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芸者. Geisha. Geisha , or geiko is a term used to refer to traditional Japanese entertainers. Literal Translations: Geisha- artist Geiko - woman of art. Geisha • 芸者 • Geiko • 芸子. Common Misconceptions.

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geisha geiko

Geisha, or geiko is a term used to refer to traditional Japanese entertainers.

  • Literal Translations:

Geisha- artist

Geiko- woman of art

Geisha • 芸者 • Geiko • 芸子
common misconceptions
Common Misconceptions

“No woman in the three-hundred-year history of the karyukai has ever come forward in public to tell her story. We have been constrained by unwritten rules not to do so, by the robes of tradition and by the sanctity of our exclusive calling.” –Mineko Iwasaki

  • Geisha are prostitutes
  • Children were once stolen from their families and taken to become geisha
  • Geisha have always been women


  • Shamisen
  • Tea serving
  • Flower arrangement
  • Iki
the tea house okiya

The okiya is the Japanese lodging house where shikomi, maiko, and geisha reside.

  • Familial structure
  • Run by the “mother”


The Tea House •置屋• Okiya
maiko dancing child

Maiko are the poster children of geisha

  • Marked by:

A red collar

White face paint

Ornate kimonos

Maiko • 舞妓• Dancing Child

Maiko often become Geisha after a period of 5 years in a process called erikae.

  • Changes:

Face paint only on ceremony

Kimonos are less complex

Twice the salary

Geisha • 芸者

Geiko is a term used specifically in Kyoto, where the profession is steeped in more tradition than in other areas of Japan.

Geiko • 芸子
in the past

Traditionally, the process of becoming a geisha took much more work than it does today.

  • Started earlier
  • Training lasted longer
  • Training was more intense
In the Past
cultural transformation

In the 60s and 70s, Japan began a societal transformation.

  • Moved from post-feudal to modern society.
  • Geisha became valued for preserving the ancient culture.
Cultural transformation

Most girls are required to complete basic schooling before becoming geisha

  • Typically start learning from ages 16-17
  • Maiko stage typically lasts only 5 years

Ceremonial makeup is devoted to promoting iki.

  • Face paint leaves bare skin around hair line and nape of neck
  • Red and black makeup around eyes
  • Red lips
  • Hair

Traditional maiko attire consists of:


Red collar

Wide obi


hiki iwai

In a ceremony called hiki-iwai, geisha retire. They may then take to running their own okiya or leave the business entirely

important kanji we learned

Geisha • 芸者

  • Geiko • 芸子
  • Okiya • 置屋
  • Okaasan• お母さん
  • Maiko • 舞妓
Important Kanji we Learned