One of the most memorable books I have ever read is the literary sensation and runaway bestseller, Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. Speaking to you with the wisdom of age and in a voice at once haunting and startlingly immediate, Nitta Sayuri tells the story of her life as a geisha. I was hooked right from the start and since then have been completely fascinated by this amazing world of beautiful kimonos, elaborate makeup and rigorous arts.
A while back I went to the British Museum and although almost rooms were completely gob-smackingly amazing, the second I walked into the Japan room I felt so happy but then I spotted a kimono on display and almost instantly I was transported back to the fascinating world of Geishas. My thoughts ran away with me and just like little Chiyo in the book, I felt like I walked into Nitta okiya.
I have been reading a lot about Geisha and I am so happy to hear that modern day Geisha are still around. I hope when I get to go to Japan one day I will have the opportunity to see any of them. I might be embarrassing and just stare at them but it will almost be like one of my life wishes come true.
Traditionally these women were and still are entertainers, highly skilled entertainers might I add. This however is not the way the Western world always sees it. I have read awful reports and articles online of people claiming being a Geisha is just the same as being a prostitute. This is completely untrue and I consider people who are uninformed to make statements like that. Legitimate geisha do not engage in paid sex with clients. Their purpose is to entertain their customer, be it by dancing, reciting verse, playing musical instruments; or engaging in light conversation. Geisha engagements may include flirting with men and playful innuendos; however, clients know that nothing more can be expected. In a social style that is common in Japan, men are amused by the illusion of that which is never to be.
Today Kyoto is considered to be where the geisha tradition is the strongest, including Gion Kobu. Interestingly enough non-Japanese women have also become geisha. In 2007, an Australian woman debuted under the name Sayuki in the Asakusa district of Tokyo and in 2010 a Romanian woman debuted under the name Fukutarō in the Izu-Nagaoka district of Shizuoka which I think is absolutely amazing!
So as you can see the fascinating world of geisha will always intrigue me and I think it’s probably one of the most beautiful things that Japan have exposed to the Western world. Long live the Geisha! I will write some more about this…
“There is currently no western equivalent for a geisha—they are truly the most impeccable form of Japanese art. – Kenneth Champeon