KiraKira Treasure Box

Yoshiwara Higanbana: The life of Oiran & Dictionary for the game

Because this stupidly addictive game had no dictionary function in it, I decided to make my own.

Chill! This is a spoiler free post!!
Feel free to read my review of the game and my spoiler talk too!

As much as I love this game I can’t forgive the fact that the gamemakers decided that such a historically specific setting, such as is the Yoshiwara pleasure quarter in Edo, didn’t need a dictionary of terms. Most other games with uncommon or historical settings have one, and I can’t believe they didn’t think their readers would need one. Sure, most of the terms get explained throughout the game, but some only get explained in one route, which means you won’t understand it in the others unless you happened to play that one route first.
So as I played I decided to note down all the terms that were unfamiliar to me, especially those involved with Oiran culture or specific to the Yoshiwara quarter. I hope this proves useful to others who want to play this game but that haven’t a clue about what it’s talking about half that time.

I also suggest reading up on rice brokers in Edo, as the character Kaguraya Akito is one, and on daimyos and Edo society. You won't be needing much historical knowledge to play the game, as the space where the action takes place is pretty restricted (we never leave Yoshiwara), but it will certainly make it a lot easier to understand.

Oiran and courtesan life in Yoshiwara

The 花魁 oiran were courtesans in Japan. They were considered a type of 遊女yuujo ("woman of pleasure" or "prostitute") but were distinguished from ordinary yuujo in that they were entertainers, and many became celebrities outside the pleasure quarters.
Unlike with normal prostitutes, one had to follow a series of steps before receiving the services of a high-ranking courtesan. Large stores required customers comunicate with them through a teahouse, where they would call for the courtesan they wish to meet or select one from the 細見saiken, a guidebook. Once chosen, the customer would have to meet with the courtesan a total of three times before being able to lay with her.
During their first meeting, called the 初会 shoukai (First Meeting), the oiran would not speak to her prospective customer and would not eat, keeping her distance. She would sit at the 上座 kamiza (the seat of honour), as an oiran's social status was higher than that of her client. If she believed the client to be unworthy of her she would not meet with him again. The client would have to call over many geisha to the party and spend a lot of money to prove his assets.
The second meeting, the 裏 ura (Reverse), would follow a similar pattern to the shoukai, but the oiran would sit closer to her customer. Upon their third meeting the customer would finally become an oiran's 馴染み najimi (Intimate) and would sleep with her. He would receive his own small serving tray and chopsticks with his name inscribed on them, and as a means of celebration he would pay a large amount of money known as 馴染み金 najimi-kin. Customers did not usually call upon other prostitutes once they became and oiran's najimi, as this was considered akin to cheating. If he was caught he would have to apologise by paying money, though this custom was dropped halfway through the 18th century.

A courtesan's day

A courtesan's day would begin by waking up her client from the night before (if she had one) before 6 o'clock in the morning, time at which the Great Gate opened, which had been chained up at the closing hour (the 引け hike) the night before at ten o'clock. Yoshiwara was supposed to be sealed tight — Those who were inside, in, those outside, out. After helping her customer get changed she would feign sadness at their parting and would then see him out. If the client was a najimi she would follow him all the way to the Great Gate, and if not she would see him off at the brothel's entrance. This farewell between courtesan and guest was known as the 後朝 kinu-ginu.
She would return to her room and most likely take a nap — it was an unwritten law in Yoshiwara that if your client woke up in the middle of the night you had to wake up too, thus as long as a client was with her a courtesan could not sleep soundly. Usually her nap would end at ten o'clock in the morning, where she would wake up, take a bath, and then have a very simple and basic breakfast, nothing too luxurious. Together with the dinner they had before the brothel began receiving guests at night it was one of the only two meals courtesans would normally have in a day.
After breakfast she would clean her room and put her make-up on, and consequently take part in the 昼見世 hiru-mise, an act in which they would display themselves and attract customers from afternoon until evening. However most people out at this time in Yoshiwara were mainly sightseeing and window shopping, so they were fundamentally free.
At around four o'clock in the afternoon the hiru-mise would close, and until the 夜見世 yoru-mise (the night turn) began at six o'clock they would write letters to their customers and spend their free time with the other courtesans. They would then have dinner and go out on display at the yoru-mise, where they sat in a room where the street side of it was protected by a wood lattice (something like a "showroom") through which customers could observe the courtesans smoking their long bamboo pipes. If a courtesan was selected the brothel's 遣手 yarite (the brothel madam, who supervised relationships with customers) would call her over and meet with her customer on the second floor. They would then either go to a private room or a common-use room, and drink and chat merrily.
The closing hour for the yoru-mise, the 大引け oohike, was at two o'clock in the morning, though most brothels usually closed it at midnight, at the 中引け chuuhike. After this most guests would receive the bedroom services of their courtesans and Yoshiwara would go quiet. The guests would be woken up at 6 o'clock in the morning, and the monotonous cycle would begin again.
A courtesan would roughly work 4 hours in the afternoon and 6 hours at night, plus the time she would have to spend entertaining her customer at night if she had one.

