Difficult profession: what were the duties of a geisha before – and now?

A difficult profession: what were the duties of a geisha before — and now?

さかおり In the layman's view, a geisha is such a Japanese woman of easy virtue, who, unlike her European “colleagues,” simply puts on more makeup and makes more complex hairstyles. In fact, geisha have nothing to do with the bodily entertainment industry (well, almost nothing). After all, even the translation of this word, consisting of the parts “gay” and “sha”, means “man of art.” What these “artists” did in the past and what their duties are now, the inquisitive “Subtleties” found out.

Geisha before

An unusual profession arose in the 16th century in Kyoto, Osaka and Tokyo, and the first geisha were … men. Then there was no need to talk about any delicacy and tenderness, which can be called visiting cards of geishas.

Men geisha – actors of the kabuki theater – entertained guests with obscene jokes, played musical instruments and in every possible way amused important people.

And only when women came to this profession, there was a turn from a “man of entertainment” to a “man of art”. At the same time, the first geisha could well provide intimate services to clients. There was even a special category of “tipping geisha” (korobi-geisha). But at the end of the 18th century, a document was officially issued forbidding geisha to have intimate relations with a client of any rank (although onsen resorts still have onsen-geisha selling love for money, but these are not geishas).

In the old days, a girl could be sold to a geisha by parents who were in dire need of money. Today, girls come to this profession only of their own free will. Both before and now, learning the craft of a geisha cost a large amount, but popular geishas managed to pay off the debt fairly quickly. Often, danna, a patron, helped them in this. Its presence during the formation of geisha culture was mandatory. Not now.

Do this, do that

The main task of a geisha, no matter what status she has reached, has always been to entertain guests with the arts: playing traditional musical instruments and dancing, as well as conversation. A geisha is a kind of hostess of the evening, an accordion player and a host rolled into one: she directs the course of the evening, makes sure that none of the guests is bored, can sit down with someone to keep the conversation going, conducts a tea ceremony, which becomes real in her performance. art. Geishas are constantly engaging guests in simple games like our Rock, Paper, Scissors. This helps to defuse the situation, make the rest carefree – and this is what important men who order geishas for their evenings usually lack. Different geisha may have different specializations: someone is strong in dancing, someone in playing musical instruments. Based on this, the customer can choose a geisha whose set of skills will be more interesting to his guests. Usually several geisha with different talents are invited to the evening.

A geisha is a kind of hostess of the evening, an accordionist and a toastmaster all rolled into one.

Geisha now

At all times, geishas were chosen as escorts to events. And if earlier it was mainly receptions and visits to theaters, today a geisha can even be called just to a restaurant – or at least to a meeting of classmates, if the client has enough money to pay for the time that the geisha will spend with him. In the 16th and 19th centuries, geisha always had to wear exceptionally special kimonos. Now, if the client so desires, a geisha can be asked to wear a modern evening dress. In addition, tight makeup, the main feature of which was a heavily whitened face, is also becoming a relic of the past. Many geisha, especially high-status and aged, use a minimum of cosmetics.

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Today, there are only about a thousand geisha in Japan, although once their number reached 80,000. There are also men in this profession, but there are only a couple of them. They do the same hair and make-up as female geisha, but they no longer joke obscenely, like the founders of the profession.

Most often, modern geisha can be seen at private parties, at big holidays, where they demonstrate their art (there are usually peculiar trainees, experienced students – maiko, and not the geisha themselves) , at international receptions, including at the level of heads of state. Geisha are the symbol of Japan and they do their best to keep this high status unsullied.

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