THE REAL HAIR OF A REAL GEISHA – A Raven-Haired Rapunzel of Japan Shows What Happens When You Wash Out the Famous Geisha Hair-do ! (by Okinawa Soba)

Ca.1905 image from a half-stereoview by Herbert G. Ponting. This scan taken from a 1910 half-tone print. See the photographer enjoying the company of Geisha Girls in this old photo:

Geisha Koyakko 1920s (by Blue Ruin1)

Koyakko (小奴) was a talented dancer in the Shinbashi geisha district of Tokyo. After the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 she succeeded to the professional name of Hanayagi Sumi (花柳寿美) and went on to modernize traditional dance-drama. A motion picture was later made of her career.


“What fascinates me most of all, however, is that green, iridescent lipstick, so rarely used today even by Kyôto geisha. One can guess nothing of its power unless one imagines it in the low, unsteady light of a candle. The woman of old was made to hide the red of her mouth under green-black lipstick, to put shimmering ornaments in her hair; and so the last trace of color was taken from her rich skin. I know of nothing whiter than the face of a young girl in the wavering shadow of a lantern, her teeth now and then as she smiles shining a lacquered black through lips like elfin fires.”

Tanizaki Jun’ichirô, from his essay, In Praise of Shadows (from this free PDF)

Tanizaki is speaking of komachi beni 小町紅, a special type of lip coloring which is a dark, iridescent green when dry and turns red when applied with a wet brush. The color can be layered up from a sheer pink to juicy crimson. Sasabeni 笹紅 is the practice of painting several layers on the lower lip until it dries the original shimmering sasa (bamboo grass) green color. Check out the video below to see how komachi beni is made. 

And if you love makeup/beauty history, check out this great slideshow from The Museum of Beni here to learn even more! You can purchase komachi beni here and other places online.

(Gion Seitoku art Source; photo 2 Source; photo 3 Source, from an NHK program)  


輪違屋 紅葉の間
Wachigai-ya: The Maple Room

Some details of the Momiji no Ma in the Wachigaiya teahouse, the last true tayû house. In 2011, the Sakan plaster company owned by Kusumi Naoki did some traditional restoration work on the ozashiki room, which is constructed with actual maple leaves pressed into the wall. In true Japanese artistic fashion, Kusumi-san says they measured the positions of the existing leaves down to the millimeter and did their best to select new leaves to match. Each leaf is perfect in size, shape, and color, placed just so to give the delicate illusion of dancing on a crisp autumn wind. 

(photo 1 Source ; photos 2-5 from the Sakan website)


Aichi Geisha (via  『一駒』 裏方人?のブログ)

From left to right: Ichiha, Komako, Ibu - from Ichikoma Okiya, Anjo (Aichi prefecture)

  • The Geisha on the right is Eve (Ibu/一舞), a real blonde geisha. Her onesan is Ichiha. Eve is originally from the Ukraine and, according to her okaa-san, is quite dedicated to learning the arts. (text source)

(image sources: 1-2-3-4)

Related post: Komako apprears on this documentary (you can see how she started her own okiya, among other stories)

an artistic moment of serenity with this generation’s most famous maiko, Mamefuji まめ藤 of Gion Kobu, Kyoto.
(photo source: ta_ta999 blog)

To me she is the Marilyn Monroe of geimaiko! Her beauty is undeniable, and her determination to be the best is formidable.

Farewell, Mamefuji
a Last Shot by photographer ta_ta999.

Every detail is beautiful and touched with melancholy. Her fuji (wisteria) colored kimono with the auspicious crane - a symbol of longevity - in the details of her obiage… her kago bag is patterned with fuji blossoms and covered in so many omamori (lucky charms). Sakura, the symbol of life’s ephemeral beauty, weep softly over her wistful face. The outside world continues turning behind her.

It was true after all, she is indeed retiring. You can see candid shots of her at the Hôgoku Matsuri closing the Miyako Odori today, May 1st, here. She entered the karyûkai on her birthday, Dec 1, 2013; with her charming beauty, artistic grace, and sensual, dynamic personality she quickly became the crown jewel of Kyôto’s maiko… She will be remembered for a long time.

I don’t want to pry into her life about the reasons for leaving, so let’s keep in the spirit of geiko propriety and pray for her future happiness. She is from Kumamoto, which was hit with a series of destructive earthquakes on April 16, and will be returning home to her family.
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