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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Understanding the Details, Historical past & Myths

Have you ever ever had the prospect to observe the film: ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’? Or at the very least learn the e book? I’ve completed each at a younger age and I immediately fell in love with Japan’s geisha as I witnessed their distinctive magnificence, grace, and self-discipline. The truth is, ever since then, I’ve been deeply enamored by their mystifying world — which, fortunately, has nonetheless survived as much as today!

I say ‘survived’ as a result of I used to be additionally within the samurai (Japan’s olden warriors who sometimes serve a feudal lord or daimyo). I badly wished to witness their noble lifestyle; nevertheless, it stumbled upon the upsetting incontrovertible fact that they now not exist.
Apparently, their social class has died down across the late 1800s after the emperor favored a contemporary western-style military. At this time, there could also be descendants and individuals who nonetheless attempt to apply samurai swordsmanship, BUT it’s not the identical given how the entire samurai way of life and system are non-existent anymore.

The geisha custom just isn’t as previous because the samurai but it surely IS previous and I have to say… I’ve developed some form of delicate worry that they may ultimately disappear too — which I hope to goodness, they received’t. This fear of mine makes a little bit of sense as a result of there aren’t that lots of them anymore. To place it into numbers, again within the Twenties geishas numbered round 80,000. The present quantity? It’s now estimated to be only one,000 to 2,000! Due to this, I’ve truly made ‘assembly or seeing a legit geisha‘ as an merchandise on the very high of my bucket record.

Fortunately, I’ve already made that dream come true from a number of the many journeys I’ve completed to Japan! As an example, I talked to a geisha in Tokyo and Kyoto over a dinner banquet, I performed video games with 2 younger senior maiko in Niigata, I caught sight of a reputable maiko (who was on her technique to work) in one among Kyoto’s slender alleys, and I even watched two younger Japanese maikos carry out in Gion Nook amongst many others.

I undoubtedly really feel fortunate for having the prospect to bear these breathtaking experiences, and now that I’ve met and seen them, my want for his or her practices to proceed for eternity has been strengthened much more! Additionally it is my want that extra folks would get to know their custom — and the actual one at that.

I say this as a result of there’s a LOT of misunderstandings in regards to the geisha career. The truth is, ‘Memoirs of a Geishais a first-rate instance of this! Because it was made in Hollywood, it certainly had a number of facets that have been false (if not overly romanticized) thereby contributing to the already rising misconceptions of the tradition. Due to my discussions with a number of geishas, in addition to to my lengthy analysis sprees, I’ve come to be taught MORE of the reality.

At this time, I will likely be imparting that information with you in order that you can also be cleared of any misconceptions that you will have about them.

~ Topmost picture from Shutterstock

Geisha Details

» What’s a Geisha?

A geisha, which interprets to English as “performing artist” or “artisan”, is a high-class skilled and conventional feminine entertainer in Japan skilled in varied types of artwork. Within the west of Japan reminiscent of in Kyoto, they use one other title which is geiko. Whereas within the Kanto space (round Tokyo), they name them geigi. For Tokyo and different locations, they only generally use the phrase geisha.

For the sake of consistency on this article, I’ll use the phrase geisha. Apart from, it’s a well known time period that’s used to embody each that of western Japan’s geiko/geigi and Tokyo’s geisha.

Geishas are normally employed to take care of visitors (who’re predominantly and historically male) throughout banquets, meals, events, and different events as they display their expertise by varied methods reminiscent of dancing to a tune performed with a shamisen (a Japanese stringed instrument), initiating video games, doing the artwork of dialog, and extra.

For these affairs, they meet up with their visitors at an ochaya* (tea home) or at a ryōtei (conventional Japanese restaurant) and cost their clients by the hour with flat charges.

Ochaya are extremely unique locations that usually solely grant entry to common or trusted clients. That is primarily due to how they function: they don’t invoice their visitors on the finish of the night, however slightly as soon as a month for all of the bills accrued.

That being stated, there’s a particular stage of belief concerned. As an example, not nearly anybody can go as much as an ochaya with out being launched to it first by an already present buyer (and that present buyer would basically threat their repute by trusting the habits of the individual that they’re introducing to the ochaya). Going by this practice of thought, hiring a geisha to have a dinner banquet with just isn’t straightforward particularly in case you’re not Japanese and never well-connected, as it’s unique AND costly.

Happily, most ochaya have lessened their restrictions up to now years, and vacationers can now have a geisha dinner in the event that they undergo partnered journey companies and inns. Nevertheless, you’ll nonetheless want to arrange a substantial funds for this as a result of a full dinner will be price round 50,000 yen and up ($470~ or Php 22,500~) per geisha or maiko. This does NOT embrace dinner but which begins at 10,000 yen ($95~ or Php 4,500~), in addition to an interpreter in case you don’t know how you can communicate Japanese (since geishas and maikos don’t practice in English dialog).

Wish to meet with a geisha?

Come and take a look at these encounters and/or dinner actions that you are able to do both in Nagoya or Tokyo! (English translators included).

TRIVIA: Some folks will say that it’s a ‘waste’ of cash to have a geisha dinner in case you don’t communicate Japanese — the magic of all of it could stop to exist! They are saying that it’s because you’ll be lacking out on one among their finest abilities: dialog or witty banter.

Regardless of the case, that is all as much as you in fact! The best way I see it, it’d certainly be a waste of cash, BUT I don’t assume it’s a foul concept to do it anyway and get an interpreter (higher but, drag alongside your Japanese good friend). And in case you’re up for it, there are additionally already a couple of skilled and acknowledged foreigner geisha in Japan who can communicate English. I went by this expertise myself and I loved it a lot! (To be taught extra about these trendy foreigner geishas, go right here).

