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The Yoshiwara: Edo's 19th Century Red Light District: Background information when reading The Printmaker's Daughter

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The Printmaker's Daughter

A Novel

by Katherine Govier

The Printmaker's Daughter
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    Nov 2011, 512 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Mark James

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Beyond the Book:
The Yoshiwara: Edo's 19th Century Red Light District

Katherine Govier's The Printmaker's Daughter is historical fiction based on the real-life Japanese printmaker, Hokusai - best known for his ukiyo-e* series The Adonis Plant entitled Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji - and his daughter, Ei. The character Ei spends much of her early life in the Yoshiwara, or red light district, of Edo (modern day Tokyo) where her father helps pay his bills by producing erotica known as shunga. Ei, or Oei as he calls her, works as her father's apprentice.

In real life, just as in the book, the Yoshiwara was set off from the city, and was the only place in Edo where prostitution was legal. It was also the only place that chinen, or townspeople, could mix with samurai, members of the powerful military caste. It was an area both set off from, but inherent in, Japanese culture. Weapons were not allowed, and were collected at the district gate to be redistributed when the customer was ready to leave.

Courtesans - not to be confused with geishas who ...

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