Japanese_essay - Elizabeth Sobel Japanese Culture The...

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Elizabeth Sobel Japanese Culture February 22, 2007 The Japanese Sex Trade: History and Perspectivs Selling sex, in its myriad forms, is as old as civilization itself. It is a tradition that is alive and well in modern-day Japan – sex is the country’s second-largest industry behind automobiles. Like most nations, Japan has prostitutes, strippers, and pornography. Dig deeper and a little research exposes a mind-blowingly diverse, and to some, horrifying, underbelly that seems to be a contradiction in a society known for its subtle beauty, ancient traditions, and extreme politeness. Even before the bizarre facts that I uncovered with my research, was shocked by some of the things I’ve read about the sex trade in Japan. However, I tried to keep an open mind to other perspectives on this industry. There has always been unorganized prostitution in Japan, but during the Edo period, from the 1600’s to 1800’s, it became more organized and regulated, with laws limiting brothels to certain parts of the city. In Edo (modern-day Tokyo), the Yoshiwara district housed teahouses and brothels. Out of these brothels emerged a new type of courtesan: the Oiran, or “first flower” in Japanese. Oiran were high class prostitutes skilled in the arts who entertained their clients with wit and charm. There was no such thing as a drop-in client; men had to be formally invited, and strict guidelines governed everything from the intricacies of conversation and travel to the their elaborate robes. The most beautiful and refined Oiran were known as Tayu. As time went on, however, the Tayu became more and more ritualized and out of touch with modern Japanese culture, and they faded from popularity. Some women still practice the old Oiran arts. Just as Oiran culture was fading in the late 1700’s, the Geisha tradition was flourishing. Geisha, contrary to popular belief, were not high-class prostitutes. They were first and foremost entertainers, who trained from an early age to excel in reciting verse, playing instruments, and dancing. They lived in okiya, communal geisha houses. Like the 1
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Oiran, they wore elaborate hairstyles, painted their skin white, and dressed in expensive silk robes called kimono, but unlike the Oiran, Geisha tied their obi sash in the back. Geisha were single but typically took on a ‘danna’, usually a wealthy man, who would
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Japanese_essay - Elizabeth Sobel Japanese Culture The...

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