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We’ve already seen Santō Kyōden break the fourth wall a couple of times and address the readers directly. He goes a step further on this page, and actually places himself in the novel here. Kyōden and his friend are depicted here, sitting and smoking on the veranda of a tea shop while watching Uondo’s oiran procession pass by.
Kyōden: “So that’s the new prostitute, huh? She really does have a pretty face! But her walking style is a little funny. Don’t you think so, Kokugashi¹?”
One of the kamuro² is chatting with Uondo: “Wasn’t there a guy named Jingorō in Edoya³?”
- The name Kokugashi here is a shout out to Kyōden’s colleague and friend Umebori Kokuga. Kokuga was a novelist who was famed for his depictions of the romances between Yoshiwara’s prostitutes and their customers. Using the nickname Kokugashi and placing him in the book shows how friendly the two were.
- Kamuro were young girls who were sold by their parents to brothels in order to pay off their debts. They had to work until their own debt was then repaid. They were apprenticed to oiran who were responsible for feeding, clothing, sheltering, and managing them. Kamuro were dressed beautifully, like little toys, and mostly worked as attendants, messengers, and escorts to their caretakers. As it was quite expensive to feed and dress them, having a kamuro was a great status symbol for an oiran. Only the wealthiest oiran could afford to care for more than one kamuro.
- This sentence is a bit of a mystery. It sounds like another one of Kyōden’s name drops, but who this person was is now unknown. One possibility: there was a teahouse in Yoshiwara called Edoya Jinzaburō which specialized in introducing clients to prostitutes. This line might be a sly reference to it.
Huh, so self-inserting is older that most people though.