Aug 4, 2020

Courtesans Promenading on the Nakanochō

Courtesans Promenading on the Nakanochō


c. 1790

Part of a set. See all set records

Utagawa Toyokuni 歌川 豊国

(Japanese, 1769–1825)

Japan, Edo period


One of a triptych of color woodblock prints

Each: 37.8 x 25.8 cm (14 7/8 x 10 3/16 in.)

Bequest of Edward L. Whittemore 1930.211.c



The Nakanocho was the main street in the famous Yoshiwara pleasure district, a walled enclosure that housed as many as 4,000 courtesans during its height. In the early evening, elaborately dressed courtesans, accompanied by attendants, promenaded on the main thoroughfare, as in this scene.

On the left side of the street, an unaccompanied courtesan holding a long, slender pipe lounges on a porch and converses with another courtesan. At the right, a pair of courtesans attract the attention of two men, one presumably a samurai who wears a hooded cloak and hides his face behind a fan. The open buildings with shop curtains hanging from their eaves are teahouses, establishments where men could arrange appointments with courtesans in the more prestigious brothels.

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