Isoda Koryūsai 礒田湖竜斎 (1735-1790)
The Courtesan Shiratama of the Tamaya Brothel
(Tamaya no uchi Shiratama 玉屋内志ら玉)

From the series Models for Fashion: New Designs as Fresh as Young Leaves
(Hinagata wakana no hatsu moyō 雛形若菜初模様)

Japan, Edo period (1615-1868), c. 1770
Woodblock print; ink and color on paper
Gift of James A. Michener, 1957

Yarite were the female managers of brothels who chaperoned and supervised the courtesans. In Japanese literary works from the Edo period, yarite are customarily depicted as old, greedy villains who bullied their courtesans, but the true personality of a yarite depended largely upon the popularity of her courtesans and the economic success of her brothel. Many of the yarite were retired courtesans themselves, and as such, they likely viewed these younger courtesans with sympathy, envy, or a combination thereof.

Depicted here are the courtesan Shiratama of the Tamaya Brothel, along with her two kamuro (adolescent assistants) and her yarite. According to The Visitor's Guide to the Yoshiwara (Yoshiwara saiken) of 1775, the name of the Tamaya Brothel's yarite at that time - possibly this woman - was Shino.

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