By TammyWhite
2 years ago

History of Geisha

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In the early stages of Japanese history, there were female entertainers: saburuko (serving girls) were mostly wandering girls whose families were displaced from struggles in the late 600s. Some of these saburuko girls sold sexual services, while others with a better education made a living by entertaining at high-class social gatherings. After the imperial court moved the capital to Heian-kyō (Kyoto) in 794 the conditions that would form geisha culture began to emerge, as it became the home of a beauty-obsessed elite. Skilled female performers, such as Shirabyōshidancers, thrived.

Traditional Japan embraced sexual delights (it is not a Shinto taboo) and men were not constrained to be faithful to their wives. The ideal wife was a modest mother and manager of the home; by Confucian custom love had secondary importance. For sexual enjoyment and romantic attachment, men did not go to their wives, but to courtesans. Walled-in pleasure quarters known as yūkaku (遊廓、遊郭) were built in the 16th century, and in 1617 the shogunate designated "pleasure quarters", outside of which prostitution would be illegal, and within which yūjo ("play women") would be classified and licensed. The highestyūjo class was the geisha's predecessor, called tayuu, a combination of actress and prostitute, originally playing on stages set in the dry Kamo riverbed in Kyoto. They performed erotic dances and skits, and this new art was dubbed kabuku, meaning "to be wild and outrageous". The dances were called "kabuki", and this was the beginning of kabuki theater.

These pleasure quarters quickly became glamorous entertainment centers, offering more than sex. The highly accomplished courtesans of these districts entertained their clients by dancing, singing, and playing music. Some were renowned poets and calligraphers. Gradually, they all became specialized and the new profession, purely of entertainment, arose. It was near the turn of the eighteenth century that the first entertainers of the pleasure quarters, called geisha, appeared. The first geishas were men, entertaining customers waiting to see the most popular and gifted courtesans (oiran).

The fore runners of the female geisha were the teenage odoriko ("dancing girls"): expensively trained as chaste dancers-for-hire. In the 1680s, they were popular paid entertainers in the private homes of upper-class samurai, though many had turned to prostitution by the early 18th century. Those who were no longer teenagers (and could no longer style themselves odoriko) adopted other names—one being "geisha", after the male entertainers. The first woman known to have called herself geisha was a Fukagawaprostitute, in about 1750. She was a skilled singer and shamisen player named Kikuya who was an immediate success, making female geisha extremely popular in 1750s Fukagawa. As they became more widespread throughout the 1760s and 1770s, many began working only as entertainers (rather than prostitutes), often in the same establishments as male geisha.

The geisha who worked within the pleasure quarters were essentially imprisoned and strictly forbidden to sell sex in order to protect the business of the oiran. While licensed courtesans existed to meet men's sexual needs, machi geisha carved out a separate niche as artists and erudite female companions.

By 1800, being a geisha was considered a female occupation (though there are still a handful of male geisha working today). Eventually, the gaudy Oiran began to fall out of fashion, becoming less popular than the chic ("iki") and modern geisha. By the 1830s, the evolving geisha style was emulated by fashionable women throughout society. There were many different classifications and ranks of geisha. Some women would have sex with their male customers, whereas others would entertain strictly with their art forms. Prostitution was legal up until the 1900s (decade), so it was practiced in many quarters throughout Japan.

World War II brought a huge decline in the geisha arts because most women had to go to factories or other places to work for Japan. The geisha name also lost some status during this time because prostitutes began referring to themselves as "geisha girls" to American military men. In 1944, the geisha world, including the teahouses, bars and geisha houses, was forced to close, and all employees were put to work in factories. About a year later, they were allowed to reopen. The few women who returned to the geisha areas decided to reject Western influence and revert to traditional ways of entertainment and life. "The image of the geisha was formed during Japan's feudal past, and this is now the image they must keep in order to remain geisha." It was up to these returning geisha to bring back traditional standards in the profession, though with increased rights for the geisha:
After Japan lost the war, geisha dispersed and the profession was in shambles. When they regrouped during the Occupation and began to flourish in the 1960s during Japan's postwar economic boom, the geisha world changed. In modern Japan, girls are not sold into indentured service. Nowadays, a geisha's sex life is her private affair.

There were many rumors that stated before the war, a maiko's virginity would be auctioned (the original "mizuage").
But this was confused with the girls who were apprentices to yujo and courtesans. This practice was completely outlawed in 1959. Compulsory education laws passed in the 1960s made traditional geisha apprenticeships difficult, leading to a decline in women entering the field.

In her book Geisha, a Life, Mineko Iwasaki said: "I lived in the karyukai during the 1960s and 1970s, a time when Japan was undergoing the radical transformation from a post-feudal to a modern society. But I existed in a world apart, a special realm whose mission and identity depended on preserving the time-honored traditions of the past."

Traditionally, Geisha began their training at a young age. Some girls were bonded to geisha houses (okiya) as children. Daughters of geisha were often brought up as geisha themselves, usually as the successor (atotori, meaning "heir" or "heiress" in this particular situation) or daughter-role (musume-bun) to the okiya.

A maiko is an apprentice and is therefore bonded under a contract to her okiya. The okiya supplies her with food, board, kimono, obi, and other tools of her trade. Her training is very expensive and her debt must be repaid to the okiya with the earnings she makes. This repayment may continue after the maiko becomes a full-fledged geisha and only when her debts are settled is she permitted to move out to live and work independently.

