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80219-0017 - Saintly Courtesan

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Outside Meiji 1900s Kokkei Shimbun

Illustration of an oiran courtesan who is reading a letter, likely a love letter from an admirer, while sitting on a white elephant who holds a chochin lantern up with his trunk to provide lighting.

As the title of the card is Bodhisattva (菩薩), the courtesan is being compared with the bodhisattva Fugen (普賢), usually shown mounted on a white elephant.

In Japanese Buddhism, Fugen teaches that action and behavior are just as important as thought and meditation. People should diligently practice charity, moral conduct, patience, and devotion. The elephant symbolizes the power of Buddhism to overcome all obstacles.

Postcard published by the Kokkei Shimbun (滑稽新聞社発行) in 1907 (Meiji 40). The satirical publication was founded in 1901 (Meiji 34) by Osaka-based journalist Miyatake Gaikotsu (宮武外骨, 1867-1955) whose real name was Kameshiro Miyatake (宮武龜四郎).

Between May 1907 and June 1909 (Meiji 42), Kokkei Shimbun featured a supplement named Ehagaki Sekai (絵葉書世界, The World of Illustrated Postcards). Each issue contained 30 postcards, many giving salty social commentary. In total 26 issues were published, this card was published in Volume 2.

Under pressure from the authorities, Miyatake shut down the Kokkei Shimbun in 1909, ending it with a “Suicide Issue.”

Title: 菩薩 (Bosatsu) — Bodhisattva; one who has reached enlightenment

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Ehagaki Sekai, Ehagaki Sekai Volume 2, Kokkei Shimbun, Miyatake Gaikotsu, Oiran, Tayuu, animals, chochin, clothing, customs, elephants, fashion, hairstyles, humor, kimono, lanterns, people, prostitutes, prostitution, reading, women
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