What exactly does a geisha girl do?

The Japanese word geisha literally means “art person,” and singing, dancing, and playing the samisen (a lutelike instrument) are indispensable talents for a geisha, along with the ability to make conversation. Many geisha are also adept at flower arranging, performing the tea ceremony, or calligraphy.

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What are geishas not allowed to do?

Geisha cannot get married. The rule of this profession is “being married to the art, not a man”. If they want to get married, they have to quit the job. Once they quit, it's usually impossible to come back, however they can debut from the beginning in a different city, under a different name and rules.

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How does a Geisha become a full geisha?

Training to become a geisha starts around age 14 or 15. The young apprentices are then known as shikomisan and must stay in a lodge together known as an okiya with their seniors. Here they learn how to behave, dance, and perform. Then at the end of the year, if they pass the shikomi exam, they become a maiko.

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Is geisha still practiced today?

Unlike in the past when geishas were plentiful they are currently on the decline year by year. There were roughly between 40,000 to 80,000 geisha in the early showa period (1926-1989) But currently, numbers have dwindled to around 600 to 1000 geisha scattered across the 40 districts of Japan.

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Are geishas respected?

In Japan, geisha are very highly respected because they spend years training to learn the traditional instruments and dances of Japan. Although some western media portray geisha as prostitutes, that's just a myth.

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Geisha in 8 Minutes: Myths & Facts

32 related questions found

Why did the geisha cut her leg?

To inflame a doctor's lust for Sayuri (for the impending bidding war for her virginity), Mameha intentionally cuts Sayuri's leg high on her thigh (off camera). Mameha tells the doctor the cut came from a scissors accident; he stares longingly at her leg before stitching it up.

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Do geishas have husbands?

But Geisha Can Get Married

Geisha aren't allowed to have a boyfriend. But in the course of work, of entertaining patrons with Japan's highest forms of cultural entertainment, a patron may become fond of a particular geisha.

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Do geishas get paid?

Geisha Are Paid by the Hour

As already mentioned, the apprentice maiko do not receive any salary except for the allowance from their okiya. Only when they graduate and have cleared their debts will they be able to keep the money they earn.

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Can geishas get pregnant?

Geiko are allowed to have children and Maiko aren't necessarily “forbidden” (you can't ever forbid people from getting pregnant in genereal) from having children, but it's very very rare today. Maiko are 15 to 21, sometimes 22, and the vast majority of them doesn't want to have children yet anyways.

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Do geishas sleep with their clients?

No, as prostitution is illegal in Japan and the geishas are cultural performers who are deeply respected. Geisha never sleep with their clients as it goes against the rules of the organizations they belong to.

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Were geishas male?

The first geisha were actually male, appearing around the year 1730. It was only about 20 years later that female geisha began to appear in the forms of odoriko (踊り子, meaning dancers) and shamisen players, and they quickly took over the profession, dominating it by 1780.

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Do geishas drink alcohol?

Geishas spend a lot of time pouring drinks and, in many cases, drinking. One geisha told the Japan Times, "You need to be able to drink.

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How are geishas chosen?

The geisha system was traditionally a form of indentured labour, although some girls, attracted by the glamour of the life, volunteered. Usually, a girl at an early age was given by her parents for a sum of money to a geisha house, which taught, trained, fed, and clothed her for a period of years.

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What happens to geisha when they get old?

She no longer entertains at parties, and she may discontinue her studies. At this point, a former geisha might become the head of an okiya or teahouse, or she may leave the geisha life entirely.

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Why do geishas have white faces?

In ancient times, there was no electricity in Japan, and most facilities were only lit by candlelight. Since candlelight was not bright enough, Geishas painted their faces white to enhance their skin tones and to contour their faces, making their faces more visible and recognizable.

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What are male geishas called?

It's a very little known fact, but Japan's original geisha were actually men known as taikomochi. It's hard to believe given the level of femininity ascribed to geisha culture; however, the history of the male geisha dates all the way back to the 13th century.

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How old are geishas?

Kyoto is where geisha are called “geiko” translated as “art child” as earlier mentioned. A geisha apprentice is called “maiko” translated as “dance child.” The geiko are usually above the age of 20, while the maiko are between 15 to 21 years old.

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Why do geishas wear wigs?

Until an apprentice (called maiko) becomes a geisha, she has to visit a hair dresser each week. Hair styles vary based on the geisha's rank. Full geisha wear wigs for banquets and special appearances. The rest of the time she can wear hair hair in a chignon.

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Is the geisha a true story?

Memoirs of a Geisha is a historical fiction novel by American author Arthur Golden, published in 1997. The novel, told in first person perspective, tells the story of Nitta Sayuri and the many trials she faces on the path to becoming and working as a geisha in Kyoto, Japan, before, during and after World War II.

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Are geishas educated?

During her education, a Geisha in training learns traditional Japanese arts like calligraphy, and to play several Japanese musical instruments like the lute, flute and hand drum. A Geisha must also be skilled in conversation, a good singer, dancer and hostess, and master the tea ceremony.

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What is higher than a geisha?

Oiran (花魁) is a collective term for the highest-ranking courtesans in Japanese history, who were considered to be above common prostitutes (known as yūjo (遊女, lit. 'woman of pleasure')) for their more refined entertainment skills and training in the traditional arts.

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What do geishas eat?

For instance, to keep their skin (and minds) clear, geisha maintain a conventional Japanese diet complete with things like antioxidant-rich green tea, rice, and seaweed, giving new life to the age-old phrase: You are what you eat.

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Do geisha sell their virginity to the highest bidder?

Geisha are not available for brief sexual encounters, though in the past young girls were sold to the highest bidder for deflowering in a rite known as a mizuage. But a geisha may have a long-term sexual relationship with a danna, a wealthy man who supports her.

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Why are geishas considered beautiful?

With their snow white skin, dark eyebrows, ruby red lips, and black hair, the geisha is a timeless and iconic symbol of beauty in Japan. But there's a lot more behind their painted faces. Geishas symbolize grace, elegance, and discipline, and they keep alive classical art in the modern Japanese world.

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Why do geishas wear high shoes?

The original motivation for wearing the high platform shoes was not fashion, but practicality: to keep feet and kimono from coming in contact with things on the ground, such as dirt, filth, water, or snow.

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