Seigle in her Yoshiwara: The Glittering World of the Japanese Courtesan
points out that in the middle of the 17th century a famous prostitute would
arrive at a house of assignation with her entourage, but with only simple
embellishments: her silk robe would be beautiful, but not overwhelming; her
hairstyle would be only slightly different than the popular style of the
day; and "...courtesans did not yet adorn their hair or use the outlandish
number of large combs and hairpins that characterized the courtesans of
later centuries. A courtesan simply tied her hair with one or two
ribbons...and wore only one comb on her head." (1)
One hundred fifty
years later things had changed considerably. Even the "smallest kamuro"
had her head "...so heavily decorated with the hairpins and combs of her
sister courtesan that she was barely able to carry the weight."(2) Seigle
quotes a late 18th century comment by Hara Budayu in which he compares the
bedecked heads of courtesans with the displays of toy peddlers. (3)
Yoshiwara: The Glittering World of the
Japanese Courtesan, by Cecilia Segawa Seigle, published by the
University of Hawaii, 1993, p. 66.
(2) Ibid., p. 186. Kamuros were the
young assistants to the oiran. Researching this commentary I discovered
that the word kamuro (禿 or かむろ) is defined by Nelson
(3262) as "little girl employed in a brothel," but generally means some form
of the word "bald": become bald; wear out; baldness; bald person;
baldheaded. If anyone "knows" how these two diverse meanings came to be
associated etymologically I would appreciate it if you would get in touch with me. Thanks!
(3) Ibid., p. 205.