I could easily spend many hours looking through the photostream of Flickr user Okinawa Soba. He has posted hundreds of interesting photos of the 19th and early 20th century life in Japan, China, America, and Africa. His comments are pretty insightful as well.
Here are three I quickly picked out from old Japan – click to embiggen.
Taken from his SWIMSUIT GIRLS of OLD JAPAN set, this photo is of the popular geisha, Miss Koman.
In 1904, out of thousands of Geisha in the Tokyo area, she was considered by Japanese writer and poet YONE NOGUCHI to be one of the top five in popularity, commanding top price to entertain you, and having legions of adoring fans who could only hope to catch a glimpse of her.
From his PROSTITUTES of Old Japan set, this circa 1890-1900 image shows caged prostitutes and a prospective customer. If the customer finds a prostitute he is interested in, he will light his pipe and pass it through the bars to her. She takes a puff as a sign of acceptance and passes the pipe back through the bars to seal the deal.
Lifted of his SAMURAI, SWORDS, and ARMOR set, this image shows three samurai posing, and yes the one in the middle has a tail. Why? Perhaps he is gay. Apparently the real Samurai held GAY LOVE in high esteem, and encouraged it saying it was considered beneficial for the youth, teaching him virtue, honesty, and the appreciation of beauty.
……..Shudō is the Japanese tradition of age-structured homosexuality prevalent in samurai society from the medieval period until the end of the 19th century. The word is an abbreviation of wakashudō (若衆道), “the way of the young” or more precisely, “the way of young (若 waka) men (衆 shū)”. The “dō” (道) is related to the Chinese word tao, considered to be a structured discipline and body of knowledge, as well as a path to awakening.
See many, many more photos on Okinawa Soba photostream.