Oiran were high-class courtesan or prostitute in the Yoshiwara pleasure district of Edo, Tokyo. Arose in the Edo period, 1600 – 1868 and offering all way of entertainments. Among the oiran, the tayuu was considered the highest rank of courtesan, and were considered suitable for the daimyo. Only the wealthiest and highest ranking could hope to patronise them.
The Oiran wore tall lacquered 3 legs footwear could weigh up to 2 kg koma geta, mitsu-ashi or sanmaibageta unlike Geishas, Oiran don’t wear tabi socks even in winter! An amazing skill of balance must have been required to walk with these 15″ tall geta. The Oiran have a particular way of walking called Hachi Moji.
The costumes worn became more and more ornate and complex. The hair style, combs and pins weighing about 3-4 kg and the prescribed layers of highly ornamented garments weighing about 20-30 kg. Oiran tied their obi’s at the front while Geisha at the back.
To entertain their clients, Oiran practiced the arts of dance, music, poetry and calligraphy, and an educated wit was considered essential to advanced conversation. Their speech preserved the formal court standards than the common language. A casual visitor would not be accepted; their clients would call them with a formal invitation, and the oiran would pass through the streets in a formal procession Oiran Douchu with a retinue of servants.
The rise of the Geisha ended the era of the Oiran. The last recorded oiran was in 1761.