Okumura Masanobu 奥村政信 (1686-1764)
Courtesan in Procession

Japan, Edo period (1615-1868), late 1710s
Woodblock print; ink on paper
Gift of James A. Michener, 1991

When a tayū was summoned to a house of assignation (ageya) or a teahouse, her errand was dramatized through a ceremonial procession that mimicked (and perhaps subtly lampooned) the shogun’s journey between Kyoto and Edo. In the late 18th and 19th century, the ceremony became increasingly ostentatious and formalized, and the number of participants in a single procession grew to more than twenty.

During Masanobu’s days, however, the tradition remained relatively simple. Here, a tayū (far right) leads the group, followed by her trainee (shinzō), a male attendant (wakaimono) who shades the two women with a large parasol, and the courtesan’s adolescent attendant (kamuro).

View info on museum database (enabled through support by the Robert F. Lange Foundation)