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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Geisha Girls

Geisha Girls
-AKA Geigi, are traditional female Japanese entertainers whose skills include and also may include performing various Japanese arts, such as: music and dance

-The most literal meaning of the word 'Geisha' would be "artisan", "performing artist" or "artist".
-Apprentice geisha are called maiko, meaning "dance child" or hangyoku or "half jewel", meaning they are paid only half of the money a full geisha earns. The white makeup, elaborate kimono and elaborate hairstyles of a maiko are the traditional look of a geisha. A woman entering the geisha community does not have to start out as a maiko. She can start her career as a ful geisha. But, a year's worth of training is needed to debut as a maiko or full geisha.
-Women 21 and older are considered too old to be maikos, and on this age, she is rendered able to be inducted into the geisha community.
-In Kyoto, apprentic geisha can become full geisha before the age of 18
-In early Japanese history, there were sabruko(serving girls) who were displaced in the late 600s. They sold sexual services while others made a living attending high class social functions. In the year 794, the world of the geisha became a beauty obsessed elite world

-In traditional Japan, men were not told to be faithful to their wives, so they engaged openly in sexual delights. Because rule said that the ideal wife was a mother and manager of the home. If  aman wanted sexual attention, he did not go to his wife because by Confucian standards, love had a secondary meaning, it was simply not as important as other stuff. The men went to courtesans, who lived in walled in "pleasure quarters", probably now called houses of prostitution, or by the Bible-ish groups, houses of ill repute. This is how kabuki theater got its start. From women called yujo(play women). There was a slight rank system among these women. The highest ranking yujo was called Oiran, a combo of actress and prostitute, who played on stages in the Kamo riverbed in Kyoto. they performed erotically sexual dances and skits, and this new art was called kabuku, meaning "wild and outrageous".

-These "pleasure quarters" began offering more than just sex. The courtesans entertained their lcients with dancing, singing, playing music. Most were renknowned poets and calligraphers. At the turn of the 18th century, is when these entertainers began earning the name "Geisha".

-The women who worked within these pleasure quarters were imprisoned and strictly forbidden to sell sex in order to protect the business of the Oiran.
-By 1800, being a geisha was a predominantly female career, although there are indications that there are still a handful of working male geisha today. By then, Oiran began being considered gaudy, falling out of fashion. By the 1830s, the geisha look was adopted by fashionable women throuout society. There were many different styles of geisha. Some would have sexual relations with their clients, others would entertain with their art forms. Prostitution was legal up until the 1900s.
-WWII brought a huge dropout in the geisha arts because the women had to work in the factories or other places for Japan. In 1944, the geisha's world changed. Teahouses shut down, bars and houses of prostitution all shut down and these women worked in the factories.
-Before the war, a maiko's virginity would be auctioned off like an item. The term was "mizuage". This was outlawed in 1959, but made a relatively normal return in the 1990s.


-There are approximately 5 geisha districts in Japan. They are called hanamachi(flower towns). They are Kobu, Pontocho, Gion and Kamishichiken, who have the highest status, thus they are teh msot expensive and are frequented by powerful politicians and business men. Gion Kobu is seen as having a high rank status.
-At the polar opposite end of the glamorous geisha world are the hot spring geisha. These women work in the spa resorts and are viewed by Japanese society as nothing more than common prostitutes. They cater to less exclusive people, and more affordable. If they resort to selling sexual services, they remain distinct from the regular prostitutes. They are also trained in the Japanese arts of dancing and music. So here's how to tell a regular geisha from a geisha-prostitute. Geisha-prostitutes wear their obi belts tied in the front, easier to remove to have sex, where as regular geishas wear their obi belt tied in back, more formal that way.

-Geisha begin their training at a young age. Some girls are bonded to geisha houses or okiyas as kids. These girls become hangyoku and are as young as 9 years old. In the 1950s, this was outlawed because of child labor. Daughters of geisha are brought up as geisha themselves, usually as the successor(atotori, aka "heir" or "heiress") or daughter-role(musume-bun) to the okiya, meaing they will inherit it should anything happen to the manager of it.
-A maiko is bonded to her okiya by a contract. They supply her with food, board, kimonos, obis(belts), and other tools of her trade. Training is very pricey. Any money she earns MUST be repaid to the okiya. This may continue even after the she becomes a full blown geisha and when her debts are scored, she can move out to live and work as she pleases.
-Maikos often start their training on the job as minarai(learning by watching). She must find an onee-san(older sister). This is the one who has the responsibility of bringing her to the ozashiki(banquet with traditional Japanese tatami mats in traditional Japanese buildings) to sit and observe as the onee-san struts her stuff.
-Their kimonos are more elaborate than a geiko's, as these beautiful silk gowns let the talking be done. Minarai can be hired for parties, but usually are uninvited. They only charge 1/3 of the fee. Minarai usually work in certain teahouses, learning from the okaa-san(mother, the proprietress of the teahouse)
-After a brief period of training begins, the students called "maiko", which literally means "dance girl". They learn from their senior geisha mentor and follow them to all their engagements. The relationship between young geisha and older geisha is VERY important. It's called onee-san and imouto-san(senior/junior)
-The seniog geisha makes it her duty to train the little geisha in the art of working in the hanamachi or geisha district. They show her the way to properly pour/serve tea, playing the shamisen(3 stringed Japanese guitar), dancing, casual conversation and others. The onee-san even helps to pick a name that the maiko will use with the help of kanji symbols related to her name.

