Arts & Design Culture

12 Interesting Facts About Geisha

Geisha are beautiful entertainers who can sing, dance and play traditional Japanese musical instruments. Today I have brought to you 12 unknown facts about Geisha especially for Non-Japanese, who sometimes mess up with Geisha appearance and their roles.

These facts are known to Japanese people, I think even to its neighbor countries people such as Korea or China or who research on Japanese culture.

Maiko (Apprentice Geisha) in Autumn
Maiko (Apprentice Geisha) in Autumn. Photo credit: Onihide BLOG (CC BY-SA)

1) A maiko is not a complete geisha since there are many differences in their appearance and roles. Are you thinking about the word “Maiko” now? Maiko is an apprentice geisha who is learning things to be a geisha in the future.

Maiko wear more colorful attire than a mature geisha. You don’t get messed yourself seeing different hair styles of a maiko girl at a tea ceremony or on the street in Kyoto.

2) Geishas are not prostitute. Many non-Japanese believe they are but they are not. Some of friends from North America and Europe used to think geisha is a prostitute until I have revealed the truth.

Indeed that hurts me a lot when someone wrongly thinks like that. I always welcome you to know the right info about Japanese culture and tradition.

Geisha in Kyoto, Japan. Photo credit: Jesslee Cuizon at Flickr through Creative Commons licensing

3) Instead of using pillows geisha are trained to sleep with takamakura (vintage Japanese geisha pillow). Sometimes I don’t need a pillow to sleep when I am too sleepy though please don’t think that I am a geisha!

There is an informative book on Geisha life called Geisha: A living tradition. Stunning photographs of Geisha and useful information would certainly make you curious of a Geisha life. I recommend this book if you really want to know more about geisha life.

4) Usually, geisha don’t serve green tea or dango on special occasion but Maiko do it. This could be seen at Ume matsuri when maiko girls serve tea to the visitors by wearing traditional colorful kimono.

Maiko in Japan
Maiko in Japan. Photo credit: (CC BY-SA)

5) In modern time, Geisha learn foreign language such as English to communicate with foreign visitors in Japan as well as abroad.

6) Geisha are highly valued person and educated in Japanese art. An average girl can’t be a geisha within a short time. She needs to be educated for few years. To attain a goal one must work hard and this is what a girl does to become a geisha from a maiko.

Under current Japanese law, a girl who is 16 can be a maiko and she has to learn everything about Japanese art and culture that includes traditional singing, playing instrument, traditional Japanese ancient dancing, tea ceremony manners, the art of wearing kimono, flower arrangements and so no. Thus how a maiko be educated and then becomes a real Geisha at the age of 21.

You can watch a very famous movie ever made based on Geisha life. The movie is called “Memories of a Geisha,” it was filmed in 2005 and won 3 academy awards (Oscar).

Geisha on Street with an Umbrella, Japan
Geisha on Street with an Umbrella. Photo credit: ThisParticularGreg at Flickr through Creative Commons licensing

7) Geisha always wear handmade kimono that is usually made of silk.

8) Geisha are not Oiran and Tayu (Whose rank is highest in prostitution). Here, Orian originated in Edo period, their role was to provide sexual pleasure than becoming an entertainer. Nowadays, you can hardly find Orian in Japan.

9) A geisha woman can’t get married at the time she wishes to remain geisha but she can get married after her retirement.

10) During Edo period there were male geisha (Taikomochi) in Japan. Though, in modern time you will not find a male geisha.

Beautiful Maiko Picture, Kyoto
Beautiful Maiko Picture, Kyoto. Photo credit: (CC BY-SA)

11) Geisha live in Hanamachi that means in flower town, “Hana – Flower and Machi – Town). It is a district, can be found in different places all over Japan mostly in Kyoto and Tokyo.

Having this kind of residential area attracts many foreigners to see Geisha and Maiko. In Hanamachi, there are many Okiya (a traditional style Japanese house) where usually Geisha live at.

12) Finally, nowadays many Geisha wear wig.

I hope above all these 12 facts would help you to know about Geisha better than you had ever known before.

There are other facts I could have told you but the ones I have brought here seem to me enough for you to understand a Geisha characteristic. As long as Japanese culture exists you would never miss seeing Geisha in the land of the rising sun.

There is a great blog where you can look at some gorgeous Geisha photographs. Please visit here: Onihide BLOG.