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A courtesan’s debut was a very big and costly event. Girls were expected to buy their dresses, beds, etc. with their own money, but a first-time courtesan with no regular clients yet simply could not afford such luxurious items. For the honor of being a girl’s first client, a man was expected to pay a large sum to cover the daily necessities that she didn’t yet have. Part of this included the cost of three futons for the courtesan to sleep on, or in the case of highest-class oiran, five futons. Four futons wasn’t a common number, but oddly Kyōden’s illustration shows Uondo sleeping on four. This could be a symbol that she’s not really human, not really fish, and doesn’t quite fit in either world.
I love Kyōden’s illustration on this page. There are a lot of small details which add to the scene, including an incense burner next to the bed, to mask the mermaid’s fishy smell. The customer is holding his wallet as he tries to escape, and his pillow has rolled off the bed onto the floor in his rush to leave. The kurogo’s desperation is palpable, yet the mermaid looks so peaceful and innocent asleep in her bed.
After her oiran debut, Uondo took her first customer. The lights were turned out to make the room as dark as possible. The kurogo hid behind a folding screen and acted as her arms, lighting her pipe and smoking it, and so on. Somehow the illusion worked, and she passed as a human. But in the end, she still smelled like a fish and her client was unable to bear it. He frantically tried to escape from the room. The mermaid, exhausted from her debut, quickly fell asleep. Meanwhile, the kurogo grabbed on to the client to keep him from leaving. This only scared him even more, as Uondo’s arms seemed to stretch all the way into the hallway even though her head remained on the pillow.
Customer: “What kind of monster is this prostitute?! How long must her arms be to reach me all the way from the bed?!”