Life in Yoshiwara

Girls were often indentured to brothels by their parents between the ages of about seven to twelve. If she was lucky, she would become an apprentice to a high ranking courtesan. When she was old enough and had completed her training, she would become a courtesan herself and work her way up the ranks. Prostitutes in Yoshiwara were supposed to be released from their contracts at the age of 25, but usually by pressure or debt they remained in their trade until 27. She could very easily spend her entire life in there if her debt was big enough.
In the beginning courtesans were not allowed to step outside of the red-light district except to appear in court law, though they were later allowed to travel to festive celebrations. However after 1829 the custom of permitting women to journey for the sights of cherry blossoms at Ueno, Mukojima and Asukayama fell out of practice.
An escaped courtesan would be object of a man-hunt organised by her brothel-keeper who sent men out to scour the town and countryside. the police also assisted in re-capturing them, and so few ever got away. Once returned to her brothel, the costs of the man-hunt and bribes would be added to her debt.
Many prostitutes of the Yoshiwara pleasure quarters died of syphilis or failed abortions. Unhealthy, dissipated lives led to tuberculosis and dyspepsia. Sick courtesans would leave in a litter called a 輿 kago to visit at doctor or for treatment, but they had to be back in Yoshiwara by 5:30.
If a courtesan was popular or famous the master of the brothel would go to great lengths in order to help her recover, providing the best medical attention and even removing her to his own home outside of Yoshiwara, often in the country. If the courtesan was of little value she was treated by any doctor and shoved into some unused corner to recover or die.

Visual Study Material

There's nothing better than actually seeing how Yoshiwara worked than by actually watching the interpretation of various film directors of it. I recommend three films:
  • Miss Hokusai (2015): Anime film by Keiichi Hara, based off a manga by Hino Sugiura. It doesn't focus specifically on Yoshiwara, but it has a scene where we briefly get to see the inside of the pleasure quarter and an oiran steps onto stage, but it's a very good insight to how life was in Edo in the early 19th century. It focuses on Oei, the daughter of the famous Ukiyo-e artist Hokusai.
  • Sakuran (2007): A live action film of the manga by Moyoco Anno. I personally didn't enjoy this film as much as I enjoyed the other two on this list, but it did depict oiran life in an interestingly pop manner, with very vibrant colours. The film follows Kiyoha, a young girl sold to Yoshiwara, from her days as a kamuro onwards.
  • Yoshiwara Enjo (1987): A film by Hideo Gosha. I believe it is best known in English as Tokyo Bordello. It follows the lives of 5 different oiran in Yoshiwara, but it has a few nudity scenes plus a lesbian sex scene, so it might not be for everyone. Though the setting is the late Meiji period, 1908, it still shows very clearly how life as a prostitute in Yoshiwara was, and many details that appear in the game Yoshiwara Higanbana are depicted in it. Careful with what subtitles you choose if you watch it online, though, because the ones I stumbled upon kept calling oiran "geishas", which was very infuriating.

