Vintage postcards are a wonderful record of past traditions, clothing and lifestyles and this Japanese card from the early 1900s is a perfect example. It pictures two geisha playing Japanese instruments – the girl in the blue kimono is playing the shamisen, a three-string lute with a fretless fingerboard, whilst the other is playing a koto, the national instrument of Japan and one of the traditional instruments played by geisha. During the previous century the traditional woodblock print had been the most popular medium for contemporary Japanese images, but by the early years of the twentieth century millions of postcards were produced for Japanese and foreign collectors, featuring images that recorded the rapidly changing Japanese society. Postcard collection in the country enjoyed enormous popularity during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904 - 1905, when the government issued and sold picture postcards to promote the war effort.
I found this lovely example of a hand-tinted collotype postcard on a Roman market stall recently. The card is uncirculated, so cannot be precisely dated, but the undivided back, and vignetted image with space for a message on the front of the card, rather than the back, puts it sometime between 1900 when a revision of the postal act allowed private (non-governmental) postcards to be published, and 1907 when the first divided back postcards (allowing for both address and message on the reverse of the card) were introduced in Japan.
|Reverse of postcard|
Whilst researching this post I came across this video of the instruments in use (or or click here to watch on YouTube).
Check out the Vintage Postcard Store for more Geisha postcards
Find more vintage postcards over at Beth's postcard blog The Best Hearts are Crunchy and join other collectors on Postcard Friendship Friday.