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Pictures of Japanese Geisha

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Two Geishas, 1777
Late 18th century geisha in beautiful kimonos

This 1777 woodblock print shows two geisha in elaborate silk kimonos, one carrying a wooden box that may contain a musical instrument.

By Kitao Shigemasa / Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Collection

This print shows two Japanese geishas in beautiful layered silk kimonos. Created in 1777, the woodblock print captures the early emergence of the geisha in Japan; the first woman to call herself a geisha worked in Fukagawa just twenty years before this print was made.

During this time, Tokugawa Japan had been at peace for well over a century. Bored samurai and increasingly wealthy merchants sought to while away their time by enjoying the company of beautiful and talented women, such as these geisha. The geishas' quarters were called the "flower and willow world," because a geisha was beautiful like a flower but tough and resilient like a willow wand.

The flower and willow world was part of a larger Tokugawa world of entertainment and ennui, called ukiyo. Ukiyo, or the "floating world," was an escape for samurai and merchants who were trapped within the strict confines of the Tokugawa shogunate's four-tiered class system.

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