a graceful geisha
bends in the wind of culture
Kim M. Russell, 2017
Image found on Pinterest
My response to Carpe Diem #1163 geisha, the beauty of Japan
In the penultimate episode of our journey through Japan, Chèvrefeuille has told us about the geisha, geiko or geigi: traditional Japanese female entertainers who act as hostesses and whose skills include performing various arts such as classical music, dance, games and conversation.
He explained that apprentice geisha are called maiko (‘dance child’), hangyoku (‘half-jewel’, meaning that they were paid half the wage of a full geisha), or o-shaku, (‘one who pours’). The white make-up and elaborate kimono and hair of a maiko is the popular image of geisha. A woman entering the geisha community does not have to begin as a maiko but can start as a full geisha. Either way, usually a year’s training is involved. A woman over 21 is considered too old to be a maiko and becomes a full geisha upon her initiation into the geisha community.
Interestingly, Chèvrefeuille came across an article about male geisha: taikomochi or houkan, the original male geisha of Japan. They were once attendants to daimyo (feudal lords) from the 1200s, originating from the ‘Ji Sect of Pure Land Buddhism’ sect which focused on dancing. These men not only entertained but also advised their lord, as well as being tea ceremony connoisseurs and artists. By the 1500s, they became known as otogishu or hanashishu, focusing on storytelling, humour and conversation. They were sounding boards for military strategies and went into battle at the side of their lord. A time of peace began in the 1600s and the otogishu and hanashishu were no longer required by their lords, so they had to take on a new role as pure entertainers, with a number of them finding employment with the yujo, high class Japanese courtesans.