japanese courtesan

Hand colored photo of Three Tayuu, 1880s, Japan.

Historically, Tayuu (or tayū) were courtesans, first and foremost entertainers. However, they also acted as prostitutes. Within the pleasure quarters, courtesans’ prestige was based on their beauty, character, education, and artistic ability, rather than their birth. The highest rank of courtesan was the tayū (太夫). Unlike a common prostitute, the tayū had sufficient prestige to refuse clients.Her high status also made a tayū extremely pricey—a tayū’s fee for one evening was between one ryo and one ryo three bu, well beyond a laborer’s monthly wage and comparable to a shop assistant’s annual salary.

In 1761, the last tayū of the Yoshiwara retired, marking the end of the tayū and kōshi ranks in that pleasure quarter. Today, there are tayū who entertain as geisha do, no longer providing sex. However there are fewer than five tayū, in comparison to the three hundred geisha in Kyoto today.

Another interesting fact about this photograph is the style of clothing the women are wearing. The visual difference between a geisha or mako with tayū or other such prostitute was the way they wore their obi, or, the sash that held the kimono closed. Because they lived in a group home with other girls, women wore their obis tied at the back, since there was always someone to help them dress. However, because prostitutes would need to dress alone, they wore their obis tied closed at the front, in order for easy removal and redressing. Foreigners would not see the difference, but native Japanese would know the difference between the entertainers.

“A very similar carte-de-visite identifies the woman seated on the left as Kayo, who was a popular geiko (geisha) in the Gion district of Kyoto during the 1870s. She and another geiko are both dressed as kago-ya (palanquin bearers), with a kamuro (child attendant for a Tayuu or Japanese Courtesan) sitting in the middle.”  Text and image via Blue Ruin 1 on Flickr

Something kinda disturbing in Ace Attorney: Spirit of Justice that I feel the need to talk about

Not something I usually talk about I know, but there’s a certain character in case 4 I think, the one about Rakugo stuff (spoilers btw if you havent played it and care about the ace attorney series lol) that just.

has so many disturbing implications and when playing it with my boyfriend I got Very Upset about it cuz the actual reveal was very sudden and all like all the stuff before suddenly made sense to me all at once and i was like oh god and now I feel the need to make a post about it to be like I’m not the only one who noticed this right???

but basically warning for talking about disturbing content like severe child abuse and multiple personality disorder and sexual abuse esp so if those things upset you just warning there in here

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A silk-faced oiran doll. Oiran were Edo Period courtesans (and unfortunately, often indentured servants from impoverished families) who were trained in traditional Japanese arts, such as playing koto (a harp-like Japanese instrument), calligraphy, and the tea ceremony. They dressed in colorful, multilayered kimonos, brocade obis tied in front, and elaborate hairstyles with numerous hair ornaments. The most successful oiran were regarded as celebrities and were often the subjects of woodblock prints.

Kikunoi-dayuu (1) 1920s. Tayuu (Japanese courtesan) Kikunoi of the Shimabara pleasure district in Kyoto. Her name 菊の井大夫 (Kikunoi-dayuu) is written on the reverse. Text and image via Blue Ruin 1 on Flickr


Japanese Samurai And Courtesans Brought To Life In Vivid, Colorized Photos

In Japan, the color red has varied meanings, depending on its shade. On the country’s flag, a bold, red circle depicts the vivacity of the sun; on clothing and makeup worn by women beginning in the Heian period, a deep red dye made from safflower denoted rank.

See the Samurai photos here. 

All photos by Felice Beato, courtesy of Galerie Verdeau, Paris and The London Photograph Fair