners of the saiken.|
|Myôseki||名跡||Inherited professional name of a courtesan, as well as some other forms of traditional artists.|
|Aijirushi||Symbols denoting the ranks of courtesans.|
|Agedaikin||A prostitute's fee.|
|Najimi||馴染み||A courtesan's regular client, or a client's usual courtesan. Clients were not free to visit other courtesans when they were in a najimi relationship.|
|Oiran dochû||花魁道中||Procession of courtesans|
|Tsukidashi||つきだし||A courtesan's debut|
|Mizuage||水揚げ, 水あげ||Literally "launching"; figuratively, the same for courtesans as for geisha.|