Ponta and O-Yen with two Hangyoku 1890s
Ponta and O-Yen (Oen) were two famous Shinbashi geisha. O-Yen (centre right - standing) was renowned throughout Japan for her Cherry Dance and Ponta (far left) was considered one of the most iki (stylish or chic) geisha of the 1890s. At the time this photograph was taken O-Yen was around twenty years old and Ponta was around seventeen.
Shinbashi geisha became the new elite during the Meiji period (1880s), overtaking the long established Yanagibashi as the most prestigious hanamachi (geisha district) in Tokyo. Favoured by Government officials and the nouveau riche, Shinbashi attracted women just as ambitious and ruthless as their clients. The novel “Rivalry” by Nagai Kafu, first published in 1918, gives an account of the convoluted politics and tangled social relationships that surrounded the Shinbashi hanamachi.