Why are geisha costly to e book?!

To start with, not solely is their coaching lengthy, meticulous, and expensive (which they should slowly pay again to their okiya or geisha home), however their complete apparel (handmade kimono that are designed only for them) are expensive too — it could begin at $10,000!

» What Is a Maiko?

A maiko, which interprets to English as “dancing youngster”, is an apprentice geisha.

Traditionally, a maiko begins her coaching at a younger age of round 3 or 5 years previous. However now, their coaching begins at a a lot later date. In Kyoto, they begin at 15 or 16, and in Tokyo, they begin at 18.

However, any woman who needs to enter the group doesn’t have to start as a maiko as a result of it’s stated that they’ll already proceed to be a geisha. Nonetheless and the identical, they’re required to do at the very least a 12 months’s price of coaching earlier than debuting as a full-fledged geisha. For ladies who’re aged 21 to 23 and above, they’re deemed to be too previous to develop into maikos in order that they already develop into a geisha once they get accepted to the group — once more, nonetheless with coaching beforehand.

In Tokyo, maikos are known as as hangyoku (“half jewel”) they usually can stay to be so till they’re 23. For the sake of consistency on this article, I’ll use the phrase maiko.

Historical past of Geisha

» The First Geisha

Geishas began to look within the pleasure quarters of Japan earlier than the flip of the 18th century — however one fascinating incontrovertible fact that you could know is that the primary geishas have been truly males, known as taikomochi (drum or taiko-bearer, although not all of them used this Japanese drum) or hōkan (jester).

These male geishas principally began as ‘jesters’. They attended to daimyo (feudal lords) within the thirteenth century and supplied leisure, if not assist advise their lord about navy methods. Within the sixteenth century, they grew to become storytellers (otogishu or hanashishu) and even battled alongside their lord at occasions. When peace started within the seventeenth century, they slightly needed to change their function to being pure entertainers.

The primary feminine geisha (onna) appeared round 1751 and she or he was known as a geiko (which now stays to be the time period for geisha in Kyoto). Finally, teenage odoriko who have been expensively-trained “dancing women” or dancers-for-hire began to look as properly.

By the top of the 18th century, feminine geisha outnumbered the males and the latter’s roles have as soon as once more modified — this time round, as assistants to the ladies throughout events. As time handed additional on, being a geisha was primarily thought to be a feminine occupation. It grew to become so widespread that loads of them began to work primarily as entertainers. Anybody who was promoting intercourse (which was in opposition to their supposed sort of work) have been imprisoned with a view to shield the oiran who have been licensed high-class courtesans or prostitutes at the moment.

At this time, there are solely about 8 taikomochi in Japan — 4 in Tokyo, 1 in Kyoto, and the remainder are scattered across the nation.

UPDATE: I used to be advised that as of 2012, there exists a working geisha who additionally owns an ‘okiya’ and he’s male! His title is Eitaro, dubbed as Japan’s solely male geisha who performs as a feminine dancer, and he’s present in Tokyo’s Omori district.

When World Battle II started, geishas began to say no. They needed to shut their okiya (geisha homes) and the teahouses, in addition to bars, needed to shut store as properly. Consequently, they went to different locations in Japan for security or for work (reminiscent of in factories, and many others.). It didn’t assist both that some prostitutes began to check with themselves as “geisha women” to American navy males.

Nonetheless, when the warfare ended, the returning geishas made it some extent to reinstate their conventional requirements as highly-skilled entertainers, and on the identical time, they proposed elevated rights for his or her career.

» Is an Oiran a Geisha?

By no means! As I’ve beforehand talked about, the geishas set themselves other than oirans who have been high-ranking courtesans.

In Japanese historical past, courtesans have totally different ranks and oiran have been thought-about increased in standing than the frequent prostitutes often known as yūjo (lady of enjoyment). The oiran have been even identified for his or her exclusivity as they serviced higher clientele at exorbitant costs; in any case, even when they have been engaged in prostitution, they have been extremely expert in varied conventional arts. The truth is, the highest-ranking oiran even has a say within the clients that they need to soak up.

In 1800, nevertheless, the oiran slowly fell out of demand when rich Japanese males and retailers began to favor geishas as their companion of alternative as a consequence of their ‘stylish’ and trendy demeanor..

Merely put: the rise of the geisha was the autumn of the oiran.

The numbers of oiran steadily declined after which vanished when Japan outlawed prostitution in 1956. At this time, there are solely oiran “reenactors” who proceed to carry out in Japan (principally in Kyoto) — however they don’t present courtesan providers, they principally do reveals and parades often known as oiran dōchū.

Left & center picture by: Japanexperterna / CC | Proper picture by: Keisuke Makino / CC

At this time’s Geisha

» Present quantity

The geisha custom is dwindling as a consequence of its exclusivity, costly value, and conventional type; nonetheless, it’s in Kyoto the place it stays to be the strongest as we speak. Kyoto can be the top space the place assembly geishas stays to be the most effective and most prestigious in its 5 hanamachi (geisha districts or “flower cities”), particularly: Gion Kōbu, Ponto-chō, Kamishichiken, Gion Higashi, and Miyagawa-chō.

If we now have to place it into numbers, as I’ve beforehand talked about, there solely about 1,000 to 2,000 geisha now, and they’re present in a number of cities throughout Japan — Kyoto, Tokyo (with well-known hanamachi of Shimbashi, Asakusa, and Kagurazaka) and Kanazawa. It’s stated that there are about 300 in Kyoto — however the actual numbers there in addition to in different areas are unknown to us outsiders.

