Geisha with flower, c. 1910.

1910sArts & CultureGeisha/Maiko/Onnanoko
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“In the country of Japan, an island nation in East Asia, there are special districts, known as karyukai, that are dedicated to the enjoyment of aesthetic pleasure. These are the communities where the professionally trained female artists known as geisha live and work.

Karyukai means ‘the flower and willow world.’ Each geisha is like a flower, beautiful in her own way, and like a willow tree, gracious, flexible and strong.”

Geisha: A Life, by Mineko Iwasaki, 2002

Geisha with flower, c. 1910.

“Outsiders walk the same streets but see only nondescript houses, shops and passerby. But those in the know can tell which of the anonymous houses are geisha houses and which of the ordinary-looking women blossom into geisha at night.

“Its inhabitants call it the ‘flower-and-willow world’. In the past courtesans in their lavish silks and brocades were the ‘flowers’. The chic geisha in their stylish but subtle kimonos were ‘willows’, trained to be graceful and pliant but strong of spirit, like a willow tree. Nowadays the courtesans have disappeared but there are still geisha for those who know where to look.”

Madame Sadayakko: The Geisha who Bewitched the West, by Lesley Downer, 2004

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