Twelve Hours of the Green Houses, Kitagawa Utamaro – Part IV/IV

In this Ninth Day of the Month of Grass that Grows Dense
Edo time: the Hour of the Ox
Tokyo time: 02:00hrs
Brussels time, 18:00hrs on the eighth day…

We follow a day in a courtesan’s life, somewhere in Yoshiwara…

{The Hour of the Ox – Ushi no koku – 02 am – 04 am}

It’s the hour of the Ox, which begins around two o’clock in the morning. In the sleeping house, the courtesan was suddenly awakened by an urgent need. Still sleepy, she awkwardly puts on her straw sandals, arms herself with a roll of paper and a candle and goes to the bathroom.


{The Hour of the Tiger – Tora no koku – 04 am – 06 am}

The Hour of the Tiger is around four o’clock in the morning. Feeling hungry, a courtesan warms a light snack on a brazier. She warms her shoulders with the coat of her client. Another courtesan also awake, joins her in moment of intimacy and cheerful chatter.


{The Hour of the Hare – U no koku – 06 am – 08 am}

It is the hour of the Hare, around six o’clock in the morning. A courtesan holds a customer’s coat as he prepares to go home. This coat is adorned with a valuable lining embellished, in fact, with a portrait of Bodhidharma (Japanese: Daruma), the patriarch of the Zen sect, painted by a artist of the Kano school, Suzuki Rinsho (1732 – 1803). In these times of strict sumptuary laws when refined garments were forbidden to the common people, the luxury and sophistication of menswear found refuge in the invisible parts of the cloths.

4aTwelve Hours of the Green Houses (1794–1795) is a day and a night in the private life of the courtesans of Yoshiwara — the pleasure district of the capital Edo, present day Tōkyō. To complete the cycle, start with Twelve Hours of the Green Houses, Kitagawa Utamaro – Part I and continue with Part II and Part III.

Scanned from an edition containing 55 print reproductions, details and annotations about Utamaro’s work, published by the Royal Museums of Art and History, Brussels in 2012.


16 thoughts on “Twelve Hours of the Green Houses, Kitagawa Utamaro – Part IV/IV

    • And thank you for reading! Such a wonderful work needs to be shared, doesn’t it… I was just writing to Jackie that it inspired me so that I started adding a little Japanese flair to my wardrobe (generally ultra European)… xxx

    • I’m really thankful for this publication! It was a birthday gift and such an inspiration: I started with the footwear, just got a pair of wooden sandals from a little Japanese shop downtown Brussels… now I have to work upwards! xxx

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