Geisha are traditional entertainers of Japanese arts and music specializing in Japanese dance, singing, and a variety of instruments including hand drum, shoulder drum, shamisen or Japanese flute. They train throughout their lives, are very highly skilled, and some of the older geisha are even “living national treasures”, the highest status of artist in Japan.
Geisha means "Artist", although in Kyoto they are not told in this way, but instead they use the term "Geiko" which means "Woman of art".
Geisha are called out to tea-houses or to events, functions and parties, to entertain. In Japan, geisha also perform at large public events and annual dances, but the former tradition of small-scale private entertainment, where customers have a private meal at a tea-house with friends or acquaintances and call in geisha to entertain them as they eat and drink.
Geisha are very cultured independent businesswomen with their own customers, some of whom have been patrons for decades, and they often manage younger geisha too. Like any Western artist or musician or actress, they can and do fall in love and have relationships, but this is always entirely a private matter and never part of the job.
The first Geisha were men, known as Taikomochi, they resembled modern day comedians, storytellers and musicians.
Many believe geisha are submissive and subservient, but the opposite is true. Geisha are expected to be lively entertainers, and are permitted to converse with men on a wide range of topics.
Geisha have to read newspapers daily to keep up to date with current affairs so they can make engaging conversation with influential clients.
A Geisha’s time was traditionally measured by the amount of incense sticks that were burnt during entertainment instead of using a clock.
Traditionally their faces were painted white to illuminate their beauty in the candle light.
Most important compliment you can give a Geisha is to tell her that she is beautiful.
Geisha are not prostitutes. This is a misconception based on inaccurate depictions in films and after WW2 when prostitutes either masqueraded as, or were mistaken for being Geisha by soldiers from the USA army. Geisha emerged out of the early 16th century to provide entertainment in the form of the arts in the pleasure districts for those who did not want to pay for sex. Laws were actually drawn up to prevent Geisha from stealing prostitute’s clients. Unfortunately foreign visitors confuse the Geishas with the Oiran. The Oiran were the super stars of the Edo period, being high class courtesans. While Geishas are artists who entertain and take customers to a wonderful and secret world. In actuality, the Oiran no longer exist, the Geishas do.
Gion is the place where the famous Geishas, the cultural symbol of the nation of the rising sun, live.
Okiya is the house of the geishas. There they live in private rooms and it is where they prepare before going to work in the Ochaya. Generally the Okiyas have a person who leads them, and this is usually an older Geisha, already retired, who is usually called "Mother". Today there are variations of this tradition and it depends on the Okiya as one should live and who directs it.
Ochaya literally means "Tea Shop", and it is where customers go. Having contact with a Geisha is a luxury that only people with connections in the city or people with a good budget can enjoy.
In private rooms, the Geishas entertain guests with dances, songs, board games and interesting conversations. Geishas are a living work of art, and therefore must be respected as such. In the district of Gion is also the "Gion Corner" or corner of Gion where you can see a musical show performed by real Geishas.
Today Geisha are seen a modern day celebrities in Japan.
Popular with tourists and business people alike, modern-day geisha support an entire industry within the eco-tourism industries of Japanese cities. They provide work for artists in all of the traditional skills of music, dance, calligraphy, who train the geisha in their crafts. Geisha also buy top-of-the-line traditional products such as kimono, umbrellas, fans, shoes, and the sort, keeping craftsmen in work and preserving their knowledge and history for years to come.