Talking of hanamachi, these are locations which can be usually known as the ‘flower and willow world’ (karyukai). On condition that they’re speckled with okiya and ochaya institutions which can be owned and run by ladies, all the facility is held by females. Males in these districts are slightly primarily artisans, dressers, or wig makers. If I’ll add, youngsters who’re women are additionally most well-liked in order that they’ll later tackle the enterprise — curiously sufficient, it is a trait that’s in distinction to the remainder of Japan.

» Foreigner or Non-Japanese Geisha

As a way to sustain with the occasions, some okiya have been accepting overseas nationals as geishas. Thus far there are just a few of them which have been admitted and beneath are their Japanese names. (Information beneath is as of 2016.)

  1. Ibu — Debuted in Anjō of Aichi Prefecture within the Ichikoma okiya on October 5, 2010
    • Eve is initially from Ukraine [Retired ~ source]
  2. Juri — Debuted within the resort city of Yugawara in Kanagawa prefecture
    • Maria is initially from Peru [Unsure if still working or retired ~ source]
  3. Fukutarō — Debuted in Izu-Nagaoka district of Shizuoka Prefecture in 2011
    • Isabella Onou is initially from Romania [Retired ~ source]
  4. Sayuki — Debuted in Asakusa district of Tokyo in 2007 and have become the primary registered overseas geisha in Japan. In 2011, she has been disassociated with the Asakusa Geisha Affiliation and has since labored independently in Fukugawa district.
    • Fiona Graham is initially from Australia [Working ~ source]
  5. Rinka — Debuted in Shimoda of Shizuoka Prefecture on September 2011
    • Zhang Xue is initially from China [Unsure if still working or retired ~ source]
  6. Mutsuki — Debuted in Shinagawa district of Tokyo
    • Yixin is initially from China [Working ~ source]
  7. Kimicho — Debuted in Oimachi district of Shinagawa, Tokyo on August 2015
    • Sydney Stephens is initially from America [Retired in 2017 due to personal reasons ~ source]

I had the pleasure of assembly and speaking to Kimicho! Learn in regards to the interview right here.

You’ll not see foreigner or non- Japanese geishas admitted (but) in Kyoto since they nonetheless stay to be strictly conventional. However, it’s nice to see that the remainder of Japan is slowly opening its geisha custom to others who love the tradition, even when they don’t seem to be of Japanese descent!

High Myths

1 MYTH: Geishas are prostitutes.
TRUTH: Geishas are NOT prostitutes.
They’re and at all times will likely be highly-skilled entertainers. It helps to notice as properly that prostitution is prohibited in Japan ever since 1956. Plus, though there have been a few of them within the olden occasions who provided intercourse to their purchasers, it helps to notice that it was NOT part of their true conventional operate or coaching — name them rebels if you’ll, they usually would possibly simply be so since as I’ve mentioned beforehand, a geisha is imprisoned up to now ought to they ever supply intercourse to others casually (additionally as a technique to shield the oiran).

In fact, a geisha is free to pursue private relationships with any man that she meets by work; however such would almost definitely by no means be informal nor will it ever be her objective for such an interplay. They stay in a geisha district (hanamachi) which is a really closely-knit group, and given how tremendously they worth their repute, they might at all times decide their relationships rigorously. Ought to they ever fall in love and need to marry, then generally they have to retire as a result of geishas (most particularly in Kyoto) are anticipated to be single. However, there at the moment are loads of locations in Japan like Tokyo that enable married, divorced, and/or ladies with youngsters to develop into geishas.

2 MYTH: Geishas have private relationships with a patron or danna.
TRUTH: That is NOT true as we speak.
It might have been a practice up to now for them to take a danna or a patron who was rich sufficient to assist the bills associated to her coaching and different prices with a view to have a private relationship in return (which was not inherently sexual). However as we speak, it is rather uncommon for a geisha to have a private relationship with a danna, and will they ever have one (which is uncommon as a result of most of them like to be autonomous now), it’s primarily due to the patron’s want to assist extend the geisha arts and traditions — nothing extra. Once more, a geisha and her danna can fall in love however intimacy isn’t seen as an change for the danna’s monetary assist.

3 MYTH: Younger women are bought to okiya (geisha homes) by their dad and mom due to poverty.
TRUTH: It might have occurred manner up to now, however these days, NO.
At this time, there are not any younger women bought to an okiya as a consequence of poverty; in any case, it’s extra of a private profession alternative with a view to develop into one. The truth is, loads of women have to steer their dad and mom as we speak with a view to allow them to develop into a maiko/geisha. As soon as a lady’s dad and mom consent to it, she must be interviewed first by the affiliation in addition to the feminine house owners of the okiya (geisha home) earlier than being accepted.

4 MYTH: Geishas are led by males and cash (as portrayed within the film: Memoirs of a Geisha).
TRUTH: That is NOT true.
It helps to at all times keep in mind that the film was primarily fictional and set to be ‘sellable’ to audiences. (Properly, hey Hollywood!). Being a geisha is like being an artist or a performer — it’s a decent career. And very similar to any profession you pursue in life that you’re obsessed with, you do it since you find it irresistible whereas additionally incomes your dwelling from it. They don’t go round chasing after males both; it simply so occurs that the folks that they current their artwork and performances to are predominantly males.

5 MYTH: Maiko goes by mizuage whereby a patron would pay to take their virginity. (As additionally seen in ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’).
TRUTH: Nope, by no means!
This sort of mizuage was truly a ceremony completed by younger courtesans and prostitutes up to now — NOT by maikos. Although there are speculations that this mizuage (taking of the virginity) was completed by some maikos up to now, what’s necessary to recollect is that that is NOT completed as we speak nor was it ever historically accepted to be completed by geishas for his or her maikos. The one sort of mizuage that maikos have completed was a ceremony whereby older geishas would symbolically reduce the topknot of the maiko’s hair to indicate her coming of age (of changing into an grownup).

