Geisha are traditional female entertainers in Japan who are trained in the art of classical dance and singing. Geisha is a modern emergence, but ‘Geisha’ kind women have existed since the annals in Japanese history. Originally ‘men’, geiko had been entertaining in many different ways since 1660s in Japan but in the later 1750s, female Geiko emerged in Osaka and Kyoto as entertainers.
However, with failing economy and changes in the social structure that happened in the second half of the 18th century when there was a decline in the skills of the courtesans and there emerged a new class of entertainers arose as the Geisha.
Even before the emergence of Geishas there were two notable predecessors, the Saburuko (those who serve) and Shirabyoshi (name adopted from the dance which they performed).
Changing fortunes of many aristocratic families led to the girls becoming Shirabyoshi in order to survive and fend for their families. Most of them slowly emerged to become Geishas later on. The introduction of Shamisen, the popular musical instrument like a harp, became popular at social gatherings and Geishas were trained in the art of singing, dancing and playing the shamisen.
Basically they worked as entertainers but came from good families who were educated and talented. They were often invited to aristocratic gatherings as talented dancers and musicians. Originally most of the girls were hired to dance and sing without sexual favours, but later on many of the Odoriko or the female geisha turned to prostitution.
However, it is not necessary that Geisha may be following prostitution but some of them change their paths to follow a path of a prostitute. However, for most parts, geisha are simply talented entertainers who can talk on intelligent matters and know music and dance. They have an intricate make up routine and the Kimono is the preferred dress. They are trained in the art of tea ceremonies and social entertainments. There is a stiff apprenticeship before becoming a geisha and the young girls who are inducted are known as Maiko.
Even today, Geisha are often hired to attend parties, social gathering and tea houses or ochaya and even at traditional Japanese restaurants. They are paid in the traditional way as their time is measured by the time an incense stick burns completely.
Elegant, elusive and sassy, from eons Geisha are a part of traditional Japanese society entertaining and socializing and building new bridges within the changing Japanese society to bridge the gap between the techno savvy new generations and the conservative traditionalism.
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