Geisha are one of the crucial iconic pictures we affiliate with Japan. If there’s one factor most Westerners can say they learn about Japan, it’s that they’d these feminine prostitutes who coated their faces in thick, white paint.
One downside: None of that’s precisely true. Geisha weren’t prostitutes, and so they didn’t at all times cowl their faces in white paint. And—for some time—they weren’t even girls.
10 The First Geisha Had been Males
The primary feminine geisha didn’t come round till 1751, and when she began working, the concept that a lady might be a geisha was handled like a bizarre, novel thought. She was marketed because the “feminine geisha” as a result of, up till then, each single geisha had been a person.
Male geisha had already been round for a whole bunch of years. Technically, they didn’t name them geisha till the 1600s, however the thought had been round for greater than 500 years. Because the 13th century, there had been males who did precisely what the geisha did: entertained male lords by serving them tea, performing songs, telling them jokes, and making them really feel like a very powerful individual within the room.
By the 1600s, these males began calling themselves geisha and dealing within the brothels of high-class courtesans. They’d entertain the friends and maintain them comfortable whereas they waited for his or her flip.
It took till the 1800s for the feminine geisha fad to catch on. Till then, feminine geisha have been nonetheless a rarity, even after the primary one broke the mould. Even right this moment, most Japanese persons are referred to as feminine geisha by the female phrase geiko—as a result of, technically, a geisha is meant to be a person.
9 Geisha Weren’t Prostitutes
Regardless of what we’ve heard, geisha didn’t promote their our bodies. The truth is, they have been expressly forbidden from sleeping with their shoppers.
Geisha have been employed to entertain male prospects whereas they waited for his or her flip with the precise prostitutes: high-class courtesans referred to as oiran. They’d play music, dance, and flirt with the boys to maintain them entertained whereas they waited.
Their purpose was to maintain the boys from strolling out and to make them really feel like they have been charming. They let the boys think about themselves as studs who may seduce lovely girls as an alternative of determined johns paying for intercourse. However they by no means really slept with the boys themselves. Some brothels even forbade their geisha from sitting too near the boys out of worry that they’d steal the oiran’s prospects.
It was one thing they took delight in. Within the 19th century, the motto of the geisha was: “We promote artwork, not our bodies.”
“We by no means offered ourselves, our our bodies, for cash,” one geisha has mentioned. “That was not the aim of what we did; that was what the opposite girls did.”