Bare feet exposed
Pink against the snow
My face burns hot
There is a procession making its way through the streets of Yoshiwara, bright and loud, inviting people from every corner of the neighborhood to take a look at the festive parade. There are drummers and other musicians; there are people dressed as fox spirits, women dressed as men, and young girls in red kimonos with painted faces. This is all before the arrival of the crowning jewel of the procession: the oiran. She is a courtesan of high skill and rank. Despite her small frame, she is raised high above everyone else by the thick platform of her sandals. It is winter, and the ground is covered in a layer of pristine snow, but the oiran's feet are naked, the pink digits of her toes exposed to the elements. Her name is rendered beautifully in black ink on a lantern, so that all who see it may know her name. Not that they need any reminder. She is arguably the most famous courtesan in the entire district. Her name is Yuki. A simple name for an extraordinary girl.
"The Oiran Kasugano of Ōgiya on Parade"
by Kitagawa Utamaro (c. 1788)
Yuki is on her way to see a client. Her earnings will be the biggest sum ever paid out for the company of a courtesan, but this fact stirs neither pride nor joy in Yuki's heart. It had turned to ice long ago.
Anna Ojinnaka has been writing spooky (and not so spooky) tales since her tweens. You can find her work in Love Letters to Poe, The Ghastling, and Ahoy Comics.
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