Other Materials

For those of you interested in deepening your understanding on Yoshiwara and oiran even more, Ill just leave the few resources I used to understand the scenario myself:
吉原再見 (Japanese webpage)
松本深志落研OB会 (Japanese webpage)
籬の花 (Japanese webpage)
The Nightless City: Or the History of the Yoshiwara Yukwaku by J.E. De Becker
Yoshiwara: Geishas, Courtesans, and the Pleasure Quarters of Old Tokyo by Stephen Longstreet and Ethel Longstreet


Places and stores

Most of these places are very much real and exist/existed, but I've highlighted in red the places that are most definitely unique to the game.
  • 揚屋町– Ageya-machi. A district within Yoshiwara.
  • 深川 – Fukagawa. A city in Hokkaido.
  • 浄閑寺 – Joukan-ji. A Buddhist temple still standing in Tokyo in Minowa. Its cemetery houses the remains and spirits of about 25,000 prostitutes and fire victims of the Yoshiwara quarter of the Edo period. 
  • 清州屋 – Kiyosu-ya. The name of a dry-goods dealer, and Rin’s parents’ home.
  • 九郎助稲荷 – Kurosuke Inari. An Inari shrine within the Yoshiwara Quarter, at the corner of Kyou-machi Ni-chou-me. There was also the Yoshitoku Inari, the Enomoto Inari, the Kai-un Inari and the Akashi Inari, but all of these shrines were amalgamated into one that became known as the Yoshiwara-jinja (Yoshiwara shrine) in 1875.
  • 三ノ輪 – Minowa. An area of Tokyo.
  • 仲之町– Nakano-chou. Yoshiwara’s main street.
  • 日本橋小舟町 – Nihonbashi kobuna-cho. A District in Tokyo.
  • おはぐろどぶ – Ohaguro-dobu. The Tooth-blackener Moat. It is the moat that surrounded the Yoshiwara Quarter. Apparently it received this name because the prostitutes would throw out their ohaguro (tooth-blackener) out into it, giving the water a muddy quality.
  • 扇屋 – Ougi-ya. The name of a high class brothel in Yoshiwara. It appears a brothel by such name actually existed.
  • 桜華屋 – Ouka-ya. The name of the brothel Rin works for.
  • 羅生門河岸 – Rashoumon gashi. Common name used to refer to the east riverbank of Edo Yoshiwara. It was the lowest ranked area for prostitution within Yoshiwara. It took it's name from the story "Ogre of Rashoumon" (羅生門の鬼). Much like the ogre Ibaraki-douji that grabbed people by the old Rashoumon gate in Kyoto, customers were dragged into brothels by force at rashoumon gashi.
  • 猿若町 – Saruwaka-chou. The theatre district of Edo
  • 浅草寺 – Sensou-ji. A temple in Asakusa, Tokyo.
  • 四郎兵衛会所 – Shiroubee kaisho. A station placed near Yoshiwara’s main gate in charge of maintaining order.
Yoshiwara remained in business until prostitution was outlawed by the Japanese government in 1958. This is a map of its layout in 1905, which is a lot later than whenever the story of Yoshiwara Higanbana takes place, but the streets I believe remained the same.

