If you like Japanese culture and the land of the rising sun, I bet you’ve heard the term “geisha”. But do you really know what that means? Here are 12 facts about geisha that you probably don’t know!
1 – Geisha (芸者) is the same word for geiko (芸子) and geigi (芸妓). They all have the same calligraphy – gei (芸), which means entertainment, or something that requires a certain skill, mind and idea. Sha (者) means person or thing. Ko (子) means child. Gi (妓) and a woman who serves at a meal with music or traditional Japanese songs. All terms refer to a woman who entertains diners by dancing, and playing traditional Japanese music during dinners in restaurants or in a tea house.
2- The male geisha existed during the Edo period in Kyoto the capital of Japan and Osaka, geisha meant houkan (幇間) and geiko meant female. Houkan was a job to entertain Japanese customers by showing their skill and helping geiko and maiko (舞妓). In the Meiji era, the name geisha became the word for a woman.
3- Young girls who are in training to become geisha are called maiko. Maikos offer to provide entertainment such as traditional Japanese dance, ohayashi (祭囃子) during a business meal or other ceremonies. Ohayashi is a kind of Japanese music played during festivals and shows the variety of regions and the discovery of Japan.
4- A maiko and a geisha are distinguished by their hairstyle. Geisha have a shimada bun (島田髷). And so that their hairstyle wouldn’t be damaged while sleeping, the geishas had to sleep with their heads resting on a sort of piece of wood, like a small high bench, which was quite uncomfortable. This hairstyle was literally a big job to do among the traditional arts of Japanese and Japanese tradition.
5- You can distinguish a geisha and a maiko by their kimono. Geisha wears a tsumesode (詰袖) kimono. Tsumesode kimonos are kimonos that do not have an opening on the side under the armpit. Maiko wears a hikizuri kimono (引きずり). Hikizuri are equivalent to the furisode, or formal silk kimono that women wear on Seijin-no-hi (coming of age day), in that they both have long sleeves. But the hikizuri have very large padded hems that trail along the ground, while the furisodes have a regular length and are embellished with a beautiful obi, a belt that allows you to hold and close your kimono. The very first Obi was then a simple rope and over time it became a rather wide, heavy, thick and rigid fabric in raw silk or cotton.
6- Geisha and maiko wear oshiroi (白粉). Oshiroi is a white powder. They use it to cover faces on the back and front of their necks. In the past, this powder was made of lead, and this caused serious health problems later. Their makeup is completed with black eyeliner, a swipe of red eyeshadow on the tips of their eyelids, and very red lips and other Japanese items. Usually, the oshiro is no longer worn by a geiko who is of a certain age.
7 – Before, the geisha had black teeth. This custom was called ohaguro (お歯黒). It wasn’t just for geisha, but for women in general. The meaning of this changes through time, but it was for beauty. Nowadays, maikos will blacken their teeth when they reach sakkou stage, or when they graduate from maiko status.
8 – To be able to see a geisha, you will need to contact an Okiya (置屋) to access a geisha. Okiya is where the geishas are. Guests would call or nominate a geisha through Okiya. You cannot see or choose a geisha face to face. To see a geisha, he introduces someone who has ties to the Okiya.
9 – Having a geisha at your banquet requires connections. To call a geisha to your banquet or tea ceremony, you must ask the Ryotei (料亭). A Ryotei is an upscale Japanese restaurant furnished with large private rooms. The Ryotei will then arrange the number of geisha according to the client’s budget and wishes. If you are a familiar face, you can directly call a geisha. You can’t always call a geisha every Ryotei. There are strict rules of Japanese culture. The geishas also went to the Ryokan, that is to say the traditional and typical inns of Japan.
10 – Geisha pay grades have certain styles. They are called Ohanadai (お花代), Gyokudai (玉代) or Senkoudai (線香代). Dai (代) means price. Ohana means flower. Gyoku comes as a jewel or a sphere. Senkou means incense. Naming something indirectly using other words is a form of beauty in the Japanese language, as it is in many other cultures.
11 – The geisha had patrons called danna (旦那). A danna is a rich and powerful man who pays all the expenses of the geisha. Becoming a geisha takes a lot of time and money. The danna will have to pay and take care of the geisha throughout his life. So to become danna meant that one had a high social status. It showed that they had enough money to be the boss of a geisha. Their relationship is not sexual.
12 – To be a geisha is not to be a sex worker. Many people confuse geisha with oiran who were prostitutes. But it is true that geishas did sex work but technically they were artists.
You will find in our shop, all kinds of articles related to the geishas, ranging from the t-shirt printed with the effigy of the geisha, you will find the traditional costume and the obi and all the accessories.