This month at Carpe Diem I’m exploring the “Motherland” of haiku, Japan.
Today I’m taking a look at Geisha – The Beauty of Japan.
I hope you enjoy this post as much as I have had to study it, I learned so much, which I never knew before, it’s amazing, I never read about it before as I thought it was all about prostitutes, something my parents taught me that it was a bad thing, which ever since then I had shut my mind too.
But geisha is not like that I’m so glad I studied it.
Geisha are traditional Japanese female entertainers who act as hostesses and whose skills include performing various arts such as classical music, dance, games, and conversation, mainly to entertain not only male customers but also female customers today.
Apprentice geisha are called a maiko.
Photo Credit – Typical nape make-up on a maiko (Note the red collar)
A maiko is an apprentice geiko (not exactly same as geisha) in Kyoto, western Japan.
Their jobs consist of performing songs, dances, and playing the shamisen or the koto (traditional Japanese instruments) for visitors during feasts.
Maiko are usually aged 15 to 20 years old and become geiko after learning how to dance the traditional kyomai dances, play the shamisen, and learning Kyō-kotoba (dialect of Kyoto), regardless of their origins.
A woman above 21 is considered too old to be a maiko and becomes a full geisha upon her initiation into the geisha community.
Maiko is considered one of the great sights of Japanese tourism and look very different from fully qualified geisha. They are at the peak of traditional Japanese femininity.
The scarlet-fringed collar of a maiko’s kimono hangs very loosely in the back to accentuate the nape of the neck, which is considered a primary erotic area in Japanese sexuality.
She wears the same white makeup for her face on her nape, leaving two or sometimes three stripes of bare skin exposed.
There are three major elements of a maiko’s training.
The first is the formal art training. This takes place in special geisha schools which are found in every hanamachi.
The second element is the entertainment training which the maiko learns at various tea houses and parties by observing her onee-san.
The third is the social skill of navigating the complex social web of the hanamachi. This is done on the streets. Formal greetings, gifts, and visits are key parts of any social structure in Japan and for a maiko, they are crucial for her to build the support network she needs to survive as a geisha.
The first woman is known to have called herself geisha was a Fukagawa prostitute, in about 1750.
As they became more widespread throughout the 1760s and 1770s, many began working only as entertainers (rather than prostitutes) often in the same establishments as male geisha.
By 1800, being a geisha was considered a female occupation (though there are still a handful of male geisha working today).
There were many different classifications and ranks of geisha. Some women would have sex with their male customers, whereas others would entertain strictly with their art forms.
Prostitution was legal up until the 1900s (decade), so it was practiced in many quarters throughout Japan.
In the 1960s during Japan’s postwar economic boom, the geisha world changed. In modern Japan, girls are not sold into indentured service. Nowadays, a geisha’s sex life is her private affair.
Photo Credit – Profile of geisha Kimiha from Miyagawacho, wearing a formal black kimono and a Shimada-styled wig. Her obi is tied in the “taiko” (drum) style. All these are details which clearly distinguish her from a maiko (an apprentice).
Modern geisha still live in traditional geisha houses called okiya in areas called hanamachi (“flower towns”), particularly during their apprenticeship.
Many experienced geisha are successful enough to choose to live independently.
The elegant, high-culture world that geisha are a part of is called karyūkai “the flower and willow world”.
Photo Credit – Geisha and two maikos. Mature geisha (center) ordinarily wear subdued clothing, makeup, and hair, contrasting with the more colorful clothing, heavy makeup, and elaborate hair of maiko (apprentices; left and right).
My tanka poem using the study of Maiko & Geisha ladies in Japan
young beautiful girls
train as maikos to become
geisha ladies very proud
they are not prostitutes
a human like you and me