What’s it like being a geisha?

09 Aug 2017 in Discover Japan

Meet Shizuka, a modern-day geisha, in our exclusive interview. Discover the secrets of her job – and find out how long it takes to put on that make-up!


The coastal city of Atami is home to around 120 geisha, known locally as geigi, who are managed by 70 okiya (geisha management houses). At Hoshino Resorts KAI Atami, you can catch a geigi show every evening. But what does their job consist of? We asked Shizuka, an experienced geigi.

What does your job involve?

My job is to entertain guests for my clients – who are mainly famous celebrities and CEOs. I serve sake, make conversation and sometimes dance and play shamisen music.

Geishas in Atami city

But the work of a geisha is much more than that! We’re there to make sure things run smoothly for the client, which can mean intervening in conversations to calm things down.

Japanese geigei

A geigi needs to be good at reading situations and people, because there’s a fine art to knowing when to get involved and when to stay discreet.

Where do you work?

In ryokans and tea houses around Atami. I go from place to place, depending on client demands.

Geisha in Japan

Like all geigi, my schedule is organized by my okā-san [mistress of the okiya].

How did you become a geigi?

Through years of training! I had classes in the different geigi arts: tea ceremony, flower arranging, dancing, and I also learned to play the Japanese hand drum.

role of geishas

For each skill, I had a different teacher – and it was my okiya who introduced me.

Geigi makeup and costumes are stunning! How long does it take to get ready?

It usually takes me about an hour to do all my make-up, dress and hair. But if I’m in a hurry, I can do it in half an hour!

Traditionnal geishas dress

Today, many younger geigi have simpler hairstyles and makeup. It’s increasingly what clients want.

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