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Becoming a Geisha. As presented by Becka O’Neil. Starting out. Geishas are women, but were originally men. You would have to be willing to learn, or at least have no other option. Training used to start at age five or six, but now it starts after junior high.

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becoming a geisha

Becoming a Geisha

As presented by Becka O’Neil

starting out
Starting out
  • Geishas are women, but were originally men.
  • You would have to be willing to learn, or at least have no other option.
  • Training used to start at age five or six, but now it starts after junior high.
  • The first step we take on our journey is to apply and be accepted into an okiya.
  • During this training, we are shikomis.
  • For the next six years, we study music, dance, language, the tea ceremony and how to be a good hostess at a school called kaburenjo.
  • By the end of training, we can play at least one traditional Japanese instrument, such as the shamisen(three stringed guitar like instrument), shimedaiko (a small drum), or the fue(type of flute).
training cont
Training (cont.)
  • We have also learned flower arrangement, calligraphy, and tradition dancing.
  • We can speak the accent of our area, walk in our floor length kimono without tripping, and pour without getting our sleeves dirty.
  • Our next step is to become a maiko, or an apprentice geisha.
  • Being an apprentice starts when we find our onesan (older sister), who is a full geisha.
  • We go through a ceremony similar to marriage. In the ceremony, we take three sips from three different cups of sake.
  • As we become a maiko, we receive a new name that is typically simillar to our onesan’s. This will be our geisha name.
being a maiko
Being a Maiko
  • While in maiko status, we learn things that aren’t learned in the classroom, like how to flatter and flirt.
  • Our onesan brings us to her parties, where we observe and make connections to the customers.
  • While observing, we learn by example to use our wit and interact with everyone.
dressing as a maiko
Dressing as a Maiko
  • As a maiko, we were colorful kimonos with extra long sleeves.
  • We wear red collars and have very wide obis.
  • We also wear tall wooden clogs, called okobos, which help keep our kimonos off the ground.
  • Our hair represents which stage of our apprenticeship we’re in, and we have special pillows so our hair doesn’t get mussed.
  • We’ve made it through our apprenticeship, so now we must have the ceremony that will bring us to geisha status.
  • During the ceremony, we exchange our red patterned collar for a solid white one that symbolizes our debut.
  • Geishas work as hostesses, and all of our skills go into making the party go well.
  • Our main clients are businessmen, and our parties can cost up to $200-300 dollars for every two hours we’re there.
  • We, as geishas, are not allowed to talk about our clients.
important tasks
Important tasks
  • Geishas never eat while we’re working
  • It’s our job to make sure no cups are empty, and keep conversations going.
  • We’re in charge of settling arguments without anyone noticing.
  • It’s a hard job, but in addition to our pay, we receive generous tips.
dressing as a full geisha
Dressing as a Full Geisha
  • Getting dressed takes hours of preparation, but it extremely important.
  • When applying the traditional white make-up, first we apply oil and wax, so that the powder will stick.
  • As a maiko, we only applied lipstick to our lower lip, but now we apply to both.
dressing cont
Dressing (cont.)
  • Geisha kimonos are simpler than the maiko ones, because the sleeves are shorter and we no longer need special shoes to keep it off the ground, so we now wear zori, which are like flip flops
  • After working as a full geisha for a while, we can choose to wear lighter make-up, and style wigs instead of our natural hair.
hiki iwai
  • We reached the point where we want to retire from being a geisha.
  • We go through the retirement ceremony, and at that point may decide to become a leader of okiya or teahouse, or leave the geisha community entirely.
a d windling career
A Dwindling Career
  • Today, there are less than 1,000 geishas.
  • In comparison, when the industry was at its height, there were 80,000 registered.
  • Most women who choose to become geishas only remain so for a few years, and do it to recreate the past.