Guest Author - Joy Alari
For one to really understand what a Geisha truly is, you need to first understand the role of a female, in the traditional Japanese setting.
In the past women in Japan, especially during the Heain era, were kept in separate quarters, seen by the outside world through protective screens because she was beautiful and equally fragile, she was a treasure that should always be protected.
So the Japanese woman would spend most of her time, tending to household needs, composing poetry, making music or mixing incense, if married she was expected to continue her husbandís lineage, by bearing many children with hopefully healthy males in the majority.
If unmarried, Japanese women were allowed the usual love affairs, which would eventually lead to marriage but after the marriage, thus ends any love affairs.
As for the Japanese male, tradition gave him total freedom in all aspects, his marriage is supposed to secure, a high position for him in society, as well as produce heirs for him.
The Japanese Male is within his rights, to have affairs even in marriage, he and his family, especially his parents are given pride of place before his wife.
It would now seem that, the Japanese male totally had it all, except that his loyal and obedient wife, canít seem to keep him company, or provide the right entertainment he needs, especially for his business companions.
This is the sole reason the Geisha was created, to fulfill the need of the Japanese maleís desire, for the perfect hostess and despite the many theories, this is what a Geisha truly is, the perfect hostess.
A Geisha means, a person of Talent or an Artist and a Geisha is truly the perfect hostess, she is sure to provide the right conversation, with the right amount of flirtatious chatter, to keep her clients entertained, plus the traditional Japanese songs and dance. A Geisha dinner is never complete without the right food and drink, this is more than what our regular western socialites can offer.
Geisha training is long and expensive but it still didnít deter people, from giving out their daughters for training, especially poor Japanese farmers who used to sell their daughters into prostitution, felt that the elegant life of a Geisha, was far more honorable because Geishas were custodians of Japanese culture and traditions, a Geisha was also well paid.
Geisha apprentices are called Maiko, they are also called dance child, training starts early from between 15 to 18years, a Maiko is supposed to learn all the intricacies of trade, from costume to makeup, how to play the various traditional instruments, such as the Shamisen.
Music and dance is a priority for any Geisha, a Maiko must learn the delicate flowery art, of conversing with her clients, she must also know how to secure them as well as how to care for a them.
The exclusive world of the Geisha art is taken very seriously, every Geisha who wants to practice the art, must be single but if a Geisha wants to tie the knot, she is allowed but would have to retire.
The Geisha Art was very popular, especially in the Momoyama period, when there was peace and prosperity in Japan. As peace lasted during the late 1600s, a new art form was dedicated to the Japanese woman, this was a far cry from the early days, when a womanís form was meant to be idealized and protected but not to be looked at.
Artists such as Suzuki Horunobuís paintings idealized females, soon Woodblock prints abounded in the Yoshiwara, or gay quarters of Edo, the merchant class flourished and the new wealth ensured that, by the 1800s over 80,000 Geishas were already practicing the art.
But as modern Westernization, began to over shadow most of the Japanese traditional customs, the Geisha trade soon faded as well, for an Art which epitomized the culture of Japan, today there are not more than, a thousand Geishas still practicing the Art in Japan.