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Yoshiwara

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Overview

Yoshiwara is the first attempt in nearly a century to give a comprehensive and detailed account of Edo-period Japan's legendary pleasure quarter. The book begins with a brief history of prostitution in Japan and follows with a survey of the Yoshiwara from its origins in the early 1600s to shortly after the Meiji Restoration in 1868. Yoshiwara society possessed for most of its history considerable glamour and surface allure, yet, at the same time, it accommodated attitudes and activities that today could only be ...
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Overview

Yoshiwara is the first attempt in nearly a century to give a comprehensive and detailed account of Edo-period Japan's legendary pleasure quarter. The book begins with a brief history of prostitution in Japan and follows with a survey of the Yoshiwara from its origins in the early 1600s to shortly after the Meiji Restoration in 1868. Yoshiwara society possessed for most of its history considerable glamour and surface allure, yet, at the same time, it accommodated attitudes and activities that today could only be regarded as exploitative and inhumane. Cecilia Segawa Seigle looks impartially at all aspects of Yoshiwara life, offering much information - the result of painstaking research in primary sources - that will be a revelation to readers in the West. While discussing in depth the highly specialized and idiosyncratic world of licensed prostitution, Seigle also makes the reader aware of the broader impact of this insular entertainment quarter on the manners and mores of other segments of Japanese society, both then and now. Arranged chronologically, Yoshiwara is not so much a history as a companion to studies of Edo-period literature, theatre, and the visual arts. It provides an overview of the social, cultural, and economic influences on and of this microcosm of early-modern urban Japan. An especially engaging feature of this readable text is the liberal use of anecdotes from contemporary sources. Specialists will find particularly interesting the carefully researched and clearly written exposition of the quarter's complex hierarchy and elaborate code of behavior. While always maintaining the distinction between fact and fabrication, this fascinating study seeks to delineate the truths that lie behind the legends.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Seigle presents a comprehensive history of Japan's most famous red-light district. Following the establishment of the Tokugawa Shogunate at Edo in 1604, an influx of womanless Samurai led to the creation of a separate, walled brothel quarter, the Yoshiwara. Seigle (Japanese literature, Univ. of Pennsylvania) points out that many of the early brothel-keepers were ex-Samurai, men dispossessed when their feudal lords were overthrown; and many of the most popular courtesans were the wives and daughters of ruined feudal lords and their Samurai. Historical anecdotes enliven the tale of how Yoshiwara styles of dress, music, and etiquette came to influence the larger society. A readable account of an important institution, which will be enjoyed by informed readers.-- Robert J. Andrews, Duluth P.L., Minn.
Booknews
Drawing on both historical and literary sources, examines life in the pleasure houses of Japan during the Edo period from the early 1600s to 1868. Among the topics are the origins, illegal competitors, the cost of a visit, the treatment of the courtesans, traditions and protocols, Yoshiwara arts, the rise of the female geisha, and the decline of the houses. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780824814885
  • Publisher: University of Hawaii Press, The
  • Publication date: 3/1/1993
  • Pages: 344
  • Lexile: 1340L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface
1 Introduction: From Saburuko to Painted Harlots 1
2 Moto-Yoshiwara 14
3 Prosperity and Profligacy 53
4 Traditions and Protocols 92
5 Age of the Dandy: The Flowering of Yoshiwara Arts 129
6 Rise of the Geisha: An Age of Glitter and Tragedy 169
7 Decline of the Yoshiwara 204
Appendix A: Procession of Courtesans (Oiran dochu) 225
Appendix B: Classes of Courtesans and Prostitutes 229
Appendix C: Classification of Bordellos 233
Appendix D: Ratio of Male to Female Geisha, 1770-1800 236
Notes 239
Chronology 271
Glossary 273
Bibliography 279
Index 295
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 3, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Badly organised

    Whilst this book does contain a lot of information, it's not all that well organized. There are references in early chapters to terms, practices or events which aren't explained until much later in the book, which can be confusing unless you already have extensive knowledge of the subject. Some areas are just touched upon with no great detail given, and it's easy to get lost when the author moves from one time period to another without explaining changes that were taking place fully. Information about the ranking of courtesans is confusing, and there are a number of inconsistencies in the text. The index doesn't help because it's so limited. Despite talking about the harsh realities of Yoshiwara life, the author talks a fair amount about the women being better off than ordinary Japanese women, happy in ignorance, etc., and the rose-tinted glasses are definitely on some of the time, which was disappointing considering the nature of Yoshiwara life and its dependence on a system of slavery. You need to read this one more than once because of the arrangement of information.

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