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Seduction: Japan's Floating World

Evening rain in the Yoshiwara
approx. 1830–1844
by Teisai Hokuba (Japanese, 1757–1844)
Hanging scroll; ink, colors, and gold on silk.

A rain shower sweeps the air as two courtesans await the arrival of guests on the second floor of a Yoshiwara brothel. The flickering candle in a hanging lantern suggests that it is approaching early evening, but despite the breeze that stirs the lantern, the day's heat is palpable. Sleeves pushed up, one louche beauty relaxes on a balcony, her robe dappled with a "cooling" design of seagulls floating on waves. Her standing companion fans herself as she adjusts the obi of a diaphanous summer robe, its pattern of autumn grasses a vain reminder of the cooler weather to come. Like the two women, goldfish in a blue basin and crickets in a cage on the adjacent veranda are held in readiness for the guests' amusement on this hot summer night. Completing the sensual delights are food and drink—a snack of sashimi and salad, ready with stacked plates and sake—and a half-hidden bed surrounded by mosquito netting.

This stage-like interior scene is described in vibrant, welcoming colors that contrast with the stormy monochrome landscape outside. Out in the rain, a palanquin borne along the Japan Embankment hints at a client's imminent arrival.

John C. Weber Collection

Image © John Bigelow Taylor.