Oiran or Japan’s highest ranking courtesans were the grandest and most spectacular women of the “floating world”. The word oiran means “first flower” which poetically indicates their exalted status in society. Like geisha they often had humble beginnings, and many were originally sold into the business as children and were left to work their way up over the years as apprentices. Oiran should not be confused with geisha whose dress was more subtle and simple. Oiran, known for their beauty, artistry and intelligence, dictated the fashions of the day and influenced many artists, poets and musicians. They are part of Japan’s cultural legacy and the famous oiran parade called the “oiran-dochu” is still re-enacted in Japan today. An oiran’s costume consists of many layers of thick padded kimonos along with a large ornate brocade obi tied in the front as was required in her profession. (Kimonos traditionally are tied in the back). She wore towering black lacquer geta which caused her to require assistance to walk. Her hair was arranged in an elaborate hair style with large hair ornaments artfully placed, displaying her rank and status. Objects worn by the oiran are hard to find these days, but I was lucky enough to obtain some of these tortoise pieces as well as this amazing pair of black lacquer shoes from the early 1900’s. One can only imagine the stories these pieces have to tell!