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History Of Geishas

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History of Geishas

Beautiful and mystical, exotic and refinedÐ'...this is what a geisha is. Geishas go far back in Japanese culture, with the first geishas really being men. Some people perceive geishas to be a form of prostitution, but there is more to this cultural affair then you may realize. Becoming a vast geisha involves great discipline and reverence. Geishas start training from a young age and require several skills such as conversational and even artistic. From being sold at an adolescent phase, quantities of children are being raised in this kind of lifestyle from the very beginning. However, families stopped selling their children once the mid-20th century came about. The history of geishas continue to expand today, but it roots come from the very beginning with the earliest geishas, geisha performances and acts, the first brothels, and artistic ways of geishas.

The original geishas were in fact men, taking place in the 1600s. Shocking? Indeed. Who would have thought that men played a part of the well known geisha role? But, due to the demand for women from the men, (and for the actuality that females were not as eager for the entertainment purposes by male geishas) male geishas quickly deteriorated. Performance skills are one that a geisha must particularly exceed in. Performing was really where it all began for the female geishas. In the early 11th century, two noble women created a new dance to entertain the warriors, and it all kind of built up from there on. Typically, geishas would perform for royalty, and if they got lucky then they could become a concubine to the emperor.

Traditional geisha performances were the sole entertainment of the event. A geisha would usually start by greeting and socializing with her guest. She would begin by serving warm sake (popular Japanese liquor), kind of acting as a hostess. She would then gracefully rest on her knees, starting conversation and flirting just the right amount. Once the dining is over, then the musical diversion began. An admired song would be sung while being accompanied with the soft music of a shamisen (a three stringed, banjo-like sounding instrument). Then the geisha would elegantly dance, exchanging time with their guest. It is customary for a geisha to perform the Kyomai. The Kyomai is a Kyoto style dance that has been practiced in the geisha routine ever since the 17th century! "She paints her face to hide her face. Her eyes are deep water. It is not for Geisha to want. It is not for geisha to feel. Geisha is an artist of the floating world. She dances, she sings. She entertains you, whatever you want. The rest is shadows, the rest is secret." (Golden, 156)

Dining, singing and dancing are among the few things that make a geisha performance what it is. A lot of these concepts are carried on throughout today's modern geisha and will never cease to change. And it is interesting to think that most people relate geishas to prostitutes and sex, in actuality, geishas are far from prostitutes. They are more discreet and protective of themselves and sex usually is not in the geisha routine. "Remember, Chiyo, geisha are not courtesans. And we are not wives. We sell our skills, not our bodies. We create another secret world, a place only of beauty." (Golden, 57)

Brothels were where children would grow up and learn all the practices and techniques of geishas. The first brothel in Japan actually came about on a marshy patch of land known as Yoshi-wara, located in Edo. This marsh land had been specifically designated to be a brothel district under the watch of the Tokugawa shogunate. This was the only area where brothels were allowed to function. It was strictly forbidden that any brothel be located outside of this district. Strict rules were enforced within the brothel community. One rule being that no customer or visitor was permissible to stay for more than twenty-four hours. Some of the other rules were that all geishas had to wear simpled kimonos, nothing to fancy, and any of the least bits of activities that were suspicious had to be reported to the government. Poor families and families in need of extra money would sell their daughters to brothel owners. At a young age, these girls were taught everything they needed to know. Geishas in training were referred to as maiko. As a maiko they learned traditional dance and how to play the shamisen. Maiko's would attend parties with real geishas so that they could learn and observe how the job was done, but they did not have the responsibilities of the geisha. You could distinguish a maiko from a geisha by looking at their lipsÐ'...maiko's only had their bottom lip painted red, the top was left nude. Maiko's trained for three to four years before becoming a geisha. "We do not become Geisha to pursue our own destines. We become Geisha because we have no other choice." (Golden, 29) They had no



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