The word geisha today conjures up the image of an Asian beauty who is good at amorous affairs and can make a man feel really great. But is it true?
10. They wear wigs and use exclusive cosmetics
Famous brands produce the limited number of cosmetics kits exclusively for Japanese geishas. As a rule, they include powders and creams whitening the skin, steadfast lipsticks and eyeliners which don’t fade during the whole day.
A modern geisha in Kyoto wears wigs and chignons instead of complex hairstyles. It takes a geisha 4-5 hours per day to make herself look good.
Every geisha has powder made of wood mushrooms called “maitake” which is literally translated as “dancing mushroom” or “the mushroom of Japanese geisha”. It’s generally believed that this natural nutritional supplement significantly reduces caloric value of any food and helps Asian women to stay in shape.
The second feature of “the dancing mushroom” is suppressing of pre-menstrual syndrome manifestations such as irritability, lingering pain, nausea and fatigue.
9. A geisha today isn’t a prostitute
Geisha’s reputation as an elite cultured companion was tarnished during WW2 by U.S. soldiers who called all Japanese women hanging up with them geishas. That’s why after the war the word “geisha” became associated with a woman of loose morals.
Nevertheless, that’s not true. Modern geisha in Kyoto can be distinguished from a Japanese female sex worker named “yudze” by the way they look.
Prostitute’s kimono sash is tied at the front in a knot (it’s easier and faster to get rid of the clothes in that case), whereas geisha’s sash is tied in the back in many complex knots.
A lady of the night wears shoes on bare feet. A geisha in Kyoto and Masaki, for her part, wears white socks. Plus, prostitutes decorate their hair with a huge number of barrettes and pins and fix their hair with red threads and coins.
Don’t you think they give the impression of strange women?
8. Young geishas differ from mature ones
In ancient times geishas started to receive education at the age of 10. A modern geisha in Kyoto as opposed to her colleagues who lived in the Middle Ages begins to be taught when she is 16. As a rule, for the first two years the girls have the status of a pupil which is called “maiko”.
It is believed that maiko attracts the attention of clients with her bright appearance, and a mature geisha fascinates men with her talents and skills.
You can distinguish “meikko” from her “elder sister” by clothes. The kimono sleeves of a maiko are much shorter and her lower collar is painted in bright-red color. A geisha initiation ceremony lies in the replacement of that collar with a white one embroidered with golden threads.
7. Geishas must work off money spent on their education
Maiko’s education costs several dozen thousand dollars in Kyoto. A kimono alone can cost 10-15 thousand dollars. The education is partly paid by the owners of tea houses. In return, maiko signs a contract according to which she is obliged to work exclusively for her “school” during the first year.
If a maiko wants to change jobs, she will have to pay the huge amount of money. However, profits from maiko’s work in Kyoto more than cover the costs of education. Two hours spent with a maiko in Kyoto cost about one-quarter of an average Japanese employee’s annual salary.
Only wealthy businessmen and policymakers can afford to spend an evening of companionship with a geisha at a tea house.
6. Geishas wear several types of kimono and strange shoes
In reality, geisha’s kimono isn’t a dress or a robe. It’s a solid piece of fabric which is wrapped around the body in a specific way and reinforced by several sashes. There are several types of kimonos — official, semi-official and even sports ones (which is used during training and rehearsals).
In winter and autumn a geisha wears kimonos with a warm lining. In spring, they are dressed in clothes made of cotton. In summer a geisha wears kimonos made of thin silk.
Geisha’s shoes which are sandals on a wooden platform are the reason for her strange walk. It’s incredibly difficult to wear them, since the center of gravity isn’t located in the toe – it lies in the heels. A geisha attaches bells to her sandals in order to add charm to her walk. Those bells make a sonorous rhythmic sound while walking with small steps.
5. A geisha today is entitled to refuse a meeting with a guest
According to the rules, a geisha must inspire confidence and fascinate guests at first glance. They have a win-win strategy for that purpose. Geishas are confident that the style of greeting shouldn’t be shallow. That’s why before say hello to a man they make a long eye contact with him and, in this, smile on him politely. And then they say: “Good evening!” In that case a man feels more relaxed.
