15 Jul 2016 in Discover Japan
Being a Geiko is demanding profession and the path to achieving excellence is long. Find out about the role of these women with red lips and whose faces are whitened with rice powder....
The term geiko means “a performer of the arts” – gei, meaning an artistic skill and ko, meaning children. According to one theory, these women, whose profession appeared in the 17th century, were only recognised in the 18th century by Shogun Tokugawa’s decree, which officially registered their profession. Although their number is decreasing, the geikos who are still working remain mysterious to us. The question is: What do these women, whose profession continues with the utmost discretion attached to their role, really do?
Being a geiko is a demanding profession and the path to achieving excellence is long. First of all, the maiko – apprentice geikos – are young women who must learn all the rules of etiquette, behaviour in society, the gestures to adopt, the clothes, the make-up, but above all, they must be very learned. Maiko work on their art from a very young age; they must know how to sing, dance, and play an instrument, know the tea ceremony perfectly, and even master flower arranging (Ikebana).
The role of these women with red lips and faces whitened by rice powder is primarily to entertain. They receive clients who have come to seek pleasant company in private salons called ochaya. Geikos also officiate at banquets and meals for businessmen, where they are in charge of the service and entertainment during the meal. Mainly concentrated in the Gion area in Kyoto, you can try to spot them during your stay at HOSHINOYA Kyoto. Some are willing to be photographed, but it is better to respect the grace and beauty of these women who still continue with one of Japan’s oldest traditions with the utmost discretion.