12 Gorgeous Color Photos Of Geisha In The Late 1800s

A glimpse at what is known as the geisha golden age — and the kimonos are absolutely striking.

These photos would have been taken during what is generally known as the golden age of geisha.
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School of Yokohama/Alinari via Getty Images

The literal translation of the word “geisha” is closer to the term “artist.” They’ve never been officially defined as prostitutes (and not all were sex workers), although that is the popular view that came to define them.

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School of Yokohama/Alinari via Getty Images

A geisha in traditional garb, circa 1890.

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Alinari/Alinari via Getty Images

This 1868 portrait shows off the obi — the sash portion of a kimono — which ties at back and can be styled in many different elaborate fashions.

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School of Yokohama/Alinari via Getty Images

Geisha trained to specialize in certain arts such as dance or music. Calligraphy was a rarer skill.
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School of Yokohama/Alinari via Getty Images

An 1885 shot of a geisha serving tea.

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School of Yokohama/Alinari via Getty Images

Not all geisha had sex with their clients; some were strictly entertainers.
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School of Yokohama/Alinari via Getty Images

A geisha poses with a koto, a harp-like traditional instrument.

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School of Yokohama/Alinari via Getty Images

Geisha were carefully trained in the art of the tea ceremony, serving, and entertaining.

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Unidentified Author/Alinari via Getty Images

1885: A geisha plays the shamisen, a three-stringed instrument.

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School of Yokohama/Alinari via Getty Images

Because their hairstyles could be so elaborate (and were meant to last for several days), geisha slept with head rests to keep their hair from touching anything.
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School of Yokohama/Alinari via Getty Images

Geisha had to stick to strict rules when it came to their appearance.
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Unidentified Author/Alinari via Getty Images

Geishas playing Hanetuki — essentially Japanese badminton.

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