If you’re ever in Tokyo in April, there’s a parade you can see for free in Asakusa. Asakusa itself is a traditional district in Taito and is famous for the Senso-ji, Asakusa Shrine and Kaminarimon (Thunder Gate) with a lot of visitors almost everyday.
The parade itself is a Courtesan Parade, in Japanese it’s called Oiran Dochu Festival which always held on the second Saturday of April each year. It’s a good sightseeing for tourists to witness a part of history during Edo, it’s also a chance to see geisha in real life.
“Oiran” is a typical entertainment woman, or a prostitute during Edo Period (1603-1868). They are not ordinary female entertainers, only the highest rank of courtesan could get the “Oiran” title, usually in Yoshiwara. They possess skills to entertain their clients, from tea ceremony called Sado, flower arranging called Ikebana, and Japanese Calligraphy. Oirans can also play music and are trained to be smart and elegant. Even though being handsomely paid, high ranked courtesans could also decline a client.
To commemorate the history of Oirans, Oiran Dochu was created. Oiran Dochu itself is always held by local volunteers to commemorate the red light district located in North Asakusa (Yoshiwara).
The Oiran are wearing traditional make up and kimonos, they are walking slowly and gracefully with 15cm tall wooden slippers called ‘geta’ along the road, with bodyguards walking along them. The Geishas are following them subtly behind, while groups of men in kitsune (fox) mask are performing before the courtesans in front of the stage.
Tips: Quite a lot of people gather, if you’re coming with a pocket camera with no tele/zoom lens, you might have trouble taking pictures, unless you come earlier and watch it from the front row.
It is held around Asakusa Komatsubashi-dori Street, Asakusa 4-chome to Senzoku, Taito-ku