Thursday, February 11, 2010
Geishas of Japan
Geisha (芸者), sometimes pronounced Geiko is a Japanese entertainer and artist. The word Geisha do literately mean "artist person".
The task of a Geisha is to entertain guests in different social gatherings, often in tea houses (Ocha ya). She must master singing, dancing, playing instruments, and perform the tea ceremony, write calligraphy, hold conversation. The Geisha is most often dressed in traditional Kimono.
The Geisha tradition originates from taikomochiand hōkan. In the beginning all Geishas were men, but today only a hand full of these men remains. The men are still referred to as taikomochi. Previously many children were sold into become a Geisha in order to give the family an extra income. This practise is now illegal.
The most well known Geisha areas, so called hanamachi (flower town) are found in Kyoto. At present there are five of these hanamachis in Kyoto. The largest and most known is Gion, where many internationally known geishas have lived and worked, for example Mineko Iwasaki.
Make up. In the beginning of a maikos career a heavy white make is worn all the time. As a young maiko her elder sister assists but as she gets older she have to learn herself. To put on the make up is a very time consuming process which also have to be done before the kimono is put on in order not to get make on it. At last the lips are painted.
Geishas and prostitution. One should know that geishas never sell sexual favours. This is a common misconception in the western world. This misconception gained momentum after WWII when American soldiers came home with stories of what they called Gee-sha Girls. These Gee-sha Girls were probably only common prostitutes dressed as geishas to attract customers, especially foreign customers.