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70219-0023 - Japanese woman in a Kago, 1880s

Woman in Kago

Artist Unknown
Publisher Unknown
Medium Albumen Print
Period Meiji
Location Outside
Image No. 70219-0023
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Group portrait of an elegant Japanese woman in a kago (palanquin) carried by two bearers.

The bearers have traditional hairstyles and clothing and are holding ikizue (breath sticks) to regulate their breathing while walking. They are wearing straw sandals. A paper umbrella is placed on the roof, the common place to put the luggage of passengers.

A kago is a palanquin suspended by a single crossbeam which is carried by two men. A cushion was used to absorb shocks. The sides were usually left open, but could also be encased by screens. On this photograph, the straw screen has been rolled onto the roof. It may therefore be a shitekago, a type of kago made of four bamboo poles and braided bamboo sticks with a straw screen attached.

Many types existed for each social class and purpose. The shitekago was used by the general public. Completely encased palanquins also existed and were called koshi.

This form of transportation was very popular in Japan until it was replaced by the jinrikisha (rickshaw) in the late 19th century, which in its turn was replaced by the taxi.

30930-019 - Japanese taxis waiting at Ashiya Station, 2003
Japanese taxis waiting at Ashiya Station in Hyogo Prefecture, 2003.


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Reference for Citations

Duits, Kjeld (). 1880s: Woman in Kago, OLD PHOTOS of JAPAN. Retrieved on October 4, 2022 (GMT) from

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Thank you so much for being able to view these wonderful prints. I am putting together a blog on my walk on the Nakasendo Way and hope to use one or two with appropriate referencing to this site.



Hi Delwyn, many thanks for your nice words. Please fee free to use the snippets made available under “Blog This” on the permanent page of the article. By the way, I love the Nakasendo and visit whenever I can!


I can’t say I’m 100% sure but I think that the woman in kago is a prostitute. I’ve seen the same photo in a higher quality and you can see characteristic hair ornaments. Also clothes suggest that she is a prostitute.



I think you are right, Agata. After I wrote this I also saw this image in a better condition and it does look like she is a prostitute. I will see if I can buy this photo again, but better preserved.


I also compared this photo to another one. It seems that these are the same people, only the scene is different. Then you can 100% tell the woman is a prostitute – just look at those extreme clogs in the left corner of the photo.



Thanks. They do look very similar. Although the kago appears to be slightly different. It doesn’t have an umbrella on top either. I never saw that image before—it is very snap-like, I like it.


A similar kago is now displayed at the Boso-no-Mura open air museum near Narita, which is a worthwhile and interesting museum with a long street of old Japanese stores, some with activities such as baking rice cookies; a tea ceremony or if you want to be dressed in a Samurai harness or beautiful Kimono for women, this is the place.
Harty van Engelen, Canada