Geisha and Maikobabibubebo | 5 10 2006
For general information about geisha and maiko continue reading below. If you want to know the best place to see geisha or maiko check out my other post.
Geisha, which literally means “doer of art,” today is a Japanese female entertainer whose profession includes music, dancing, communication and entertainment. There is a common misconception that geisha are prostitutes, this is not true. Maiko refers to a geisha in training. Geisha perhaps the most iconic symbol of Japan and if you are lucky enough to see one, they make for wonderful photographs; however, they are not so common anymore and Kyoto is pretty much the only place you can still see geisha or maiko in Japan; however, occasionally you can see some in Tokyo in places like Asakusa, Shimbashi and Kagurazaka. Here is a somewhat informative site about Geisha in Asakusa.
Geisha originated as skilled professional entertainers; originally most were male. Geisha used their skills in traditional Japanese arts, music, dance, and storytelling. As the artistic skills of high-ranking courtesans declined, the skills of the geisha, who were both male and female, became more in demand. Male geisha (sometimes known as hōkan) gradually began to decline, and by 1800 female geisha (originally known as onna geisha, literally “woman geisha”) outnumbered them by three to one, and the term “geisha” came to be understood as referring to skilled female entertainers, as it does today.
Traditionally, geisha began their training at a very young age. Some girls were sold to geisha houses as children, and began their training in various traditional arts almost immediately. During their childhood, geisha sometimes worked first as maids or assistants to experienced geisha, and then as apprentice geisha (maiko) during their training. This tradition of apprentice training exists as well in other traditions in Japan, when a student lives at the home of a master, starting out doing housework and assisting the master, and eventually becoming a master himself or herself.
In modern Japan, geisha and maiko are now a rare sight outside Kyoto. In the 1920s there were over 80,000 geisha in Japan, but today there are far fewer – a commonly accepted estimate is 10,000. However, visitors to Kyoto’s Gion district are likely to catch a glimpse of a maiko on her way to or from an appointment. In Kyoto, for a fee of about 6000-15000 yen (about 50-130 USD) anyone (sometimes even men) can schedule an appointement to get made up as a geisha. I could only find one place that had an English website where you can be turned into a geisha but if you ask your hotel, they should be able to find many places for you.
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