Methods to Change into a Geisha

Coaching to develop into a geisha through which you begin as a maiko begins at 15 or 16 in Kyoto and 18 in Tokyo (up to now, it began at 3 – 5 years previous). Nowadays, women should have at the very least graduated from center faculty (besides Kyoto who has particular legal guidelines for it) earlier than they’ll make the choice to coach as a maiko and ultimately develop into a geisha.

Nevertheless, it’s extra frequent for younger Japanese ladies to begin coaching after highschool or faculty, and much more would start later. If they’re above 21 to 23, they’ll already begin as a geisha (with a 12 months’s coaching) since they’re too previous to be a maiko. Having stated that, one doesn’t have to begin as a maiko since they’ll already begin to practice as a geisha — however in fact, the attract of the general complete coaching course of as you progress from a maiko to a full-fledged geisha will be fairly an expertise. It could actually additionally add extra to 1’s hype or repute locally.

So with a view to develop into a geisha, when you attain the age requirement, you or your mum or dad must contact, for instance, Ookini Zaidan or the guild for all of Kyoto’s hanamachi companies. It’s essential to fulfill their different fundamental necessities, particularly: you could not be taller than 160cm, you’re at the very least 43kg in weight, are keen to coach within the conventional arts for years with out contact with your loved ones, and many others. As soon as they think about you an excellent candidate, they’ll ship out your profile to okiya homes that may be all for coaching you.

NOTE: An okiya will shoulder all of your bills for meals, coaching, garments, and many others. as soon as you’re accepted by them. From that time onward, you’re bonded by a contract, and while you begin working, you may slowly repay these money owed.

In case you are non-Japanese, Kyoto is a tough atmosphere to crack in so that you’re higher off making use of to different locations like Tokyo. If not making use of to an okiya your self, it is going to be loads higher if you realize somebody who can introduce you to an okasan or a mom of an okiya/geisha home. Talking of which, do NOT attempt to apply in case you don’t know the Japanese language but; in any other case, completely no okiya will take you!

» Maiko Coaching

Pictures by: My Kyoto Photograph / CC

There are a number of phases to bear in case you first practice as a maiko. To start with, the stage of…

Shikomi. As you’re taken in, you’ll first be thought to be a shikomi or somebody who principally works as a helper for the okiya as you do errands, assist different geishas and maikos costume up, and many others. Throughout this stage, you’re additionally slowly being skilled into the approach to life. Instance: you’ll be taught to regulate to carrying a conventional yukata as regular clothes, develop out your hair, be taught the right demeanor, go to highschool (kaburejo or nyokobo) to be taught the humanities of the shamisen instrument, dance, tea ceremony, and many others.
» This will final for about 6 months earlier than going to the following stage.

Minarai. At this level, you’ll begin your formal coaching and be thought to be a minarai which accurately means “studying by watching”. On this stage, you should have an older geisha for a mentor whom you’ll name onēsan (sister) and this will likely be a bond that may keep for all times. You’re then anticipated to accompany your onesan to ozashiki (dinner banquet occasions) with the intention to sit and observe her in addition to different geishas and maikos work together with the purchasers. By way of this manner, you’ll not solely acquire actual insights into the job however additionally, you will acquire the prospect to know potential purchasers. At occasions, your onesan will mean you can carry out however she’s going to hold an in depth eye on you. (FYI: Oftentimes, you’ll know in case you noticed an actual maiko or geisha while you see them being accompanied by a singular shikomi or minarai wearing a easy kimono or yukata with no make-up or equipment on.)
» This coaching interval begins a month earlier than your official debut as a maiko.

Misedashi. That is your official debut as a maiko and this ceremony is sort of a grand public occasion whereby your title will likely be unfold out throughout the hanamachi. Additionally, you will bear a ritual known as as sansankudo (additionally completed in wedding ceremony ceremonies) the place you change cups together with your onesan, different geishas, and senior maikos — individuals who you at the moment are sure to. Afterward, you at the moment are free to carry your personal events and carry out in festivals; however you’ll at all times be a part of your onesan at her occasions and additionally, you will proceed studying from her.
» Usually, this stage will final about 4 to five years.

» Debuting as a Geisha

Photograph by: My Kyoto Photograph / CC

Erikae. Across the age of 21 to 23, you can be promoted as a full-fledged geisha in one more public ceremony known as erikae or “turning of the collar” whereby because the title implies, they’ll flip your pink collar to white as an indication of your transition to maturity from that of a maiko woman right into a geisha lady.

Geisha. You’ll proceed learning, working, and holding ozashiki banquets till you repay your money owed to your okiya. You might additionally tackle a minarai/maiko below your wing. When your money owed to your okiya are settled, you could select to maneuver out, work independently, or proceed dwelling within the okiya.

Hiki-iwai. It is a celebration that marks your retirement as a geisha, and it may be due to varied causes: you need to stop the geisha life, you need to pursue one other profession, you’re too previous to work publicly, you need to get married, otherwise you need to develop into an okami-san (proprietress of both an ochaya or okiya).

Realistically-speaking nevertheless, not loads of maikos make it to the geisha stage as a result of the approach to life will be fairly troublesome. Additionally, as soon as somebody does develop into a geisha, it’s additionally frequent for them to retire inside 5 years of their debut.

Anyhow, geishas and maikos alike are celebrated they usually have a HUGE fanbase — not solely in Japan however worldwide too!

Methods to Determine Geisha & Maiko

As you go to Japan, be aware of the beneath factors that can assist you rapidly differentiate a geisha from their apprentice (maiko):

» Age

As I’ve already mentioned, maikos normally begin their coaching at a younger age (15 to 16 for Kyoto and 18 for Tokyo) so they’re much youthful than a full-fledged geisha who typically begin at round 21 to 23.

