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Cultural Observation: Secret Life Of A Geisha

1414 words - 6 pages

Cultural Observation: Secret Life of Geisha
To this day, the Geisha remains an iconic symbol of Japan’s culture and history. Geisha first appeared in the early 1600’s during the rule of the Shogun. At this time, Japan had isolated itself from the rest of the world and remained this way for hundreds of years. Geisha were originally male artists and entertainers who performed at banquets. Female prostitutes would also entertain male warriors at banquets inside the pleasure corridors. Eventually, some of the female prostitutes began learning the art of geisha in order to increase their clientele. Before long, more customers preferred the company of female geishas causing the male geishas to ...view middle of the document...

A geishas main purpose is to keep a man or group of men company in the evening, but that doesn’t necessarily mean sex. Many geisha girls will sit and talk with the men, hold intellectual conversations and perform story-like dances. Everything that is said or done within the geisha tea house never gets repeated. Geisha are seen as “delicate guardians of ancient customs.” During the last years under the Shogun rule, a group of samurai warriors planned to overthrow the oppressive government. They used the geisha tea houses as their secret meeting place. These samurai warriors were successful in overthrowing the Shogun, and therefore the geisha were seen as an ally. Many elite men of Japan began taking geisha women as their mistresses or wives. During the early 1900’s, geisha women were viewed as the most stylish and graceful. Times were quickly changing and many technological advances were being made, but throughout such rapid change the geisha remained a strong symbol of Japanese tradition. People strongly supported the geisha, and by the 1930’s there was a high demand for their services. The demand became so intense, that families from the countryside began selling off their daughters by 7 years old. They became “property” to their geisha mothers. During this time, the act of Mizuage which was selling a geisha girls virginity to the highest bidder also became very popular. Many of them wouldn’t be informed about it until the evening before, so instead of it being something special or romantic I can imagine it was much more traumatizing. A geisha never has control over who she will spend her next hour with, and it’s the same way if she gains a Danna. A danna is a wealthy patron who pays the geisha mother off so that the geisha girl is able to live on her own. He pays for all of her expenses in exchange for an intimate relationship. The geisha is still able to entertain other clients, but her danna is the only one who can be intimate with her. Although a geisha doesn’t get married, she may still have children by her patron. Sometimes this works out for her if she falls in love with him, but if not then she must put up with the circumstances. Nonetheless, she never has a say in who she ends up with.
The process of getting ready takes time and patience. A geisha begins by painting her face white, lining her lids with black eyeliner, and painting half of her lips in crimson to suggest a seductive pout. A small back portion of her neck is left unpainted which enhances the look of a mask and heightens the sensuality of her bare skin. A garment helper will tie her obi up in the back for her so that it’s cinched tightly. Every week a geisha girl must go to a special hair salon to have her hair washed and styled. The up-do is known as the split peach which is characterized by a red piece of silk in the back. To keep her hair in place, the geisha must...

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