Do Geishas Still Exist?

Are you curious about Geishas and want to know if they are still around? Perhaps you haven’t seen any for a while and want to know why? Or maybe you just want to learn about Geishas? Whatever your reason might be, we have the answer for you!

Do Geishas Still Exist

We know how tricky it can be to find out information about Geishas and learn if they are still here today. No matter what you do or how hard you search, you just can’t seem to find the answers that you need.

Well, no more! Today we are here to find out if Geisha’s still exist. Keep reading to find out more about Geishas and how they look in the twenty-first century!

What Are Geishas?

Let’s have a quick recap for those that need it! Geishas are a world-famous icon in Japan, with their pale white skin and bright red lips, glossy pinned up black hair, and beautiful silk kimonos.

Geishas are highly respected members of society that have existed for thousands of years. They are also one of the largest professions in Japan, numbering more than 500,000 people.

There is even a Geisha college in Tokyo where young women can learn about their traditional ways. Geishas have a long history in Japan and are still popular to this day; being taught how to perform many different arts such as poetry and dance.

The first time pictures of real geishas surfaced were in 1750, and ever since they have become an iconic symbol of Japan’s artisan culture with a variety of traditions we still see today.

Modern geishas spread the traditions of their culture with both locals and tourists, and remain a prominent part of Japanese culture.

The History Of Geishas

The first geishas were referred to as “the saburuko”, meaning those who serve. They were waitresses, conversationalists and performed sexual acts in some cases way back in the 600s.

High-class saburuko performed dances and other forms of entertainment at important events.

Lower class saburuko were normally from poor families who were badly affected by the political issues which were rife during these times, during the Taika Reform. In the year 794, Emperor Kammu made Heian (modern day Kyoto) the new capital.

During Heian times, a high standard of beauty and fashion was prominent and samurai warriors were famous. Japanese culture and the saburuko were at their peak during this time period.

Female performers such as Shirabyoshi dancers were a major element of Japanese culture right up until the 12th century and passed their traditions down across generations.

During the 16th century, after the Sengoku period of chaos, large cities in Japan created pleasure quarters, where “yujo” resided and worked as prostitutes. These workers were ranked by their beauty and their abilities.

The samurai warriors who were still prominent in Japan at this time were not allowed to partake in yujo services, because high-class members of society were violating the law if they associated with lower-class members such as the yujo.

However, a large portion of the samurai warrior society found loopholes and ways to combat the law, which made them prominent customers for the yujo.

As the customers were of a higher class in the pleasure quarters, female performers also became of a higher class. They had remarkable skills in the arts such as dancing and singing, with many learning to play the classic instruments: the shamisen and the flute.

Instead of performing sexual acts for money, a culture of arts and conversation began as the main roles of geishas. Strong skills in calligraphy and poetry were seen as the mark of an excellent geisha.

The first geisha on record was Kikuya from Fukagawa. She could play the shamisen and also performed sexual favours as a prostitute. This was back in 1750 when the first images of geishas began to enter mainstream Japanese culture.

The 19th century was when early geishas really began to shift the idea of their roles being to perform as prostitutes over to more talent-based roles.

The first real geishas in the world existed in Kyoto during the year 1813, around 55 years before the Meiji Restoration, which is when the modernization of Japan began.

Samurai warriors started to become a thing of the past, but geishas remained a strong element of Japanese culture. When World War II began, geishas became less popular because everyone in the country had to pull together and work to help the war effort.

Geishas were an extremely popular source of entertainment across history, but how has this transferred to modern Japanese culture as we see it today? Read on to find out.

What Are Geishas Like Today?

The historical prominence of geishas may have been a relatively short period, but modern culture sees them as an important symbol of Japan and a great source of entertainment for the tourist industry.

There are a few traditions that have changed along with the times, such as geisha training. “Maiko” which is the name used to refer to young girls who began geisha training in the past, started their training at the tender age of six back in the day.

Nowadays, it is more common for maiko to start geisha training at either 16 or 18 years of age. This can differ by city, with Tokyo having a minimum age of 18 to begin geisha training, and Kyoto having a minimum age of 16.

This is because Japanese children are required by law to stay in school until at least the age of 15, preferably longer.

Education has become a much more significant part of Japanese life than it was in the past, and many more opportunities are available for lower-class members of society than in the past.

Today’s geisha tend to exist for tourist entertainment, although they also have roles in entertaining local businessmen and women. They still perform lots of the same traditional skills as modes of entertainment; such as dancing, singing, and playing instruments.

Calligraphy and poetry also remain important geisha skill sets. They also maintain the traditional look of a geisha: with kimonos, fans, special shoes, pale white skin, and bright red lipstick, with tied-up black hair.

Final Thoughts

Geishas are an important element of modern-day Japanese culture and provide both local people and the tourism industry with a breadth of tradition-based entertainment.

Geishas were highly prominent in historical Japan for thousands of years, and they have since remained a significant cultural icon of arts and performance, such as dance and poetry, bringing in many visitors and providing an important source of income.

Aura Ruggeri
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