There are many misconceptions about who a Geisha truly is, this is largely due to its elite and very private world, in the past some prostitutes had self- styled themselves as Geishas but in truth, a Geisha is a professional female entertainer, skilled in the various Japanese traditional art, such as
Traditionally, training for a Geisha starts early, in the past young girls from 3 to 5yrs were bonded to geisha houses. Today, they are allowed to go to school and training starts from 15 or even 18yrs. Trainee Geishas are called Maiko which means
This is an expensive investment for the Okiya, more so for a Maiko because even on completing her training and becomimg a full Geisha, she can't start out on her own until she pays back every penny.
Though welcomed, Maikos are never really given invites to Ozashiki [traditional Japanese banquets] so to get her foot in the door, she would need the aid of the Oneesan, who is her mentor as well as a full Geisha, to take her to “her” invited outings, where she’s to observe and learn the intricacies of the trade.
These outings are beneficial to a Maiko, as she gets a first hand view of how and what it is to be a Geisha, how to handle clients, make conversation, serve the teas or play the Shamisen [banjo like string instrument]. From these outings, a Maiko will earn a third of the usual fee for a Geisha, as well as get the opportunity to prospect for future clients. Oneesan is very important as she's the one, who helps a Maiko select her professional name.
After successfully completing her training, a Maiko celebrates her coming of age with a ceremony called Mizuage, in the past this ceremony entails that a Maiko would loose her virginity to a Danna [patron] who inturn would sponsor her Mizuage. Today, a Maiko doesn’t have to do this.
The most striking thing about any Geisha is their dressing, the white base makeup made of
Unlike established the Geisha, a Maiko’s dressing is more showy and flamboyant, they wear brighter colored kimonos and their Darari-no-obi [Sash] almost always reaches the ground, they also wear high wooden clogs called Okobo.
Geishas take their art very seriously and must practice everyday, for every single gesture in a dance tells a story. Unlike the past, the modern Geisha of today now have computer skills, speak English, give international tours and even do some modeling.
Geishas can flirt with clients but there must be no paid sexual relations involved, they can have personal relationships too and so long as they remain single, they can be a Geisha for as long as they like.
Geisha fees are measured in incense sticks called Senkōdai a Geisha dinner costs 80,000 yen ($785) it takes place in a Ochaya [tea house] food is ordered in and tab for the evening, which includes everything from the Geisha’s fees to taxi cab fare, is charged to the client’s account.
Since its based on trust, new clients must be vouched by a guarantor but today, with the downturn of the economy, any tourist who can afford it, can have a Geiko dinner and depending on his wallet, can have as many Geishas attending to his needs.
There are many Hanamachi [Geisha districts] where one can see a Geisha, such as
Geishas are one of the most financially capable, powerful and strong group of women in Japan, despite the modern transformations, Geishas are still very much a part of Japanese culture today and in the future.