Isoda Koryūsai 礒田湖竜斎 (1735-1790)
Komachi’s Dream
From the series The Elegant Six Poets (Fūryū Rokkasen 風流六歌仙)

Japan, Edo period (1615-1868), c. 1770
Woodblock print; ink and color on paper
Gift of James A. Michener, 1991

A young shinzō (apprentice courtesan), propping her head upon the container for her three-stringed shamisen, dreams of a romance-filled life outside the Yoshiwara. The inscription at the top of the print is a poem by Ono no Komachi (c. 825 - c. 900), one of the six most important poets of the early Heian period (794-1185):

So was it because
I slept full of longing that
I saw that person?
If I’d known it for a dream,
I would not have awoken!
Nureba ya hito no
Yume to shiraseba
Samezaramashi o

In the Yoshiwara, shinzō were girls between thirteen and twenty-three years of age who were trained by and who assisted particular high-ranking courtesans. A junior shinzō was most easily identified by her long-sleeved kimono (furisode), while a shinzō who had proven her popularity among clients wore the short-sleeved kimono (tomesode) of a regular courtesan.

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