» Make-up

.On a typical day, a maiko will likely be seen carrying essentially the most recognizable characteristic of geishas: the total white face make-up. Geisha, alternatively, do NOT have this make-up on until they will do a particular efficiency or dinner banquet.

Maikos will at all times have a noticeable white band of unpainted pores and skin on their hairline (since they don’t put on wigs) and their eyebrows will likely be shaded in pink or pink, their cheeks blushed, and their eyes outlined with black eyeliner and pink eyeshadow. Through the early phases of their coaching, ‘junior’ maikos (or minarai) will solely have their decrease lip painted in pink, and as they advance (as ‘senior’ maikos), each of their lips will likely be painted however solely in a skinny line.

For geisha who must have their face painted once they work, other than having no seen a part of uncovered pores and skin close to their hairline (provided that they put on wigs), their eyebrows will even solely have a faint shade of pink, their eyes outlined in black (if a ‘senior’ geisha) or with a slight pink (in the event that they’re a ‘junior’ geisha) and their lips painted totally in pink.

Left picture by: Joe Baz / CC | Circle & proper picture by: Annie Guilloret / CC

NOTE: This white make-up totally covers the geisha or maiko’s face, neck, and chest — apart from the nape (known as komata or the again of an individual’s neck) which they’ll ensure is seen once they would, afterward, put on their kimono (as seen in a number of the pictures on the earlier a part of this put up). This half is taken into account to be a historically erotic space in Japan in order that they intensify this sensuality by usually leaving an inverted “V” form on a geisha and an inverted “W” form (sanbonashi) on those that simply debuted as maikos. This type is named as eri-ashi or eriashi.

TRIVIA: Within the olden occasions, geishas practiced ohaguro or the Japanese customized of blackening one’s enamel and it lasted till the top of the Meiji interval (although at occasions, there are nonetheless some Kyoto geiko as we speak who generally have pitch-black enamel). In these occasions, pitch-black objects have been thought to be lovely so they’d their enamel blackened particularly when they’re coming of age as an indication of maturity and wonder (women, boys, and even nobles did it too).


» Hair

Geishas normally put on wigs, whereas maikos have their hair styled naturally. A geisha’s wig and a maiko’s pure hair are usually styled by highly-skilled artisans. Recently, nevertheless, conventional hairstyling is slowly phasing out as a result of it could generally result in balding on the highest of their head. However, it stays to be practiced.

Maikos have their hair styled within the wareshinobu type consisting of two “wings” and an enormous bun on the middle; however when a maiko turns senior, she’s going to placed on an ofuku coiffure and this normally begins after 2 to three years of being a maiko (the one distinction with the wareshinobu type is how the ofuku type has an oblong piece of fabric pinned on the backside of the bun with no pink cloth protruding).

The wig worn by geisha is named katsura that’s styled within the taka shimada coiffure. At occasions, this wig can change and styled right into a kyoufuu shimada type. In occasions when they don’t seem to be carrying a wig, geishas put up a yohatsu coiffure which accurately means ‘western type’ since it’s modeled to western updo’s or perms.

Left picture by: My Kyoto Photograph / CC | Proper picture by: Hiromu Aoki / CC

TRIVIA: All maikos have their hair styled elaborately each week. To maintain their coiffure intact, maikos sleep with their necks on small helps or particular pillows known as as takamakura. I can’t discover a picture on-line that I’m allowed to make use of however in case you’ve watched the film Memoirs of a Geisha, you’ll know what I’m speaking about.

HAIR ORNAMENTS. Maikos put on extra elaborate ornamental hair ornaments known as as kanzashi and the designs can range relying on the stage of coaching that they’re at the moment in. A primary-year maiko will put on shidare-kanzashi that flows down all the facet of their face from her hair to her chin, symbolizing their youth. A junior maiko may have a kanakodome or particular hair decoration in addition to a pink piece of silk (signifying that she’s nonetheless a toddler) on the middle of her bun together with loads of hair ornaments, notably a daikin (primary entrance kanzashi), an enormous seasonal kanzashi (worn on the left a part of her hair) and a katsuyama bridge (an enormous crown-like kanzashi positioned in entrance of the bun). For senior maikos, essentially the most notable change is that they’ll cease carrying the katsuyama bridge and begin carrying colourful kushi (comb that’s much less ornamental than a katsuyama bridge, thus signifying maturity).

In distinction, geishas put on easier kanzashi or smaller hair ornaments like a kushi (comb-shaped kanzashi), maezashi (small hairpins), tama kanzashi (single-colored bead hairpin), and hanemottoi (silver paper wires atop the hair).

That is known as an “aisatsu” which is principally the greeting or introduction completed by both a maiko or geisha earlier than the beginning of their dance efficiency at an ozashiki banquet.

Pictures by: My Kyoto Photograph / CC


» Outfit & Footwear

KIMONO. A maiko normally wears a colorfully-designed hikizuri kimono (Japanese conventional garment) that has furisode or long-sleeves garment that nearly contact the bottom (generally worn by single ladies), together with a wider, longer, and heavier obi (sash) that’s set to seem like a bow because it drapes all the way down to their again exhibiting the top which has the kamon or the emblem of the maiko’s okiya or geisha home — this obi is definitely known as as a darara obi. A maiko’s collar can be a definite characteristic as a result of it’s thick and embroidered, hangs very loosely, and is especially within the colour pink (different colours can solely be gold or white). It’s going to slowly have white embroidered patterns as they advance of their coaching however it is going to at all times stay to be dominantly pink.

TRIVIA: Wanna know the costliest merchandise in a geisha or maiko’s outfit? It’s the pocchiri or obidome which is an adjunct on the obi (belt) made of pricy actual jewels reminiscent of jade, agate, quartz, pearl and extra that may simply match the worth of a luxurious automotive. Typically nevertheless, a pocchiri accent is simply normally worn by a maiko.