-There are major aspects of a maiko's training. The first is training in the formal arts. This takes place in a special school, which is found in EVERY hanamachi. The second element is the entertaining training the maiko learns at various teahouses and parties by watching and observing her senior geisha. The 3rd and final is mastering the social skill of navigating the social buzz of the geisha district. This is done on the streets. Formal greetings, gifts and visits are key aspects of any social hierarchy in Japan for a maiko, they are VERY crucial to give her the support she needs to survive the harsh world as a geisha.
-In Japanese tourism, geisha are considered a tourist sight. The maiko look different than full fledged Geisha. They are considered to be at the peak of Japanese femininity. The scarlet tinged collar of a maiko's kimono hangs very loosely in the back to give highlight to the neck, which is considered to be a very erotic area in Japanese sexuality. She wears white makeup on her face and also on her neck, leaving 2 or 3 stripes of bare skin exposed. Her kimono is bright and colorful, with an elaborately tied obi hanging down to her ankles. She takes small steps and wears traditional wooden shoes called okobo, which stand nearly 10 cm high. There are at leats 5 different hairstyles a maiko wears, these mark the stages of her apprenticeship. The "Nihongami" hairstyle with kanzashi(or ornamental) hair decorations is the closest thing associated with a maiko. They spend hours each week at the hairdresser and sleep on holed-pillows to preserve this elaborate hairdo. Maiko can develop a bald spot on their crown caused by the the rubbing from Knazashi strips and tugging in hairdressing. This was linked to the maiko's womanhood, as it came from the okufu hairstyle a maiko would wear aftr her mizuage(or first sexual encounter)
-Around 20-22, the maiko would be promoted to a full fledged geisha in a ceremony called erikae(turning of the collar). This could take 2-5 years pf her life as a maiko or hangyoku, depending on what age she came to.

Relationship with Men
-The appeal of a high ranking Geisha to male guests is and has been historically different than that of his wife. The "perfect" geisha showed her skills, while the "ideal" wife was modest. The ideal geisha was carefree, almost stupid and has no idea what's going on, while the wife was to be somber and responsible, almost considered a downer. Geisha do sometimes marry their clients, but if so, they must retire. Geisha are almost always never allowed to marry.
-Some of the more successful women in the geisha world are some of the most successful women in Japan. Without the female teahouse owners, the geisha world would drop off into nonexistence.
-There are many misconstrued ideas what a geisha truly does. Prostitution in Japan was legal until 1958. Outsiders may consider the world of the geisha to be this magical, mysterious wonderland, when true Japanese consider it a part of everyday life.
-Modern geisha still live in okiyas, specifically during their apprenticeship. Many are at the level of experience to work and live independently.
-Before the 20th century, geisha training began at age 4. Now, girls go to school until their teen years and then make the decision to become geishas. Young women who want to enter the geisha world begin their training after middle school, high school or even college.
-They still study the traditional instruments. The shamisen(3 stringed Japanese guitar), the shakuhachi(flute) and drums, learning games, songs, calligraphy, Japanese dances, tea ceremonies, literature and poetry. The dances are slow, formal and elegant motions.
-By watching other geisha at work, and with the help of the geisha house owner, apprentices become skilled in dealing with clients and the traditions surrounding selecting/wearing kimonos, which is a floor length silk robe with intricate designs on it, and is held together by a sash belt at the waist called an obi.
-Kyoto is considered, even today, to be the Geisha hotspot. Geiko is the word for the women in those districts. The Tokyo hanamachi are Shimbasa, Asakusa, and Kagurazaka.
-A common thing for tourists who really get into the whole Japanese world can pay a fee to be dressed up like a maiko.
-Geisha are often called to entertain at ochayas(tea houses) or restuarants(ryotei). The charge is determined by a burning stick of incense called senkodai(incense stick) or gyokudai(jewel fee).

-The dancing they do is typically called odori, which features both geisha and maiko.
-On February 25, geisha participate in an open-air tea ceremony in the Kamishichiken district of Kyoto. They serve tea to 3,000 guests, at the plum blossom festival.


Geishas and Prostitution
-Legit geisha do not engage in sex with clients. They are made to entertain, do poetry, sing and dance, write calligraphy, or engage in light conversation. How to tell the difference between geisha and prostitute. In the Edo period, courtesans wore elaborate hairstyles and white makeup, but they knotted their obi in the front. It was always thought they tied it that way for easy removal, but it was suggested by Liza Dalby that it was done by married women.
-Geisha working in onsen(spa) towns, such as Atami, were dubbed onsen geisha. There are bad rumors among the prostitutes who call themselves geisha that they perform a dance routine called Shallow River(involves them lifting their kimonos higher and higher until their private areas are exposed).


Woman in pink kimono in center is a geisha. She is a mature geisha with very little makeup, simple clothing and hair. The maiko(jr geisha) is on the left, with elaborate hair and clothing

Maiko in Gion district.

-A geisha's appearance changes through her career. It goes from the girlish, heavily made-up maiko, to the older, more reserved and sombre look of established geisha. And also to note, their eyebrows change too. Short eyebrows signify young and long signify old.
-The traditional makeup is hard to perfect and is time consuming. Consisting of thick white face paint, red lipstick and red and black accents around the eyes and brows. The white face paint was originally made with lead, but it was replaced with rice powder after being discovered it poisoned the skin and caused skin and back problems. A bamboo brush is used to apply the white face paint, and a maiko uses red around her eyes. The lips are filled using a small brush. The color comes in a small stick, melted in water. Sugar is used to make the lips shiny.
-After working for 3 years, she changes once more, this time to a more turned down, simple style. The reason is because she is mature, and simple style showcases her natural beauty.

-Always wears a kimono. The obi belt is always brighter than the kimono to give an exotic look. Outdoors, they wear zori sandals and tabi(white split toed socks) inside.

Pop Culture
-The 1997 novel Memoirs of a Geisha and 2005 film of the same name sparked interest in this. It was the autobiography of a geisha named Iwasaki Mineko.

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