THEY’RE NOT PROSTITUTES! HERE ARE 5 GEISHA FACTS MANY PEOPLE DON’T KNOW
Geisha (or geiko) are now well known Japanese icons. In the eyes of outsiders who don’t know about the state, Sakura, a geisha is a sex worker who uses thick white powder. But that’s not right! It’s totally wrong. Geishas are not prostitutes. They don’t even always put white powder on their faces! But even more, a geisha is not always a woman…. A geisha is an artist, a traditional Japanese entertainer. It’s not easy to become one. It takes years! So here are five geisha facts you probably didn’t know.
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GEISHAS ARE NOT PROSTITUTES
A geisha never sells their body for sex. Never. They’re prohibited from doing so. But they are hired to host male customers. In their work, they play music, dance and tease men while they wait for the main performer to arrive, the oiran. Their job is to make the me feel as if they are charming and fun to be with. An old geisha slogan is, “We sell art, not bodies, we never sell ourselves, our bodies, for money.”
THE FIRST GEISHAS WERE MEN
Women weren’t geishas until the year 1751. At that time, the idea of a woman can as a geisha was considered strange. Male geisha have been around for hundreds of years. But they didn’t even call themselves ‘geisha’ until the 1600s.
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WOMEN GEISHAS ARE SOMETIMES DISGUISED AS MEN
So there was also a group called shirabyoshi before there were geishas. They were women, but disguised in such a way as to conceal their gender from customers. The women were dressed in men’s clothes. Shirabyoshi were female dancers whose job was similar to a geisha. They wore white makeup, told stories, give a show, played music, and entertained guests.
PITAK ON TOP OF THE HEAD
One way to recognize a working geisha who’s not wearing a costume or makeup is by the pitak on top of their head. But when working, they often cover the pitak with a wig or a hairdo. It was a secret, but all geishas have a bald spot on their head. They earn this as part of their training, as they often need a crazy hairstyle where they pull their hair up on top of their heads as a cover. This stress on the roots created the bald spot. It’s a mark of success.
THE MORE SENIOR THE GEISHA, THE LESS MAKEUP THEY WEAR
Most people envision a geisha as a girl in a kimono with amazing hair decorations, their face painted or covered with powder. But that’s not how a geisha looks! That’s the look of a maiko, a geisha apprentice. Geishas believe they become more beautiful as they get older, so they wear less and less makeup to hide their beauty. Geishas also have to retire if they marry. The oldest living geisha is a man, Yuko Asakusa. He is 94 years old and still works for wealthy politicians and business people.
So now you know these 5 geisha facts! They are an amazing Japanese tradition.