"It is not for Geisha to want. It is not for a Geisha to feel. Geisha is an artist of the floating world. She dances, she sings, she entertains you... What ever you want... the rest is shadows, the rest is secret. "
~Momoirs of a Geisha~
The word Geisha is derived from ‘Gei’, which in Japanese means performance or entertainer, and ‘sha’, which means person, and dates back 400 years ago to the 'Edo' period. During this time the Geisha entertained at banquets and social gatherings by playing a Japanese guitar (called a Shamisen), and singing and giving dance performances.
There are many misconceptions about the role of Geisha women. Geishas are not prostitutes, they do not prepare food, they never have one night stands, and they are not wives. There is a specific role Geisha women play in Japanese society. Geishas do have certain relationships with men. It is common and encouraged for Geisha to have a client called a "danna" in which Geisha’s are more personally engaged with emotionally and sexually. However, Geisha’s have the option to not have a danna. Generally, Geisha’s perform for business banquets or other such parties with their elite dancing and singing skills. "Tachikata" is a traditional dance performed often by Geishas. The intricate use of the fan is also favored amongst Geishas. This is a picture of a Geisha performing the "Tachikata" dance with a fan.
Many Geisha go through years of training in order to perfect the common and required talents performed for their future clients. Some of these talents include mastering the art of calligraphy, ancient dance, conversation, appropriate alcohol serving skills, singing, tea ceremonies, and wearing a kimono. The Shamisen, similar to the lute, is an instrument made out of red-wood and played with a plectrum (either wood or ivory). Geisha women also have to learn to play the instrument. Not only do Geishas have to be talented, but they have to exhibit the utmost class and charm when courting clients. Their success depends on their talents AND their etiquette and beauty. Prior to World War 2, there were a total of around 80,000 Geishas throughout Japan, and now the number have decreased to 10,000 because of Western ideals. These women in the picture are finishing a performance done at a banquet. Wearing kimonos and holding fans, they leave the stage
The training involved in becoming a Geisha is very rigorous, and because of this the numbers of Geisha are declining. Few young women in today's society are willing to devote themselves to such demanding training. To become a Geisha, if accepted, a young girl must go through an apprenticeship that involves living with a head Geisha. This training period takes five to six years. During this time, the Geisha trainee must help with the chores and the running of the house, learn customs and social skills, and take music and dance lessons. After about six months, the trainee Geisha is called a maiko girl, and accompanies a Geisha on her appointments in order to become acquainted with customers. At about age 20, the maiko must make the decision to become a full-fledged Geisha or not. If a girl wishes to marry she cannot become a Geisha.
Geishas often live near temples and shrines, in areas are called hana-machi. Geishas entertain visitors at teahouses called o-chaya that are located near these areas. The o-chaya is not a shop that serves only tea or coffee, but rather a sort of banquet hall where rooms can be rented for dinner parties. It is usually a small Japanese style house with tatami (wooden) floors and Japanese style gardens. O-chayas are often where young Geishas live and work.
The word Ko itten means a "touch of scarlet" in Japanese. The color red is considered to be a trademark of beauty. For Geishas, the term is used to show signs of affection. It is believed that the color red symbolizes fertility and sex; so many undergarments are red to ensure safe fertility and sexual desire. Also, the crimson undergarments are believed to protect women from having menstrual cramps, and to also guarantee healthy reproductive organs. In relation to Geishas, their kimonos are lined with red silk, and their lipstick, made from crimson flower petals, is a necessity in Geisha make-up. The woman in this picture is wearing dark red lipstick, which is a popular beauty trend among Geishas.
Today in Japanese hotels and restaurants Geisha entertain at banquets and socialize with guests. If you are staying at a hotel in Japan, you can arrange for a Geisha to attend a dinner party through the reservation desk. When you request a Geisha, it is important to be specific about what type of performance you want, because there are two different types of Geisha. One called 'tchikata' is usually a maiko girl and performs the traditional Japanese dance, and the other; usually an older Geisha is called 'jikata' and sings and plays an instrument. The costs for the services of a Geisha vary depending on the number the food, beverages, and the entertainment. The role of the Geisha in Japanese society is a source of much curiosity for tourists. To tap into that curiosity, visitors can go to shops where they can dress in traditional Geisha Kimonos, have Geisha make up applied and then have a souvenir photo taken.
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