word Geisha is derived from ‘Gei’, which in Japanese
means performance or entertainer, and ‘sha’, which
means person, and dates back 400 years ago to the 'Edo'
period. During this time the Geisha entertained at
banquets and social gatherings by playing a Japanese
guitar (called a Shamisen), and singing and giving dance
There is often a misconception by some that Geisha's are
prostitutes, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Geisha are refined and cultured girls and women who are
highly trained in a variety of traditional skills. Besides
playing the Shamisen, singing and dancing, the Geisha
perform the Japanese tea ceremony, and are well versed in
the art of conversation. Many learn to speak English in
order to entertain Western guests.
The training involved in becoming a Geisha is very rigorous,
and because of this the numbers of Geisha are declining.
Few young women in today's society are willing to devote
themselves to such demanding training. To become a Geisha,
if accepted, a young girl must go through an
apprenticeship that involves living with a head Geisha.
This training period takes five to six years. During this
time, the Geisha trainee must help with the chores and the
running of the house, learn customs and social skills, and
take music and dance lessons. After about six months, the
trainee Geisha is called a maiko girl, and accompanies a
Geisha on her appointments in order to become acquainted
with customers. At about age 20, the maiko must make the
decision to become a full-fledged Geisha or not. If a girl
wishes to marry she cannot become a Geisha.
Geishas often live near temples and shrines, in areas are
called hana-machi. Geishas entertain visitors at teahouses
called o-chaya that are located near these areas. The o-chaya
is not a shop that serves only tea or coffee, but rather a
sort of banquet hall where rooms can be rented for dinner
parties. It is usually a small Japanese style house with
tatami (wooden) floors and Japanese style gardens. O-chayas
are often where young Geishas live and work.
Today in Japanese hotels and restaurants Geisha entertain at
banquets and socialize with guests. If you are staying at
a hotel in Japan, you can arrange for a Geisha to attend a
dinner party through the reservation desk. When you
request a Geisha, it is important to be specific about
what type of performance you want, because there are two
different types of Geisha. One called 'tchikata' is
usually a maiko girl and performs the traditional Japanese
dance, and the other; usually an older Geisha is called 'jikata'
and sings and plays an instrument. The costs for the
services of a Geisha vary depending on the number the
food, beverages, and the entertainment. The role of the
Geisha in Japanese society is a source of much curiosity
for tourists. To tap into that curiosity, visitors can go
to shops where they can dress in traditional Geisha
Kimonos, have Geisha make up applied and then have a
souvenir photo taken.