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Today’s page features another two-spread illustration which shows a large scene in Denzō’s brothel. Business seems to be doing well. Denzō has an expensive looking shrine (this extravagance is more of a public-facing shrine for show than for actual worship), servants, as well as a 72-liter cask of Sesshū Otokoyama sake. You can still buy this sake today, so check your favorite liquor store!
Denzō, the owner of the brothel Maizuruya, purchased the mermaid for the sum of seven and a half ryō. He was the kind of man who wanted to do something strange and unique that nobody else had done before. He came up with what he thought was a brilliant idea: he named the mermaid Uondo¹, and rather than put her through training, he began to plan for her immediate debut as an oiran².
- Uondo is written 魚人, which is ningyo (人魚) backwards. It literally means “fish person.” Her name fits the pattern for stage names of some of Yoshiwara’s most famous courtesans, such as Matsundo (“pine person”) of Matsubaya brothel and Hanando (“flower person”) of the Ōgiya brothel.
- Oiran is the highest rank of courtesan. They were extremely high-status prostitutes, widely regarded for their beauty. They wore elaborate and expensive hair and dress styles, and were frequently depicted like pinup girls in woodblock prints.