Geishas, who’re extra mature, put on extra subdued however refined kimonos with shorter sleeves (kosode) which can be normally in a single colour with a easy sample on the backside. Their kimono can be stated to be within the tomesode type or essentially the most formal kimono a married lady can put on which is basically signifying their maturity. Additionally, their obi is shorter and it seems to be like a sq. bow knot on the again known as a ‘taiko musubi obi’. Lastly, their collars are utterly white and are usually not as free. (However, each maikos and geishas put on kimonos based on the season).

NOTE: Wanna attempt to put on a kimono? There are kimono rental retailers in Tokyo! Learn right here to be taught extra.

TRIVIA: Questioning in regards to the ‘bag’ that they normally deliver together with them? That’s known as a kago or a bag with a bamboo base and it accommodates enterprise playing cards, dancing followers and different equipment — however by no means electronics, as they don’t seem to be allowed to deliver them whereas working. Furthermore, even a maiko and geisha has variations within the bag: maikos have shiny and colourful kago, whereas geishas have minimal or solid-colored kago.

FOOTWEAR. Maikos usually put on excessive picket sandals to forestall their kimono from touching the bottom, and they’re known as as okobo. Geishas use shorter picket sandals known as zori or senryo geta. Maikos will put on this too if the state of affairs requires it; however they put on okobo extra.

Left picture by: Japonismo / CC | Proper picture by: Tugumi Yoshikawa. / CC

IMPORTANT NOTE: The maiko within the picture above is carrying a black kimono as a result of she has simply formally debuted as a maiko. However total, a maiko’s kimono is far more colourful and daring with greater patterns (a geisha’s patterns on her kimono solely begin on the backside hem and by no means goes over the waistline). Plus, a maiko’s obi normally has her okiya’s crest printed on the backside (as additionally seen within the picture above).
You possibly can even differentiate a junior from a senior maiko from the patterns on their shoulders — a junior maiko has them on each shoulders, whereas a senior maiko solely has it in a single shoulder.


» Methods to spot faux a maiko and geisha

You might need heard of makeover (henshin) studios in Japan that may costume vacationers up as a geisha or maiko for a day. With this in thoughts, in case you have ever seen one if you are round common spots in Japan — like in elements of Kyoto or Tokyo — it’s extremely probably that you’ve witnessed or took an image with a faux one.

That will help you determine and spot these vacationers who’re solely dressing up, see beneath the a number of options that they’ll possess. In the end, henshin studios make it some extent to NOT costume up their purchasers authentically; in any other case, they are going to be shut down by the authorities.

Take a look at the third one, she has a digicam together with her! Maikos are usually not allowed to make use of their cellphones and any electronics whereas working.
  • They’ve mismatched hairstyles, make-up, and clothes. Considering the descriptions that I’ve made beforehand of genuine geishas and maikos’ options, a vacationer in disguise will at all times have a flawed mixture of traits. For instance, most of them may have the ornamental lengthy hair decoration (of a junior maiko) but with each her lips painted (like a senior maiko or geisha) and with a wig on (although some retailers can now do your hair too). They will even have shorter sleeves on the kimono regardless of being dressed up as maiko.
  • They’re strolling round crowded areas. A real maiko or geisha is aware of that she is sought out by vacationers they usually can get ‘mobbed’ in a way; so, you’ll NEVER discover them strolling by a populated space whereas of their full regalia. What they normally do is stroll by again streets and alleyways with a view to keep away from the group. Therefore, in case you ever see a maiko or geisha strolling casually by a widely known place, she is unquestionably a vacationer dressed up as one.
  • They’re out through the early time of the day. Geishas and maikos generally work within the evenings; although it’s doable that they’re booked for an early banquet, it nearly occurs not often.
  • They’re willingly taking pictures with others. Geishas and maikos are literally paid for the time that requires them to get from level A to level B; so when they’re out on the streets, they’ll by no means cease by to take pictures with vacationers. (You possibly can at all times ask them although in case you can take a photograph, however do it fast). Subsequently, in case you see one who’s taking her candy time pleasing a crowd of vacationers to take a photograph of her (until it’s an official occasion) then she is a vacationer who had a makeover.
  • They’re accompanied by different people who find themselves in regular clothes. Noticed a geisha or maiko with an elder or a companion who has to assist her whereas she walks in her excessive picket footwear? That’s a vacationer. Actual geishas and maikos are skilled to stroll properly with their zori or okobo sandals. Apart from, they at all times know their manner round city too. If they’re ever accompanied, it is going to normally be by a younger woman in a kimono who will carry her belongings (as talked about beforehand, this will likely be a brand new maiko in coaching who is named a ‘shikomi’ or ‘minarai’).

Truly, you wouldn’t pay attention to it however you might need had a reputable geisha or maiko in your midst particularly while you’re strolling round in Kyoto. After they’re of their regular garments (reminiscent of a yukata), figuring out them will naturally be robust — until you’re a fan who acknowledges their face or until they’re carrying their signature kimono and conventional white make-up (shiro-nuri).

NOTE: There’s one other sort other than henshin vacationers whom you would simply mistake as reputable geishas and maikos, they usually’re known as furisode-san or kimono-san.

A longtime enterprise by ‘Furisode Gakuin’ at Tokyo’s Asakusa district within the Nineties, these furisode-san are paid entertainers solely who mimic the look and providers of geishas and maikos at a less expensive value (normally round 25,000 yen or $250 for a 2-hour occasion). They solely have about 3 months of coaching and once more — they’re NOT actual geishas nor maikos.

