A tayuu (high class prostitute) from Shimabara in Kyoto. The area was the licensed prostitution district of Kyoto. Tayuu wore gorgeous costumes that grew ever more ostentatious during the Edo period (1603-1868).
The Tayuu hairstyle distinguishes them from Maiko and Geisha. It was called Hyogo and took hours to get done.
The hair in the front had large Bekkou and eight Kougai ornaments. The Ushiro-gami had six pieces of Mae-bira ornaments, Tome ornaments and Hana-kanzashi ornaments. The total could weigh as much as 3 kg (6.6 lbs).
Tayuu footwear was as outrageous as their hair. They wore high black-lacquered geta. While geta usually had only two teeth, Tayuu used geta with three teeth when they made their rounds on the streets. Walking incredibly slowly, and moving each foot in a round-about way, they were escorted by a bevy of people and attracted enormous attention (see print of a parade in Yoshiwara).
Practicing Tayuu have long since disappeared, but Shimabara counts four women who actively keep the Tayuu culture alive. One of them is Tsukasa Tayuu who tries very hard to revive the Shimabara culture.
Prostitution was widespread in Japan during the Edo period (1603-1868). In an attempt to control this, the Tokugawa shogunate designated special licensed prostitution districts (Keisei-machi). Some famous ones were Yoshiwara in Edo (est. 1617)1, Shinmachi in Osaka (est. 1624–1644)2 and Shimabara in Kyoto (est. 1640)3.
Shimabara lasted until 1958 (Showa 33) when a new law outlawed prostitution. Very little remains. The Oumon gate can still be seen and the former Shimabara teahouse Wachigaiya, established in the Genroku period (1688-1704), has remained open to serve as a museum of Tayuu culture. It has been designated a Cultural Asset. Another teahouse that survived is the Sumiya.
1 De Becker, J. E. (1899). The Nightless City or the History of the Yoshiwara Yukwaku. Max Nössler & Co.
2 Avery, Anne Louise (2006). Flowers of the Floating World: Geisha and Courtesans in Japanese Prints and Photographs, 1772–1926 (Sanders of Oxford Exhibition Catalogue)
3 Official city sign at gate of Shimabara, Kyoto