When Ribble Valley residents hear the word ‘geisha’, their first thought is probably of kimonos, porcelain skin and elaborate Shimada ‘updos’.
However, a set of recently released photographs, taken during the Victorian and Edwardian eras, paints an altogether different picture of geisha society, with the traditional obi sash and kimono replaced by shorts and swimwear that would not look out of place on a modern beach.
The collection of hand-tinted pictures, compiled by photographer and history researcher Rob Oechsle, were taken during the Meija (1868 – 1912) and Taisho (1912 – 1926) eras. Regarded as the Japanese Golden Age, this was a time during which centuries of feudal oppression – underpinned by the dynastic rule of the Samurai – were swept away, replaced by a fairer democracy in which ordinary people could live how they wanted to. Up until then, houses had been sparsely furnished, but now people revelled in their freedom. Most of the Japanese pieces seen in the Ribble Valley – such as antique chests and lacquered cabinets – date from this period.
The Japanese also embraced the technological trend of photography. Postcards – especially of glamorous young women – were especially popular, and the country’s geisha and maiko (apprentice geisha) population meant photographers had an endless supply of poised, talented young women to choose from. The supermodels of their day, they can be seen in Vogue-like poses in Oechsle’s photographs. He said:
“From roughly the 1870s until the early 1920s, geisha pretty much owned the world of fashion and character modelling throughout the photo studios of Japan.”
Vintage photographs make an attractive display above an antique mahogany pedestal desk . Lancashire antique dealers often have a few hanging on their walls.
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