A maiko will start her formal training on the job as a minarai, which literally means "learning by watching" at an ozashiki (お座敷, a banquet in any traditional Japanese building with tatami), to sit and observe as the other maiko and geiko interact with customers. This is a way in which she will gain insights of the job, and seek out potential clients. Although minarai attend ozashiki, they do not participate at an advanced level. Theirkimono, more elaborate than a geiko's, are intended to do the talking for them. Minarai can be hired for parties but are usually uninvited (yet welcomed) guests at parties that their onee-san attends. They only charge a third of the usual fee. Minarai generally work with a particular tea house (minarai-jaya) learning from the okaa-san (literally "mother", the proprietress of the house). From her, they would learn techniques such as conversation and gaming, which would not be taught to them in school. This stage lasts only about a month or so.

After a short period the final stage of training begins, and the students are now called "maiko", rather than minarai. Maiko (literally "dance girl") are apprentice geisha, and this stage can last for up to 5 years. Maiko learn from their senior maiko and geiko mentors. The onee-san and imouto-san (senior/junior, literally "older sister/younger sister") relationship is important. The onee-san, any maiko or geiko who is senior to a girl, teaches her maiko everything about working in the hanamachi. The onee-san will teach her proper ways of serving tea, playing shamisen, dancing, casual conversation and more.

There are three major elements of a maiko's training. The first is the formal arts training. This takes place in special geisha schools which are found in every hanamachi. The second element is the entertainment training which the maiko learns at various tea houses and parties by observing her onee-san. The third is the social skill of navigating the complex social web of the hanamachi. This is done on the streets. Formal greetings, gifts, and visits are key parts of any social structure in Japan and for a maiko, they are crucial for her to build the support network she needs to survive as a geisha.

Maiko are considered one of the great sights of Japanese tourism, and look very different from fully qualified geisha. They are at the peak of traditional Japanese femininity. The scarlet-fringed collar of a maiko's kimono hangs very loosely in the back to accentuate the nape of the neck, which is considered a primary erotic area in Japanese sexuality. She wears the same white makeup for her face on her nape, leaving two or sometimes three stripes of bare skin exposed. Her kimono is bright and colourful with an elaborately tied obi hanging down to her ankles. She takes very small steps and wears traditional wooden shoes called okobo which stand nearly ten centimeters high. There are five different hairstyles that a maiko wears, that mark the different stages of her apprenticeship. The "Nihongami" hairstyle with "kanzashi" hair-ornamentation strips is most closely associated with maiko, who spend hours each week at the hairdresser and sleep on holed-pillows to preserve the elaborate styling.
Maiko can develop a bald spot on their crown caused by rubbing from Kanzashi strips and tugging in hairdressing.

Around the age of 20–21, the maiko is promoted to a full-fledged geisha in a ceremony called erikae (turning of the collar).
This could happen after three to five years of her life as a maiko or hangyoku, depending on at what age she debuted. Geisha remain as such until they retire.

Modern geisha still live in traditional geisha houses called okiya in areas called hanamachi (花街 "flower streets"), particularly during their apprenticeship. Many experienced geisha are successful enough to choose to live independently. The elegant, high-culture world that geisha are a part of is called karyūkai (花柳界 "the flower and willow world").

Before the twentieth century, geisha training began when a girl was around the age of four. Now, girls must go to school until they are 15 years old and have graduated from middle school and then make the personal decision to train to become a geisha. Young women who wish to become geisha now most often begin their training after high school or even college. Many more women begin their careers in adulthood.

Geisha still study traditional instruments: theshamisen, shakuhachi, and drums, as well as learn games, traditional songs, calligraphy, Japanese traditional dances (in the nihonbuyō style), tea ceremony, literature, and poetry.

By watching other geisha, and with the assistance of the owner of the geisha house, apprentices also become skilled dealing with clients and in the complex traditions surrounding selecting and wearing kimono, a floor length silk robe embroidered with intricate designs which is held together by a sash at the waist which is called an obi.

Kyoto is often most strongly associated with the geisha tradition. The geisha in Kyoto's districts, as well as in other parts of western Japan, are known as geiko. The Tokyohanamachi of Shimbashi, Asakusa and Kagurazaka are also well known.

In modern Japan, geisha and maiko are now a rare sight outside hanamachi or chayagai (茶屋街, literally "tea house district", often referred to as "entertainment district"). In the 1920s, there were over 80,000 geisha in Japan, but today, there are far fewer. The exact number is unknown to outsiders and is estimated to be from 1,000 to 2,000, mostly in the resort town of Atami. Most common are sightings of tourists who pay a fee to be dressed up as a maiko.

A sluggish economy, declining interest in the traditional arts, the exclusive nature of the flower and willow world, and the expense of being entertained by geisha have all contributed to the tradition's decline. However, the flower and willow world has seen a resurgence in new members over the last 10 years due to the accessibility that the internet has provided for young girls wanting to know more about the profession and not needing a formal introduction to an okiya.

Geisha are often hired to attend parties and gatherings, traditionally at ochaya (お茶屋, literally "tea houses") or at traditional Japanese restaurants (ryōtei). The charge for a geisha's time used to be determined by (measured by burning incense stick) is calledsenkōdai (線香代, "incense stick fee") or gyokudai (玉代 "jewel fee"). Now they are flat fees charged by the hour. In Kyoto, the termsohana (お花) and hanadai (花代), meaning "flower fees", are preferred. The okasan makes arrangements through the geisha union office (検番 kenban), which keeps each geisha's schedule and makes her appointments both for entertaining and for training.
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Kaporis Interesting reading ❤️😊
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Bashields Love
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Violeta Very nice
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DAIANAGABAR Good article
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MegyBella Great topic for writing
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soncee Beautiful artikle
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carmen3521 Good post!
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