Behind the Story of “Blood and Tears” – Yaba Onna

Behind the Story of “Blood and Tears” – Yaba Onna

June 12, 2018 Behind the Story Blog Blood and Tears History Japan Social Fiction 0

矢場女 Yaba Onna
Source: National Diet Library

In Episode 2, Usaburo informs O-Bun that a yaba onna is not the type service worker she had in mind.

yaba = archery range          onna = woman

“Yaba” refers to a gaming facility that uses miniature bows and arrows, and paper-covered targets. Customers try to win prizes by hitting the bullseye. Many also offered refreshments, such as sake, tea and snack. A modern day equivalent would be a bowling alley.

During the Edo period, these archery ranges were often the public front for a low-priced brothels. A yaba onna was understood to be a prostitute.

This woodcut provides several visual clues about this yaba onna’s true role. Her clothing is disheveled—showing gaping front lapels and a disarrayed obi sash. Her invisible client is hinted at by the sword lying askew on the floor. And lastly, we notice she is holding a number of “spent arrows.”

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