Tsubame Sakura Matsuri Oiran Dochu: The Soto-Hachimonji (外八文字) - How to Walk like an Oiran - Adventures of Anette

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Tsubame Sakura Matsuri Oiran Dochu: The Soto-Hachimonji (外八文字) - How to Walk like an Oiran


The devil is in the detail, and that can particularily be said in the case of Japanese traditional arts. For the Edo-period courtesan women called Oiran everything was planned down to the tiniest detail to make sure that they performed their role to perfection, and they even had their own walking style known as the Soto-hachimonji (外八文字). Soto-hachimonji can be translated into something like "outside 8-shape", and simply put this technique involves drawing the character 8 with your feet as you walk. Add the 15-cm high geta shoes and the 30-kilo costume and you might start to get an idea about how tough this must have been back in the days.

All posts about the Tsubame Sakura Matsuri 


In just a month from now I'll be leading the Oiran Dochu (おいらん道中) parade in Niigata's Tsubame Sakura Matsuri (つばめ桜祭り) festival as one of 3 Oiran girls participating in the parade (the forth Oiran girl's role is to help with PR activities and posing for photos rather than walk in the parade), and the preparations have just begun. We are going to have multiple practices in Bunsui (分水) where the procession will take place, and last weekend I traveled to Bunsui to practice the particular walking style of the Oiran.




As you can imagine there's a certain risk involved in the combination of a 30-kilo outfit and 15-cm high shoes. Luckily each one of us are paired up with a person playing a support role called Houkan (ほうかん). As the Oiran walks she rests one hand on the Houkan's shoulder, and the Houkan follows her move to make sure she can keep her balance and strength. 
For our practice we were accompanied with some of the leading figures in the festival committee along with local media who followed our very moves. You can easily tell from the video at the bottom how concentrated we were..
Here is a picture of me and my houkan partner (The Houkan will be playing the role of men in the actual parade)! My Oiran title is Sakura Tayuu (桜太夫), or Cherry Blossom Tayuu.
And finally, here is a video from our practice (all pictures in this post have been taken from this video):



I will keep updating my blog with posts related to the Tsubame Sakura Matsuri festival in the time to come. You can find all related posts about the Tsubame Sakura Matsuri in the links below.

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About Anette
Anette came to Japan as an exchange student in 2010, met the love of her life and got stuck. From her base in Tokyo she writes about her experiences as a full-time worker in Tokyo and about her travels in Japan and abroad. She's a free-spirited adventurer who'd gladly trade a trip to the shoppingmall for a hike in the forest any day.

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About Me

Adventures ofAnette


The classical story about a girl who went for a one-year exchange program to Japan, fell in love and got stuck there. Starting out as a student in Kyoto in 2010 I now work full-time in Tokyo as a hotel consultant, and write mostly about my travels, working life in Japan as well as a bunch of random stuff.
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