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Boulevard of Flowers

Beauties Visiting in Winter by Chikanobu Toyohara (1890)

It is time of celebration of cherry blossoms in the Edo pleasure quarter and the most beautiful courtesans are portrayed clad in their most fabulous kimonos admiring the flowers. They are compared to being exquisite flowers, to be admired, which adds to the reason for the use of the word of "flowers" in the title.

While the artist depicted faces and hairdos of courtesans with relatively little variations, he took special care in displaying a rich variety of designs of the ladies’ kimonos. Among an array of plants and flowers, such motifs can be noticed as an anchor, a dragon with a flaming pearl, a carp swimming upstream a waterfall, and a shihi - a mythical beast resembling a lion. Such elaborated designs could be embroidered, dyed, or painted onto the fabrics.

Yoshiwara, as the Edo / Tokyo pleasure quarter was widely known, was an enclave of the “floating world”, separated from the rest of the city by moats and walls. Its central boulevard, depicted in this print, was akin a stage where top class courtesans called oiran would parade every afternoon wearing their lavish kimonos, surrounded by their attendants.

While physically separated from the city and the realm, thanks to ukiyoe prints that top courtesans were made famous all around Edo and beyond. Fashions emerging in the Yoshiwara were made popular beyond the pleasure district by the same token.
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