Yoshiwara and its Prostitutes

From artist Utagawa Hiroshige, the Niwaka Festival in the New Yoshiwara, from the series Famous Places in the Eastern Capital, 「東都名所之内 新吉原仁和歌之図」
  • 敵娼 – Aikata. A customer’s regular prostitute.
  • 足抜け – Ashinuke. When someone working in the pleasure quarters escapes, usually because they are unable to bear their situation or because they want to elope with their lover.
  • 番頭新造 – Bantou shinzou. A caretaker for oiran (花魁). Former prostitutes that due to her looks or some other reason would not sell. They would also occasionally take customers, but they mainly acted as a manager of sorts for oiran.
  • 中条流 – Chuujouryuu. An alias for abortionists during the Edo period.
  • 振袖新造 – Furisode shinzou. A 15-16 year-old prostitute in training. They would act as proxies for famous oiran, but would not sleep with the customers.
  • 妓楼 – Girou. A Brothel.
  • 張見世 – Harimise. The displaying of prostitutes behind a grille.
  • 引手茶屋 – Hikite cha-ya. A teahouse that introduces clients to prostitutes.
  • 引っ込み禿 – Hikkomi kamuro. A kamuro (禿) that the owner of a brothel trains and educates personally.
  • 禿 – Kamuro. A young girl working as a servant for a high-class prostitute.
  • 廓言葉 – Kuruwakotoba. Sociolect or secret language used by prostitutes in red-light districts.
  • 間夫 – Mafu. A prostitute's lover - someone whom she's truly interested in.
  • 廻しを取る – Mawashi o toru. To two or more customers in one same night.
  • 身請け– Miuke. Paying to get a geisha or a prostitute out of bondage.
  • 内証 – Naishou. A special room found in every brothel, near the entrance to the first floor where the owner of the brothel resides.
  • 馴染み客 – Najimi-kyaku. An "intimate" customer. Customers would have to visit an oiran three times if they wanted to sleep with them. They would finally do so on their third visit and officially be considered their najimi-kyaku.
  • 年季 – Nenki. Period of contract a prostitute had to fulfil before she was let free.
  • 俄 – Niwaka. A festival that took place in Yoshiwara, starting on the first of August and lasting for a whole month.
  • 花魁 – Oiran. Archaic word for “prostitute,” “courtesan.” It is also used as an honorific. It was a title given to yuujo (遊女) with a special social status.
  • 花魁道中 – Oiran douchuu. A procession of courtesans. Oiran, kamuro, furisode shinzou and others would parade from the brothel all the way to the hikite cha-ya. The leading oiran would wear tall black-coated geta and walk in the figure of an eight.
  • お職 – Oshoku. The head prostitute of a brothel.
  • 楼主– Oyakata. The owner of a brothel.
  • 差し紙 – Sashigami. A summons nominating a prostitute and requesting her services.
  • 仕舞いをつける – Shimai o tsaukeru. To buy a prostitute’s entire day. The fee for this is twice as expesive.
  • 新造 – Shinzou. New prostitute that has not started working; attendant of an older prostitute.
  • 初会馴染み – Shoukai najimi. A customer who gets his way with a prostitute and sleeps with her after just their first meeting by paying a large amount of money. An 裏馴染み ura najimi was a customer that slept with her the second time they met, not waiting until the customary third time. These both appear to have been very rare.
  • 留袖新造 – Tomesode shinzou. An average-rated prostitute. These girls were different from furisode shinzou in that they had been sold to the industry too old to serve as kamuro first, and unlike the furisode shinzou they did not get the chance to learn by watching, and the moment they made their debut they had to provide men their services and sleep with them.
  • 登楼する – Tourou suru. To visit a brothel.
  • 登楼客 – Tourour kyaku. A brothel’s client, he who visits a brothel.
  • 局女郎 – Tsubone jorou. Prostitute of the lowest class.
  • 突き出し – Tsukidashi. The process through which a woman must go through when she becomes a prostitute, in which she is deflowered and is considered an adult.
  • 付け馬 – Tsukiuma. A bill collector for the night's entertainment. He would follow the customer back home to collect the overdue payments.
  • 裏を返す – Ura o kaesu. To visit the same prostitute or geisha for a second time.
  • 若い衆 – Wakai shu. Servant boy, Young lad. Young men working inside a brothel as helpers.
  • 横兵庫– Yokohyougo. Extravagant female hairstyle worn by oiran courtesans.
  • 遊女– Yuujo. "Women of pleasure." Licensed prostitutes and courtesans, ranked according to an elaborate hierarchy.
  • 遊郭 – Yuukaku. Red-light district.
  • 遣手 – Yarite. Brothel madam. She would take care of and educate all the prostitutes in a brothel, and supervise their relationships with their customers and the head of the brothel.
  • 座敷 – Zashiki. Dinner party in a tatami room
  • 女衒 – Zegen. Someone who makes their living selling women into prostitution.


Other words that popped up that I was not familiar with. Some of these the dictionary picked up immediately, others I had to search for on the internet.

