Yoshino Tayu (a courtesan of the highest rank) (吉野太夫)

Yoshino Tayu II (April 10, 1606 - October 7, 1643) was a Tayu of Shimabara (later moved to Shimabara), who was said to have been born near the Hoko-ji Temple in Kyoto, and her real name was Tokuko MATSUDA.

It is said that her real father was a samurai of the western province.

She was a leading figure of 'Shichininshu' (the seven girls) in Rokujo Misuji-machi. Together with Yugiri Tayu and Takano Tayu, she was called one of the Kanei Three Famous Geishas.

The anniversary of her death has been used as kigo (a season word) for haiku (Japanese seventeen-syllable poem).

As a child, she was taken in by the Hayashi family as Kamuro (a girl who takes care of prostitutes), and her Kamuro name was Rinya. She became Tayu at the age of fourteen. In addition to koto (Japanese traditional zither), biwa (a Japanese lute), and sho (a traditional Japanese wind instrument resembling panpipes), she was good at waka, renga (linked verse), and haikai (or haiku), and is said to have mastered calligraphy, the tea ceremony, the incense ceremony, flower arrangement, kaiawase (a Heian period game which involved pairing the two parts of clamshells), the game of Go, and sugoroku (a Japanese backgammon).

Having both wit and beauty, she was known not only throughout the country but also to distant Ming. Her regular customers were Chancellor Nobuhiro KONOE, a son of Emperor Goyozei and later adopted by Nobutada KONOE, Joeki HAIYA, a merchant and a man of culture in those days, and so on. In 1631, she retired from prostitution and got married with Shoeki. She was 26 years old.

She passed away in 1643, at the age of 38.

It is said that she became a believer in holy priest Nikkan, and contributed a vermilion-lacquered gate to the Josho-ji Temple (Kyoto City) in Takagamine (Kita Ward, Kyoto City). Tayu's grave is also located here. A memorial flower festival to reminisce about her is held on the third Sunday in April, and Tayu from Shimabara visit here offering flowers to the visitors.

[Original Japanese]