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Geisha demystified

Geisha demystified

Outside Japan there is a lot of confusion about geisha; what they do, and what they don’t do.

To clear up the most common misunderstanding, geisha are not sex workers. On the contrary, they are similar to our professional musicians or media celebrities - people accomplished at their particular art, revered and respected, and seldom seen in public when not performing.

A geisha’s talent is to entertain and facilitate successful gatherings, mostly for wealthy people and at very high level business meetings. Sometimes geisha will perform at festivals or on stage.

The arts that geisha perform are considered highly developed and, in some cases, unique throughout Japan to the world of geisha. For example, Gion in Kyoto is the only district where the kyo-mai style of Japanese traditional dance is taught. Kyo-mai is taught solely by the Inoue school, with the school’s former head, Inoue Yachiyo, having been classified as a “Living National Treasure” by the Government of Japan, the highest artistic award attainable in the country.

Visitors to Japan often mistake a woman wearing a kimono for a geisha. Although kimono-wearing is becoming less common, for special occasions and on some Holidays where formal wear is required, women dress in a seasonally appropriate kimono. They may wear an up-do hair style, which complements the neck-baring cut of a kimono, but only trainee geisha, geisha and kabuki actors wear the white make-up known as oshiroi.





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