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Posts Tagged ‘whoring’

What does Kuramae mean?

In Japanese History on January 30, 2014 at 5:01 am

蔵前
Kuramae (In Front of the Warehouse)

The only picture of the warehouse I could find.

The only picture of the warehouse I could find.

This is an easy one. Just like the common Japanese word 駅前 ekimae in front of the station, 蔵前 kuramae means in front of the warehouse. “What warehouse” you ask? Why the 浅草御蔵 Asakusa O-kura. An 御蔵 o-kura was shōgunate controlled rice warehouse. This warehouse held 扶持米 fuchimai that came from shōgunate lands[i]. Fuchimai was the rice used to pay the stipends of shōgun’s vassals. The magistrate who over saw the collection, accounting, and distribution of the rice lived here and worked here, as did his officers.

A rice dealer district sprung up on the west side of the warehouse. Since rice was essentially a kind of currency, the area also became famous for money lenders. The proximity to the licensed kabuki theaters and Yoshiwara meant the area tended to be pretty lively with people coming and going. Basically, this was the Edo Period equivalent of going to the ATM on payday and then going out with the guys for a long night of drinking and whoring[ii].

An interesting side note about the rice brokers of Edo, called 札差屋さん fudasashi-ya san in Japanese, is that many of them became filthy, stinking rich as money lenders and “tax accountants” for the samurai class. They would make loans to anyone, but their most cherished clients were daimyō and insolvent samurai families who were becoming increasingly impoverished due to the stagnant Edo Period economy. As a result, these merchants – who for all practical purposes were bankers – enjoyed luxurious lifestyles. They were the taste-makers of the late Edo Period, being able to afford the latest fashions, the newest art, the hottest literature and theater, and of course, the finer pleasures of Yoshiwara. Although not of elite samurai rank, surely they were the envy of the non-elite classes.

In the Meiji Era, the warehouse fell under control of the new government only to be destroyed in the Great Kantō Earthquake in 1923. Today nothing remains of the warehouse, but there is a plaque. Although the area was popularly referred to as Kuramae, or more politely O-kuramae, the official place name actually dates from 1934.

So is Kuramae a literal reference to the area directly in front of the warehouse? Probably not. It’s basically a reference to the town of rice brokers, the offices and residences of the magistracy that oversaw the granaries, and the day to day business affiliated with the rice. All of those people and all of that business were “in front of the warehouse.”

The plaque stands on the site of the old warehouse.

The plaque stands on the site of the old warehouse.

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[i] 天領 Tenryō, as I mentioned in my article on Haneda, were lands that didn’t belong to any daimyō and as such fell under control of the shōgunate or 旗本 hatamoto direct retainers of the shōgun family.
[ii] As one does.

What does Ushigome Tansu Machi mean?

In Japanese History on September 26, 2013 at 2:31 am

牛込箪笥町
Ushigome Tansu Machi (Crowd of Cows Dresser Town)

Welcome to a part of Tokyo that in 8 years I have never been to. Need to rectify that situation somebody.

Welcome to a part of Tokyo that in 8 years I have never been to.
Need to rectify that situation some day.

Yesterday I talked about Ushigome.

When normal Japanese people think of the word 箪笥 tansu traditional dresser, they will think of this:

Tansu - a traditional Japanese chest of drawers (dresser).

Tansu – a traditional Japanese chest of drawers (dresser).

And indeed, that is what the word (kanji and all) means. But why would this end up in a place name?

Good question.

Well, it turns out that in this case, tansu doesn’t refer to furniture. It refers to weapons.

Wait. Whaaaa?

Well, it turns out that in the Edo Period the general term for the arms, armor, and ordnance of the shōgunate was 箪笥 tansu.

In 1713, this area was entrusted to a local magistracy and a 町 machi town was developed. The original name of the town was 牛込御箪笥町 Ushigome go-tansu machi. By the way, 御箪笥 go-tansu is the honorific term for 箪笥 tansu.

