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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Oharame - the peddler maidens of Ohara Kyoto

大原女

The Oharame ("maiden of Ohara") is a historical female peddler of firewood (kindling rather than big blocks of it) from the town of Ohara, in present day Sakyo-ku, Kyoto, a town best known for its beautiful Sanzen-in Temple.

Oharame (detail) as painted by Hokusai.
Oharame (detail) as depicted by Hokusai
Oharame maidens wore a pompadour-like hair style, popular with unmarried women in the Edo period, known in Japanese as a shimada-mage ("Shimada coiffure"), around which they wrapped a towel, and placed the kindling on their head to make the trek into Kyoto. They blackened their teeth, and wore a tight-sleeved kimono with white leggings underneath, and straw sandals on their feet.

Oharame make their appearance in old literature about Kyoto, and in kyogen and buyo theater. They were portrayed in art, too, by the ukiyoe painter and printmaker, Hokusai (1760-1849) for their rustic beauty.

The Ohara Tourist Information Center (Ohara Kanko Hoshokai in Japanese), offers an Oharame experience to visitors whereby they can dress up pretty much as the Oharame did (although minus the blackened teeth, it seems!) for a fee of 2,500 yen.

Oharame costume experience, Ohara, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto.
Oharame dress-up experience, Ohara, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto (Photo courtesy of Ohara Kanko Hoshokai)

There is an annual Oharame Festival in Ohara, as well, from April 23 to May 8, this year, during which time the Oharame experience can be had for the discounted rate of 1,000 yen.

Also, from April 1, 2016 to March 31, 2017, Keihan Railways, Eizan Densha, and Kyoto Bus are offering an Ohara/Yase One-Day Ticket for 1,500 yen for adults (750 yen for children), which takes you from any station on the Keihan Line to Ohara by a combination of train and bus. The trip takes about 30 minutes from Demachiyanagi Station.

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