Who was the first Japanese geisha

Geisha - who are they really? History and curiosities

Do you know what a geisha is? What's your story in Japan? Are they really prostitutes? In this article we have created a comprehensive guide to explain everything about geishas in a simple and practical way. Read curiosities, stories, and lots of other information about Japan's geishas below.

Geisha or geisha [芸 者] are Japanese women who study the ancient tradition of art, dance, and song. In Japan, geisha is a cultural condition, symbolic and full of status, delicacy and tradition.

The nameGeisha [芸 者] can be literally translated as art (gei - 芸) and person ”or“ practitioner ”(sha - 者), ie aArtist. Geishas can also be referred to as geiko (芸 子, geiko) or gueigi (芸 妓, gueigi).

To make it easier to navigate this article, we've created a summary:

What is a geisha? What they do?

They live in neighborhoods known as Hanamachi [花街] which means City of flowers. His rooms are calledOkyia where to eat, get advice, kimono, obis and other special tools and treatments during your geisha contract called Nenki.

They work in places that are namedOchayaThese teahouses provide entertainment consisting of talking, flirting, drinks, traditional games, music shows, singing, and dancing. Geishas also often play the traditional instrument, shamisen, and also play other instruments such as the flute, koto, ko-tsuzumi, and taiko.

They also write poems, paint pictures and compose music. They learn conversation techniques and also games to keep the guests entertained. You also need to learn Shodo Calligraphy and Tea Ceremony. It is not necessary to be beautiful to become a geisha, just these skills.

Geishas are also very mysterious, they tried to be as anonymous as possible using artistic names that added a touch of mystery and fascinated customers even more. Everything about geishas is very elaborate and delicate, from their totally complex hairstyle to their kimono and their white make-up.

It is believed that it takes a geisha about 2 to 3 hours to get ready. Nowadays, most of the geisha customers are elderly or wealthy men who have great admiration for Japanese culture. They convey the idea of ​​a perfect woman and make your customers feel valued and attractive.

Are geishas prostitutes?

Many Westerners believe that geishas are prostitutes, a completely wrong idea. On the contrary, geishas were created for entertainment without sex; they were forbidden to sell sex. Geisha customers sometimes fall in love and are fooled, but they have to realize that they will never have a geisha in their arms.

Geishas were forbidden to identify themselves as prostitutes were licensed in Japan at the time and were known as Oiran (花魁) courtesans. So the geishas routine was completely monitored, they were not free to do what they wanted, prostitution could disrupt business in Oiran.

Some come to this conclusion because artists were named in the early stages of Japanese history SaburukoMany were without families and prostituted themselves or earned their living by entertaining the upper class in social gatherings.

Over time, the separation arose between those who did sexual favors and those who entertained people engaged in dance, art, games, and music (geisha).

We do not accuse westerners of causing this confusion, both geishas, ​​orians, saburuko and other classifications of girls who worked in recreational areas and wore similar clothes and makeup. Another reason for this conclusion is that some women who became geishas were once prostitutes.

To give you an idea, the first geishas were men entertaining customers who were waiting for the courtesans. They were called "Taikomochi" or "Houkan". Becoming a geisha was a way for girls to get out of the world of prostitution and go into the art world.

Geishas cannot have relationships

Geisha could not get involved in serious relationships either. For example, if they wanted to get married, the geisha had to retire from the profession for good.

We can compare geishas to current Japanese idols, if there is a scandal that they are dating or having a relationship with someone, it can ruin their careers and affect fans who are in love with them. Likewise, geishas avoid both relationships, such as prostitution.

Despite all of this, the ceremony included an exercise called mizuage, in which a maiko (apprentice) becomes a geisha. At this ceremony, his virginity was auctioned and the money was used for his debut. Fortunately, this practice became illegal in 1959.

In any case, there is no denying that in the past people sought these places for entertainment. So much so that they were known as “Quarteirões do Prazer” (yuukaku - 游 廓).

Many current things in Japanese culture popped up in these places, such as the kabuki that is currently a theater performed by men but used to be a sensual dance.

What happened to the geishas?

Geishas were so popular in Japan that they even became a female occupation. They were known as elegant, high class women. Being a geisha was honorable and glamorous. Many of them started their education at a young age of around 3 to 5 years with an average of 9 years.

Geishas fell sharply during World War II because teahouses, bars and geisha houses had to be closed and all employees had to work in factories for the war. The country has viewed geishas' education as child labor since childhood.

The name geisha also lost its meaning because prostitutes referred to themselves as geishas for American military personnel. After a while, the geisha houses were allowed to open and the few women who returned decided to reject Western influence and resume traditional forms of entertainment and life.

Currently there are few geishas in Japan compared to the ancient times where they can be found in Hanamachi geisha districts in cities like Kyoto.

Entering a tea house or restaurant with geishas is something luxurious and very expensive. Being a geisha is a very profitable profession, but it is complicated and demanding.

In 1920 there were about 80,000 geishas. In 1970 about 17,000. And today about a thousand traditional geishas are valued

Gion Matsuri - Geisha Festival

Gion Matsuri is one of the most famous festivals in Japan and also the longest - which takes place throughout July. This festival takes place in Kyoto in the Gion Geisha district. Most of the main attractions of the festival, however, are not restricted to Gion. This is a festival full of attractions.

This festival was created as part of a cleansing ritual (goryo-e) to calm the gods and avoid fires, floods and earthquakes. This procedure was repeated when an outbreak occurred. In 970 it was held as an annual event.

Yamaboko's chariot

The highlight of the festival is the Yamaboko parades on July 17th and 24th. The streets of Gion are reserved for pedestrian traffic three days in advance. Vendors offer snacks and games on the street, and many people visit these days wearing the traditional yukata.