The title of the magistrate who oversaw the private arsenals of the shōgunate was 簞笥奉行 tansu bugyō[i]. His office managed the full sets of armor, bows and arrows, and lances of the shōgunate. The people who worked under this office weren’t only in charge of weapons, though. The broad office title of 御納戸役 o-nandoyaku store room service referred to the mid-level samurai[ii] who would fetch and file and take inventory and maintain the clothes, supplies and furniture of the shōgunal family. They might also do the day to day work of managing the transactions of the shōgunal coffers. When gifts had to be given to lords or (god forbid) foreign emissaries, these were the samurai clerks who made it happen. Whether the magistrate or the warehouses themselves were in this area isn’t really important. The name derives from the fact that dormitories, 武家屋敷長屋 buke yashiki nagaya long houses, and the homes of other officials associated with this type of work were based here. So while this name is confusing to us now, in the Edo Period it was a way of designating what work and what class of samurai were living in the area[iii]. A samurai clerk of this level would make a stipend of 100-200 koku[iv].

Typical samurai residences.

Typical samurai long houses of the type we might expect to see in Ushigome. As hatamoto, Notice the greenery in front of the houses to make the homes more private. As residents of the yamanote (the high city) I reckon this would have been the norm for hatamoto of this status. Some larger detached domiciles must have been located there too.
All in all, not a bad place to raise a family in the Edo Period.
(this picture isn’t from Tokyo, by the way… in Tokyo nothing like this exists anymore)

In Tōkyō, there are a few areas that still exist with this unique place name:

Azabu Tansu Machi
・ Shitaya Tansu Machi
・ Ushigome Tansu Machi
・ Yotsuya Tansu Machi

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[i] Edo period → modern Japanese .

[ii] Mostly hatamoto, but not always. I think in modern Japan, this would be the equivalent of a “normal” salaryman in middle or upper-middle management. It would have been a lot of “yes man” work and kowtowing, but it would afford you a very decent lifestyle.
The word 納戸 nando has a few meanings: back room, closet, storage room. Once we understand the meaning of the word nando the nuance of the word tansu starts become apparent.

[iv] Someone has calculated what they think is a conversion rate for koku, arriving at the conclusion that 1 koku = about $750. If that’s the case these samurai were at an income level of $75,000-$150,000 a year. Plenty of spare cash for gallivanting about[v] in Yoshiwara.
[v] Footnote of a footnote says: “gallivanting about” is a polite way to say “drinking and whoring.”

Bunkyoin

In Japanese History, Japanese Sex, Japanese Shrines & Temples, Tokugawa Shogun Graves, Travel in Japan on June 12, 2013 at 1:21 am

文恭
Bunkyō-in
 (Divine Prince of Respectful Embellishment)
十一代将軍徳川家斉公
11th Shōgun, Lord Tokugawa Ienari
Kan’ei-ji

Where da ladies at?

Where da ladies at?

After a bunch of super boring shōguns, we’ve finally come to someone worth talking about: Tokugawa Ienari, the party shōgun. Awwwwwwww yeah!

Ienari was the longest reigning shōgun.
Was irresponsible, but people liked him.
Saved many temples & shrines by moving them to Nippori
He was da man for something like 50 years.
Dude was a straight pimp.

"My eyes aren't so good, ladies. Why don't you come a little closer?"

“My eyes aren’t so good, ladies. Why don’t you come a little closer?”

.

Look at this chart comparing Ienari’s life with mine:

  Ienari Me
legal wife
正室
seishitsu

(literally main bedroom)
1 1
concubines
側室
sokushitsu

(literally side rooms)
16-27 official concubines
(but there were nearly 1000 women living in the 大奥 ō-oku harem at that time; his number fluctuates because of deaths/illnesses/etc)
0
children 56
26ish boys
27ish girls
0
diseases said to have been
“riddled with syphilis”
yet lived to a ripe old 68
(pretty good
for those days)
allergic to ragweed and house dust
partying liked to drink every night with beautiful women
(emphasis on the plural)and he was said to have never had a sexless night
i’d like that too,
but reality is a little different…
nickname 俗物将軍
zokubutsu-shōgun
“da vulgar shōgun”

オットセイ将軍
ottosei-shōgun
“da Viagra shōgun” [i]

マーキースター 
marky star
spending blew so much cash on bitches and bling that the inheritance money of the direct shōgunal line never recovered until after the bakumatsu what inheritance?
CONCLUSION: A straight up pimp.
Pretty much not a pimp…

_________________________

"It's good to be the shogun."

If you could, you would.
“It’s good to be the shogun.”

_________________________

There are a bunch of things he did that I don’t want to compare with my life. For example, as a kid he liked to have pet chickens and crabs. He also liked to step on them and crush them to death. He also loved butter and dairy products.

Yuck. I hate butter and dairy.

___________________________

Should I bring my drums?

