3 facts about Geishas – women between myth and reality

3 facts about Geishas – women between myth and reality
Source: https://www.vogue.com/

geishasGeishas – women between myth and reality

Besides the delicious traditional food, the breathtaking places from the country that need to be visited and the Cherry Blossom Festival called “Hanami”, which takes place every year in spring, Japan is as well famous for geishas, the women painting their faces in white and styling their hair in extremely complicated and uncomfortable ways.
These women we are talking about represent more than anyone could imagine, despite of all the misconceptions from the West, where they are seen only as prostitutes. The geishas, as they are called for centuries, are actually an exquisite work of art for everyone who can understand them and their mysteries.
In Japanese, the term of geisha is mainly represented by a character which means entertainment, something requiring certain skills, thing that proves geishas are, in fact, artists who are specially trained to dance, to sing, to play an instrument, and, as important, to maintain a conversation with a wide range of people.


geishasThe geishas can be easily recognised only by their make – up. The white powder they used to
colour their faces and their necks is called “oshiroi” and, in the old times, it contained lead, fact that caused health problems to most of them as the time passed. As the geisha gets older, she stops covering her face, but she continues to wear black eyeliner and red lips, as those are the other elements that make her look complete.
In the past, because the candlelight wasn’t bright enough to illuminate an entire room, Geishas used the white colour for their faces because they wanted to be more visible and recognisable in the dark. The “oshiroi” didn’t help them only enhancing their skin tones, but also hiding their true feelings and facial expressions, since gheishasthey always had to be calm, happy and, most important, hospitable.
The full look of a geisha is what can help us distinguish their age and their level of experience in the domain, because there are some women still in training, called maiko and some others, a little bit older, but so successful that they start giving the maikos little tricks, in order to make them famous. So, we can tell a geisha and a maiko apart by the hairstyle and by the kimono they are wearing, although they are both looking like they are coming from a whole different world, where art is showing off everywhere.


The life of a geisha may always seem to be luxurious and eccentric, like a part of a fairytale, although, in reality, the truth is totally different, because, before becoming those magical artists, those women have to come through many hard and difficult stages.
Firstly, they start training for around four years, attending vocational schools for geisha, known as “nyokoba”, in order to learn many traditional performance arts to entertain their guests. Besides the education from those special schools, they have to know how to walk, how to act and how to speak before entertaining other people, because not all Japanese women are born having innate grace, attitude and sophistication.
gheishasOne thing that must be learned as a young geisha is a completely new and uncomfortable way of sleeping after getting your hair styled for the first times. Geishas have to sleep on a special high pillow, called “takamakura”, that supports their neck, leaving their hair untouched perfectly styled for many days in a row.
However, after becoming a geisha, women have to get used to the fact they won’t be allowed to get married, as the most important rule of the geisha is “Be married with the art, not a man!”. If they want to become someone’s wife, they need to quit their job and once they do it, it becomes impossible to come back, unless, after the divorce, they start again in a different city, under a different name.


All around the world, Japanese culture is the one that still stands out from the crowd, because the people are trying, even nowadays, to stick to ther ancient traditions and to promote them from one generation to another. This happened as well with geishas, when, after World War II, their profession seemed to have disappeared.
Since forever people from other countries have been fascinated about those women who are actually moving works of art, because the cultural cliché was impossible to be reproduced by the westerns. However, not a long time ago, the American author Arthur Golden tried to explain to the public what a geisha actually is, exposing all the facts that make her desired by many men. He did succeed, by writing the book “Memoirs of a Geisha”, in which he revealed the Japanese mystical universe ­­that seemed to be forgotten, convincing everybody that there is much more to be discovered behind a face painted in white and a colorful kimono.


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