The floats in the Yoiyama Parade are divided into two groups, Hoko and Yama, called Yamaboko (or Yamahoko). There are 9 of the large hokos (with long sticks or halberds) representing the 66 spears used in the original cleansing ritual and 23 of the smaller yama, which carry life-size figures of important and famous people.

All floats are decorated with beautiful Nishijin tapestries (the best in all of Japan) or imported from around the world. In addition to the artistic elements, there are many musicians and traditional artists on the cars.

That swims HokoThey are often heavy and dangerous, reaching as much as 12,000 kg and a height of 25 meters. Its wheels are typically around 2 meters in diameter. Yama cars typically weigh a ton and a half and are typically 6 meters tall.

Gion Matsuri is perhaps the best event in Japan for geisha fans and photographers. Here you will find the most famous and traditional geisha, maiko and tayu.

Hanamachi - Geisha Districts

Kyoto has several districts of "geishas or hanamachi, known for their teahouses" ochaya. The atmosphere of Hanamachi will take you back to the Edo era. Most of these neighborhoods are full of restaurants and night attractions. Kyoto is a historical and traditional city that is home to the best geisha hanamachi from all over Japan.

The word hanamachi means City of flowersWhat are the geisha districts it is located in? OchayaThese are the teahouses where geishas provide entertainment that consists of talking, flirting, drinks, traditional games, music shows, singing and dancing.

Geishas live in one ÖkiyaA pension where the geishas offer all special treatments and live there for the duration of their nenki (contract or career as a geisha). Now let's look at the 4 largest hanamachi or geisha districts of Kyoto City:

Gion - Japan's largest geisha destroyer

Gion is the largest and most exclusive geisha district in Japan. The Ochaya in Gion are the exclusive hideaways for wealthy individuals in Japan. They are also common for foreign dignitaries and important guests who are invited.

For the general public, the streets of Gion are the best place to see geisha and maiko. Many tourists walk the streets of Gion hoping to see some, but it is not easy. I didn't get a chance to see myself but the streets are beautiful for photos.

There is also an annual Gion Geisha development called Miyako Odori (Cherry Blossom Dance). It takes place every evening in April in the historic At Teatro de Kaburenjo. This attraction has been held annually since 1869.

Pontocho - The district on the Kamogawa River

Pontocho is a street next to Gion's Hanamachi, parallel to the river, made up of shops, teahouses, and restaurants. All architecture is original for the sec. XII and withstood destruction and modernization, remained untouched to this day.

Pontocho is centered around a narrow stone corridor that extends for six blocks. The area is full of restaurants and a wide variety of neon lighting up the nightlife.

Most of the restaurants on the east side of the alley overlook the Kamogawa River. Some offer a dining platform over the river known as a Kawayuka.

The "back" of the street is on the banks of the Kamo River, and the restaurant's balconies are very picturesque. Your chances of finding geishas or maiko in this region are pretty high. A place to enjoy the river on the edge of a lawn that even stops playing football.

Miyagawacho - Hanamichi with Kabuki

Miyagawacho has a large entertainment area on the banks of the Kamo. In addition to several ochaya, in Miyagawacho you will find the famous Kabuki Minamiza Theater, which sometimes hosts geisha performances.

There are several performances with geishas and maiko in this region. You can easily buy a ticket and see a show. A very popular event is Miyako Odori, which lasts only a few weeks in April.

Miyagawacho was once home to many kabuki theaters. On the banks of the river, there were even teahouses operated on boats on the river.

Kamishichiken - the music district

Kamishichiken [上 七 軒] literally means 7 upper houses and refers to the seven tea houses constructed from materials from the reconstruction of the Kitano shrine in the Muromachi era (1333-1573).

There are around 25 geishas and maiko in the neighborhood who work in 10 ochaya. The geishas in this district are known for their excellent music. Here you can find the Kamishichiken Kaburenjo Theater and events like Kitano Odori.

Kamishichiken is one of the oldest geisha areas in Kyoto. In contrast to the other areas in the city center, which are close together, this one is further away, so it is quieter and has fewer tourists.

Geisha classifications and formations

Children or daughters trained as geishas were known as Hangyoku. At that time it took a long training to become a geisha and they went through the following stages:

  • Shikomi - It means "servant";
  • Minarai - It means "learning by observing";
  • Hangyuku - It means half jewelry - you get half the wages of a geisha. (Maiko)
  • Maiko - The last training phase means “the girl who dances”;

Currently, women can become geisha or maiko directly. A woman over 21 is too old to become a maiko, so she is already becoming a geisha.

Girls can become apprentices (maiko) before the age of 18. They do and learn everything from their expert geisha who serves as a tutor. To be a maiko has its advantages and prestige, they are at the height of femininity. After 5 years as a maiko or as they get older, they become geisha and benefit much more.

Geishas were allowed to have a danna, a rich man who paid for his education. There was no exchange of sexual favors, but in some cases a prohibited romance could take place between the two.

If a geisha decides to marry, she will attend a ceremony Hiki Iwai(Celebration of separation), So she stopped being a geisha and sometimes found a protector to support her.

Differentiating geisha from maiko

To tell the difference between a geisha and a maiko, just look at her collar. A maiko usually wears brightly colored kimonos and a red collar. While a geisha usually wears soft colors and a white collar.

There are many details about the geishas that were not mentioned. & Nbsp; There's a lot of information for just one article, so let's finish here.

Unfortunately, we know only a few anime or stories that have geisha or maiko as protagonists, but we will try to mention some of them below:

  • Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu;
  • We also recommend the movie Memoirs of a Geisha;

Questions about geishas

How do geishas sleep?

The trainees take hours to do the hairstyle and, in order not to undo it,sleep on a wooden brick (Geisha older women can wear a wig).

Categories Japan, Japanese

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