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Japanese Geisha

The image of a geisha is indigenous in Japanese culture. The history of  these female entertainers in Japan can be traced back to the 11th century. However, we can observe a dramatic decline in the number of geisha's nowadays. This is mostly due to the fact that becoming a genuine geisha involves a lot of work, commitment and financial support

Geisha's and their role

    The Japanese character for 'gei' means art or performance and 'sha' means person. Literally translated, geisha means 'a person of the arts or performance'. Following this translation geisha's are professional entertainers, who amuse guests by performing arts. They also prepare and serve drinks, mostly tea, and entertain guests with conversation.

    To become a geisha in the past you had to be the daughter of geisha. It was also very common that small beautiful girls from poor families were sold to the tea house called O-chaya to start their training to become a geisha. Obviously this practice is not common anymore, but still  future geisha's are often trained from the early childhood to achieve high standards for their performances. Even after becoming a geisha, girls keep on taking many lessons to improve their skills.

The history of geisha

    It is believed that the women who danced for warrior circles in the 11th century are the early predecessors of geisha. They were mostly of noble birth and had a close connection to the upper class in the society. During that time most of the geisha's patrons were shoguns or doymios but some of them could even become concubines of the emperor.

    In 16th century, as Japan was enjoying a long period of peace, geisha became very popular within the Japanese society. During that time many tea house districts were built. Hanamachis, as they are called, were established mainly in the close neighborhood of shrines and temples. In 17th century this occupation became popular enough to enable the country authorities to implement registration system for this profession. In that way, geisha were forced to pay taxes.

The art of geisha

    Geisha are trained in a many traditional skills, including: Japanese ancient dance, traditional singing accompanied by playing traditional instruments, the tea ceremony, alcohol serving manners, calligraphy, poetry, the art of wearing the kimono, flowers arrangement as well as etiquette, conversation and social graces. Nowadays geisha's are taught computer skills and take English classes to be able to serve foreign clients. Some of them are models at the same time and go regularly on international tours.

    However, traditional dance belongs to the most important skills of geisha. This dance originated from religious practices and can be traced back to the nineteenth century. The most common dances, Miyako Odori and Cherry Dances, are connected to the value of Cherry Blossom.  Singing traditional songs and playing instruments is the second important skill of  a geisha. As anessential instrument is the three stringed ivory shamisen.

The clothes of a geisha

    Geisha's dress in traditional kimonos.  The color, pattern, and style of kimono depends on  the season. As outdoor shoes they wear wooden clogs, called gata in winter and flat-soled sandals during summer. Their hair is worn up exposing her neck, which is considered to be one of the most beautiful parts of a woman's body. It is also adorned with ornaments, which often symbolizes the status of a geisha. Geisha's use a white foundation make-up and paint their lips bright red. They often color their lips in the middle only just to emphasize delicacy. This make-up is probably the most common feature of geisha because of its contrast to the contemporary one.


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