Nobody ever coerces a geisha to undertake work which she doesn’t want to do. If someone invites maiko to spend a weekend on a private yacht, and it seems too suspicious to her, she is entitled to turn him down politely.
For this purpose, it’s enough to send him a letter which includes only one word, namely, “ookini” which can be literally translated as “thanks, but no thanks”.
4. They can sing, dance and know how to speak and listen to men
Modern geishas in Kyoto and Masaki must speak several languages, know how to talk on different subjects, be able to communicate with a bunch of people. She plays a musical instrument, sings, dances and, of course, holds a tea ceremony in accordance with all canons.
The most valuable feature of any geisha and maiko is being an excellent listener. Clients come to tea houses in order to enjoy a good conversation and be heard. In this, it is a geisha who determines where a conversation is going, asks short questions in a correct and delicate way and provides a client with an opportunity to vent.
Both geisha and maiko in Kyoto must be aware of all the political, social, sports and cultural news which happen in her country, because she never knows what topic a guest is going to touch.
Geisha’s morning therefore begins with watching a news programme and reading newspapers.
Geishas are known for their abilities to make a client laugh and be insensitive to his insults.
Nevertheless, the modern workers of tea houses in Kyoto replace newspapers with smartphones and read the latest news on the web. An employee of a tea house is capable of continuing any conversation even by nodding her head at the right time.
3. They hide something in their sleeves and change into special kimonos
The Japanese workers of tea houses in Kyoto always have several soft paper napkins folded in origami technique in their sleeves. This is the only salvation if a girl has a cold or a runny nose. Also, the napkin is used for wiping the shade of lipstick from her cup without her guest noticing it. Sometimes those napkins are used for writing notes.
Every month a geisha as well as a maiko replaces her hairpins and in some occasions she puts on a theme kimono. For example, in April, which is the month when the cherry blossoms. That’s why in April a geisha wears a kimono with the image of cherry.
June is a very rainy month in Kyoto and Masaki, and it’s associated with a weeping willow. Girls therefore wear clothes depicting a weeping willow in June. Besides, this tree is geishas’ mascot.
During the preparations for the New Year both geisha and maiko decorate their hair with special barrettes with white flowers and bamboo leaves and two small pieces of paper on which their favorite actors of the Kabuki theatre signed autographs.
Interestingly, the access to dressing rooms of that theater is always open to geishas, since they are one of the most respected women in history of Japan.
2. They compete in painting their nails and watch over their gestures
For centuries, a Japanese meikko was prohibited to paint their nails. But in the last decade the situation has changed dramatically. The girls not only started being interested in nail design, but also strive to outdo one another in creating pictures on the nails. As a rule, the theme of pictures coincides with the theme of one or the other month.
Sensuality and femininity manifest themselves not only in the clothes and make-up of maiko, but also in her gestures. Japanese “fairies of hospitality” recommend: if you want to charm a man, then watch your hands and arms. They shouldn’t look long. For example, when you hand over something to a guest, sitting at the table, keep your elbows down. That way you will be able to extend your arm gracefully.
1. Few tourists can afford to visit a tea house
A random person can’t just come into a tea house. No matter how much money you offer. The access to that place is open only upon the recommendation of someone who has already been entertained there.
That’s why tea houses are almost out of tourists’ reach. But if you crave visiting them, you’ve got a chance. A tourist can invite a geisha to a restaurant by appointment. As a rule, three “sisters” at once are invited for the meeting — an elder sister, a meikko and a musician.
A special dinner will cost you 150 dollars per person in Kyoto. In this, alcohol is served for an additional fee. You will also need an interpreter, since geishas aren’t fluent in English. So add another 150 to the above. Finally, shell out additional 600 bucks for two-hour communication with a geisha, regardless of her age and experience.
And this rendezvous doesn’t imply subsequent sexual intercourse – only a pleasant conversation, music and dancing. In one evening a geisha manages to meet with several men. It’s a really hard job. But in Kyoto she earns from 5 to 10 thousand dollars per month.
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