  • 鬢盥 – Bindarai. A small box full of hairdressing tools that hairdressers during the Edo period hairdressers would carry.
  • 棒手振り – Botefuri. Edo-era street merchant who carried wares hanging from a pole, hawking them in the street.
  • 忘八 – Bouhachi. Someone who has forgotten the eight virtues (八つの徳). Brothel heads were often denominated bouhachi.
  • 段梯子 – Danbashigo. Stairs.
  • 襖 – Fusama. Japanese sliding screen.
  • 文机 – Fuzukue. Japanese-style writing desk.
  • 箱提灯 – Hakochouchin. A type of paper lantern.
  • 八つの徳 – Hattsu no toku. The eight virtues (of the samurai.) These were believed to be: Justice, courage, benevolence, politeness, honesty, honour, loyalty, and character and self-control.
  • 姫鏡台 – Himekyoudai. A small mirror stand.
  • 廻船問屋 – Kaisen donya. Shipping agent.
  • 掛け軸 – Kakejiku. Hanging scroll.
  • 長柄傘 – Nagaegasa. A big parasol with a long handle.
  • 納戸組頭 – Nando kumikashira. A job whose duty was to manage the assets belonging to the Shogun's family.
  • 抜け荷 – Nukeni. Smuggled goods. During the Edo period it appears these mainly consisted of weapons and narcotic goods from foreign countries.
  • 表戸 – Omotedo. Front door.
  • 髱 – Tabo. A sort of chignon bun in a Japanese hair-style.
  • 床の間 – Tokonoma. Alcove where art or flowers are displayed in a traditional Japanese room.
  • 露払い – Tsuyaharai. An outrider (for a procession.)


I’m pretty sure I missed a few, but all the mains are in. I’ve added who they are on some, but to keep those who haven’t yet played away from spoilers I’ve left others simply with the romanisation.

Female names

  • ちどり – Chidori. Rin’s name at Ouka-ya as a kamuro.
  • 千早 – Chihaya. Rin’s prostitute alias.
  • 千景 – Chikage. A certain oiran’s name from when Rin was a furisode shinzou (prostitute in training.) She was apparently very intimate with Kaguraya Akito.
  • 花房 – Hanabusa. A low rank prostitute working at Ouka-ya.
  • 葉津 – Hazu.
  • 糸里 – Itosato. A certain tomesode shinzou’s (an average-rated prostitute) name. Rin finds her crying in the kitchen one night.
  • かの子 – Kanoko.
  • 喜蝶 – Kichou. A certain oiran’s name. She occupies the second highest position between the popular oiran. She is Rin’s best friend.
  • 美代 – Miyo. Rin’s mother.
  • お菊 – Okiku. The name of the old brothel madam working at Ouka-ya.
  • 凛 – Rin. The heroin’s predefined name.
  • 紫乃 – Shino.
  • 白波 – Shiranami. The highest ranking orian at Ouka-ya in a time before Rin arrived there.
  • 白妙 – Shirotae. A certain orian’s name, who’s customer comes in and causes a rucks right at the beginning of the game.
  • 染月 – Sodetsuki. Rin’s name when she was a furisode shinzou (prostitute in training.)
  • 弓月 – Yumizuki. Ougi-ya’s oshoku (head prostitute of a brothel.)
  • 柚 – Yuzu. Rin’s kamuro.

Male names

  • 蛯名屋 – Ebinaya. An acquaintance of Sakuya’s. He too is a hairdresser.
  • 平太 – Heita. One of Akito’s men.
  • 伊勢屋 – Iseya. The man who saves Rin from a gang of men who have mistaken her for a runaway oiran. One of the eligible male characters. His full name is revealed only if you play his route.
  • 門脇 – Kadowaki.
  • 神楽屋 彰人 – Kaguraya Akito. An old friend of Shigure. One of the eligible male characters.
  • 九条直継 – Kujou Tadatsugu.
  • 国松 – Kunimatsu.
  • 薙久 – Nagihisa.
  • 桜華屋 時雨 – Oukaya Shigure. The owner of Ouka-ya. One of the eligible male characters.
  • 大月 忍 – Ootsuki Shinobu. One of the eligible male characters.
  • 大月 重十郎 – Ootsuki Shigejuurou.
  • 利助 – Risuke. Shigure’s father, the previous owner of Ouka-ya.
  • 朔夜– Sakuya. A hairdresser that visits Ouka-ya. One of the eligible male characters.
  • 清太郎 – Seitarou. 
  • 鈴千代 – Suzuchiyo.
  • 辰吉– Tatsukichi. A man working at Ouka-ya.
  • 徳治郎 – Tokujiro. Rin’s father.

Aaand that's it. Note that I am not an expert in this subject and the dictionary is, of course, incomplete, as I'm pretty sure I missed some words and names. If anybody has a particular word they think should be added or a definition that should be rectified go ahead and comment!

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  1. Hi where do I go to find this game? I'm interested in playing

    1. Hello! I bought this game in person in Japan, but I'm pretty sure you can order it through Amazon JP or use Buyee to buy it through some other Japanese store.


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