Japan for the Uninvited

Japanese culture from a bemused foreign perspective


GeishaThe geisha (“person of the arts”) is the most famous symbol of traditional Japan. Originally, all geisha were male, but women geisha (“onna geisha”) eventually took over completely.

Traditionally, girls were bought from poor families and trained from early childhood. They learned a wide range of arts (music, singing, dance, ikebana, tea ceremony) from experienced geisha.

Geisha are not prostitutes, but notable men used to pay great amounts for the honour of taking a geisha’s virginity (an event known as mizuage).

Nowadays, few people can afford an evening with geisha, and increased regulation has made recruitment more difficult, so the geisha population is dwindling.

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2 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. Patrick

    The mizuage actually is a coming of age ceremony in which the girl’s topknot is cut off to allow for the traditional ofuku hairstyle, and she was allowed to wear the white collar of a true geisha and discard the apprentice’s white collar.

    The selling of the girls’ virginity was an artistic license made up for the movie. One of the sources for the movie has blown the whistle on the hoax.

  2. Claire

    You mean the red collar of the Maiko. And the changing of the collar is a completely separate ceremony to mizuage.

    And no, mizuage did exist, but was a very secret affair. The “movie” was originally a book, written by an author with extensive research into the geisha lifestyle.

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