The truth is, a lot of the geisha experiences that you just might need learn in different journey blogs are literally experiences with a furisode-san. How do the Japanese really feel about these folks? A mixture of approval and disapproval. Approval since they assist collect curiosity in actual geishas; disapproval since they deem it as disrespectful to the actual custom.

How then can you make sure that you’re not reserving an expertise with a furisode-san? Other than a budget value as an indicator, just be sure you e book by reputable journey companies who solely search to supply actual geisha/maiko experiences (word: I’ll replace this part quickly with related hyperlinks for reserving legit geishas).

The place to Discover and Meet Geisha?

The geisha world must survive. It used to solely be solely accessible for the wealthy or well-connected Japanese, however now it’s doable for different folks in addition to vacationers to satisfy and see them by journey companies and inns.

However actually, like I discussed above, a non-public face-to-face dinner banquet or occasion can nonetheless show to be dear. If such is the case for you — don’t fret as a result of there are nonetheless different methods to see REAL geishas and maikos at a a lot inexpensive value as listed beneath…

  • Go e book a spot in Niigata Hanamachi Chaya’s program in Niigata Metropolis. That is the most cost-effective technique to meet, play, and speak to an actual geishas up shut because you solely should pay 3,000 yen ($26~ of Php 1,300~). It’s similar to an ozashiki (dinner banquet) expertise. To search out out extra about it, learn this: Meet, Play & Speak with Niigata’s Furumachi Geigi (Geisha) for Solely $26!
  • Go to Miyako Odori in Kyoto. It is a yearly spring dance throughout April completed by Kyoto’s geishas and maikos. Ticket costs begin at 2,500 yen ($24~ or Php 1,100~) and you’ll see extra information about this right here.
  • Go to Kamishichiken in Kyoto throughout February and July to September. Geishas and maikos of this district serve tea and wagashi (conventional Japanese sweets) to about 3,000 visitors in an annual open-air tea ceremony held on February 25 (the plum-blossom pageant within the Shinto shrine of Kitano Tenman-gū). Moreover, ever since 2010, there’s a beer backyard that opens as much as the general public on the Kamishichiken Kaburenjo Theatre from July to August (6PM to 10PM) the place you will get the prospect to be served by maikos and geishas. At evening, geishas would additionally generally to conventional dances.
  • Go to the slender alleyways of Gion, Kyoto to catch sight of a maiko or geisha. The primary time I caught a glimpse of an actual maiko was after I was strolling by Gion (on my technique to Gion Nook). It was all unplanned since I used to be simply following the quickest strolling route proven to me by Google Maps! I used to be mindlessly going by slender streets when ‘lo and behold, I noticed a maiko rising from a close-by alleyway who proceeded to face on the nook, seemingly ready for her taxi. From what I keep in mind, it was across the Tominagacho space; my associates advised me that it was doable that the maiko I noticed visited a close-by shrine/temple earlier than going to work (which they normally do).

“When is the most effective time to identify a maiko or geiko in Kyoto?”

Their work typically begins at round 6PM to 8PM so it’s doable to see them whereas they’re on their technique to the teahouse (strolling or getting on a taxi). However ordinarily, you may have a greater likelihood of discovering geishas or maikos at round 10PM to 11PM on the streets of Gion once they make their manner again to their okiya. (Once more, be aware of my ideas above on how you can spot the actual ones!).

Sadly, there’s NO assure that you will notice them as they are often elusive and they are often wherever! Although in case you have the time, it’s advisable to linger in a single place to extend your probabilities of sighting them. It’s stated that the commonest hubs could be the road of Pontocho Alley finish of Shijo-dori and Hanamikoji-dori (round 5-6PM) provided that loads of the okiya are discovered there. Plus, as I discussed above, it doesn’t harm to cross by the encompassing shrines or temples since they may have made a cease there to wish earlier than going to work.

TIP: If you wish to do a guided tour round Kyoto and be taught extra about geishas, you may be a part of this geisha district tour.


NOTE: Don’t anticipate to see geishas and maikos of their full regalia round Gion throughout “Obon Competition”, the annual Buddhist occasion for commemorating the souls of 1’s ancestors, as a result of they don’t work at the moment. This occurs through the center of August.

ETIQUETTE: Do you have to ever see a geisha or maiko as you undergo the alleyways of Gion, be respectful. Taking a fast picture is ok so long as you don’t get of their manner; however in fact, it’s additionally extra tactful in case you ask for his or her permission first. Additionally, NEVER ever contact them and their kimono nor pull them again to make them cease and pose for you; that’s simply plain impolite BUT additionally as a result of it’s a must to keep in mind that their kimonos are INCREDIBLY costly. A well-known geisha as soon as stated this: “We aren’t Mickey mouse and this isn’t Disney World, we’re not right here to entertain the general public, we’re right here to entertain our patrons.”

  • Go and watch the present at Gion Nook in Kyoto. It is a theater that presents common one-hour reveals of seven performing arts in Kyoto — one among which is the well-known kyo-mai dance efficiency by maiko dancers. There are 2 reveals on daily basis at 6PM and 7PM [see schedule here] with costs for adults at 3,150 yen ($30~ or Php 1,400). I went to this present and I liked it! (Lots of people on TripAdvisor left such unhealthy critiques for this present, however that’s primarily as a result of they didn’t learn their pamphlet beforehand; most of them didn’t perceive that there are 6 Japanese performances which can be other than the well-anticipated maiko dance.)
  • Go to Azuma Odori in Tokyo. A dance efficiency by the geishas of Shinbanshi, Tokyo is held yearly on the Shinbanshi Enbujo Theater in Might. (For more information, go right here).

Different FAQ About Geisha & Maiko

Are geishas prostitutes or courtesans?