Entertain the shogun? OK.
Should I bring my drums?
Not necessary?
OK.
I see.
On my way…

___________________________

Anyways, after a long life and a long reign that I’m sure he enjoyed every freaking minute of, he was finally enshrined together with his father, Ieharu, at Gen’yūin, the funerary temple of the second shōgun, Ietsuna. Some people might say his posthumous name is inappropriate or ridiculous. But 文 bun means “style” and 恭 kyō means “respect.” Dude, Ienari was a straight up playa. You gotta respect that style[ii].

_____________________________

Stone lanterns from Genyuin. This is the most gravey picture in this article.

Stone lanterns from Genyuin.
This is the most gravey picture in this article.

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For the same reasons I’ve been complaining about for days now, I have no pictures of his grave or Gen’yūin mortuary complex. The best I can offer is my original article on Gen’yūin, Tokugawa Ietsuna’s place of enshrinement.

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[i] Ottosei is a kind of seal. Common belief at the time was that if you cut off a seal dick and dry it, then make it into a powder and drink it, you’ll get “man power.”
[ii] Liberal translation, I know. It’s a joke, sue me.

Why is Yoshiwara called Yoshiwara?

In Japanese History, Japanese Sex on February 20, 2013 at 2:12 pm

吉原
Yoshiwara (Source of Good Luck)

If you mention this place to a Japanese person they have a flood images run through their head; Edo Period nightlife, geisha, drinking sake, oiran, traditional entertainment, prostitution, and even political intrigue in old Japan. It used to be the “pleasure quarters” (遊郭) of Edo and also in Tokyo until the American Occupation which decided that somehow having a place dedicated to adult entertainment was a bad idea.

What a bunch of assholes.

Yoshiwara Ekiyo-e

high class courtesans in full regalia. wanna know why japan is so big on cosplay?
because they had it going on from the old days. (btw, if you break that crown, you gotta pay for it. bring that samurai cash, baby. or don’t come at all.

Orian (the most talented entertainer in the Yoshiwara)

Pre-WWII photo of the highest ranking entertainer in the Yoshiwara of that year. Relax, the 2 girls with her are not prostitutes or anything like that. They are in training, probably learning etiquette, tea ceremony, walking, smiling, not smiling and conversation.
Wish we could see this photo in full color!

Anyways, the name is made of 2 kanji, (kichi, yoshi) and it means good luck. The second kanji is which means “source,” “primary” or “raw.” Knowing that, you can see why I translated the name as I did.

love the clothes!

preparing for tonight’s gig!

The original location may have pre-dated the establishment of the Tokugawa shogunate and it just happened to be located near Nihonbashi, the epicenter of many roads flowing into/out of Edo. After the Meireiki Fire which devastated that area of Edo, the pleasure quarters were moved to a located surrounded by moats…. either to protect them from outside fires, or more directly to protect the rest of the city from the craziness that might start fires there.

For most of the Edo Period, it was an isolated area only in terms of the moats. Customers came and went casually. That said, the girls who worked there were in a state of semi-slavery (a little social mobility was possible, but I guess in the west we would call them indentured servants). But the girls were basically forbidden to leave unless their freedom was purchased by a rich merchant or samurai. Most of the women who worked in the Yoshiwara had either been sold by their families and thus disowned or had no one else financially responsible for them upon death. Most of them were interred/enshrined at Joukanji. It’s depressing.

it's sad because their families sold them... different strokes for different era's folks....

the common grave for yoshiwara girls with no family connections (or who were also rejected by the shops that employed them).

Today, there is no official address called Yoshiwara.  There is no train station called Yoshiwara. This was all by design of MacArthur and his cronies, whose puritanical sensibilities managed to persist on paper and geography, but in some ways were totally ignored in that today the former Yoshiwara is still very much red light district. There are residences here now, but none of those people use the word Yoshiwara, except as a reference to history or a joke.

Yoshiwara Before the WWII.

Yoshiwara before the war. Slightly Westernized. But doesn’t look so strange, right? It’s a typical “shitamachi” neighborhood in old Tokyo. Edo was probably not much different.

Today, girls who have decided to make a career in the Japanese sex industry sometimes even refer to themselves as Yoshiwara girls.

Yoshiwara NOW

today’s yoshiwara is a sex industry town. This is a Soapland, where you get bathed and fucked by a good, Japanese girl.
But the reality is that the neighborhood has adapted with the manners and mores of the time. The manners of this girl might be close to the old times, but the forwardness wouldn’t have been.

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