In 1868, Meiji Emperor ascended the throne and the shogunate era went to its end. Geisha in Japan entered their Golden Age. In the 1930s, before WW2, is the heyday of the Japan geisha. The number of the geisha arrived around 2 million 5 thousand. However, by this time, Fukagawa had already nearly disappeared as a geisha district. There’s several reasons that Fukagawa geisha district went to decline.
Firstly, between 1841 and 1843, the shogunate government held a great clean-ups towards the chic anti-established women of Fukagawa. Those women were gathered together by the anti-vice police and ordered to leave and move to official, licensed red light district like Yoshiwara or directly changed their jobs. And this action kind of destroyed the Fukagawa Geisha district. Additionally, because the lumber industry started to change their delivery method from boats to trucks, the business didn’t need to cross through Fukagawa. It no longer was an essential part of the business which used to occupy a huge proportion of Fukagawa economics. Moreover, even before the coming of the Meiji government, because of the early reformers, the Fukagawa district was changed into an industrialized zone which means this area was less attractive to clients who used to come to Fukagawa for Geisha.
Geisha’s decline also related to WW2 that when war between Japan and America started, all people including geisha population had to go and work in factories across Japan since there was no enough resources for surviving. Most of them were closed at that time. In the end, Japan surrendered. Although those geisha houses opened again, the reputation of geisha began to crumble when prostitutes began referring themselves as “geisha” to attract American military which brought misunderstanding. Under both Western culture and new Japanese culture, Geisha declined.
Downer, L. (2002). Women of the pleasure quarters: the secret history of the geisha. New York: Broadway Books.