They’re NOT prostitutes. Geishas are and at all times will likely be highly-skilled entertainers — nothing extra, nothing much less. It helps to notice as properly that prostitution is prohibited in Japan ever since 1956. The truth is, this concept that geishas are prostitutes might need come about not solely from Hollywood films that misrepresented them but additionally from individuals who have mistaken geisha for “oiran” (the true high-ranking courtesans again in olden Japan; since 1956, they now not exist).

How can I apply to develop into a maiko (apprentice geisha)?

In hanamachi communities like these in Kyoto, a number of the fundamental necessities is that you just have to be a Japanese woman who graduated from center faculty, you have to be 15 or 16 years previous, you could have black hair, you could not be taller than 160cm, you’re at the very least 43kg in weight, are keen to coach within the conventional arts for years with out contact with your loved ones, and many others.

Normally, you or your mum or dad would want to contact the guild of all of the hanamachi companies to use — as soon as they think about you an excellent candidate, they’ll ship out your picture and profile to okiya (geisha homes) that may be all for coaching you. Different okiya would possibly even require an introduction, whereas some others will settle for purposes from nearly anybody by electronic mail or phone.

I’m a foreigner, can I develop into a geisha?

In case you are non-Japanese, Kyoto is a tough atmosphere to enter into as a result of they’re nonetheless fiercely conventional. You’re higher off attempting your probabilities somewhere else like Tokyo who’re extra lenient in direction of accepting foreigners. To do that, you may apply to an okiya your self by cellphone or electronic mail, however it is going to be loads higher if you realize somebody who can introduce you to an okasan or a mom of an okiya/geisha home. Talking of which, do NOT attempt to apply in case you don’t know how you can communicate the Japanese language but; in any other case, completely no okiya will take you!

Why do most Japanese women need to develop into geisha or maiko?

The most typical reply is that they’ve been extremely impressed by the elusive and alluring world of the hanamachi and its group of chic geisha. A lot of the women, nevertheless, don’t debut as a geisha due to the troublesome way of life; whereas others merely simply need to expertise working as a maiko with no plans to realize a geisha debut.

Can a geisha get married?

So long as an individual is working as a geisha, they have to stay single — therefore, a geisha should not get married. The one factor they’re allowed to be “married into” is their artwork or career. If a geisha truly needs to get married, they must stop or retire as a geisha and that is celebrated by a ceremony known as hiki-iwai. As soon as they stop, it’s not doable to come back again as a geisha however it’s doable to develop into an okami-san (proprietress of both an ochaya or okiya). That is typically the norm in locations like Kyoto, however there at the moment are loads of locations in Japan like Tokyo that enable married, divorced, and/or ladies with youngsters to develop into geisha. Likewise, maiko are usually not allowed to have boyfriends.

Do geisha and maiko have days off?

For geisha, as they’re already skilled for the career, they’ve extra freedom to take days off in addition to create their very own schedule. Nevertheless, for maiko who’re geisha-in-training, the foundations are fairly strict as a result of they’re anticipated to deal with the normal arts. Normally, they’re solely allowed 1 or 2 days off monthly!! Which means they might not see their household throughout their complete coaching interval. Maiko can take longer holidays for the three main holidays in Japan although, reminiscent of New Yr, Golden Week (a set of 4 nationwide holidays in 7 days held round Might), and Obon (Buddhist occasion in August).

How a lot is a geisha and maiko’s wage?

From the second {that a} maiko is accepted to an okiya, they’re bonded by a contract whereby the okiya will shoulder ALL their bills for lodging and coaching; in change, as soon as a maiko truly begins performing, she’s going to step by step repay that debt to the okiya by her work. So no, maiko don’t obtain a wage as a result of they don’t seem to be full-fledged geisha but (however on their days off, maiko are given a small allowance).

Geisha, alternatively, obtain compensation and it’ll rely on the quantity of labor they obtain that’s, in fact, altogether depending on their expertise and recognition. Their actual wage just isn’t extensively shared however to offer you an concept, it could begin from $3,000 to $10,000 — and extra! If they’re extremely common, geisha will even typically obtain luxurious presents and gadgets from followers, patrons, and purchasers.

Why is the make-up on the face of a geisha white?

It’s stated that previously, provided that there was no electrical energy, carrying white make-up as a basis (shiro-nuri) was practiced as a result of a geisha’s face will then be higher seen within the candlelight. This beauty apply remained as we speak and has develop into a signature look of each geisha and maiko. In spite of everything, it helps create a placing distinction to their total look in a kimono.

What’s the costliest factor worn by a geisha or maiko?

Other than the kimono, the costliest accent is normally the pocchiri or obidome which is an adjunct on the obi (belt) that’s made of pricy actual jewels reminiscent of jade, agate, quartz, pearl, and others. These are sometimes expensive, beginning at a value of $5,000 and past (a few of which might simply match the worth of a luxurious automotive). Typically nevertheless, a pocchiri accent is simply normally worn by a maiko.

• • •


I hope this text helped make you acquire extra perception into the mysterious but fascinating world of geishas and their apprentice maikos. It took me some time to complete this however I actually loved writing it… and I hope you loved it as properly!

If in case although that that is the primary time you’ve heard of Japan’s geishas, it’s subsequently additionally my hope that you just’ve now found an important appreciation and assist for his or her wondrous traditions.

P.S.: In case you are extra educated about geishas than me and that I’ve unintentionally made a false assertion above, do let me know within the feedback beneath. In spite of everything, I perceive that this custom maintains an air of mysteriousness and anonymity because it provides to their total ‘attract’; subsequently, there may be some conflicting info on-line and in some supplies and interviews. Regardless, I’m fairly assured with the accuracy of the issues above particularly after doing lengthy hours of analysis after which conversing with genuine geishas to confirm my info. Let me know!

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