Dreaming of Geisha

Dreaming of Geisha

by Kjeld Duits

 

Geisha are surrounded by mystery. Even in Japan where this tradition was born. The parents of the young girls who choose this path, are often taken aback and shocked by their daughter’s choice.

Fumiyoshi is a Maiko (geisha in training) in Kyoto’s Miyagawa Geisha district. She first fell in love with the world of Geisha when she visited Kyoto with her parents. The former capital of Japan has five Geisha districts and is the only Japanese city where Maiko and Geisha still play an important role. “I visited Kyoto again on a school trip and had a chance to meet a Geiko,” she says using the Kyoto term for Geisha. “Her elegance, the way she behaved. I felt really attracted to that. I wanted to become like her.”

Her mother was initially strongly opposed. “It is a world that I didn’t know at all, a hidden world,” she recalls. She had a distorted view. “I had heard about mizuage,” she says, referring to the deflowering of Maiko by a customer who pays money for the privilege.
“That doesn’t happen, that doesn’t happen,” reacts the shocked Geisha Fuminari who is sitting nearby and overhears the conversation. She feverishly waves her right hand in front of her face to reinforce her words. But even in Japan, there are still countless people who believe that Geisha are glorified prostitutes. Fumiyoshi’s mother now knows better, but the myth is diffcult to eradicate.

“In modern Japan, Geisha and Maiko have two functions,” explains Kumiko Nishio, a professor at Kyoto Women’s University who studies the role of Geisha in Japanese society. “They are a symbol of Japanese culture, and they are a kind of hostess at official dinners and geisha parties.”
“While customers eat, Geisha and Maiko serve drinks and talk with them,” says Yoshimi Kosaka, a former Maiko, now in training to take over Geisha house Yoshifumi, where Fumiyoshi works. “They also perform traditional dances, sing with their customers, play special games, and play the shamisen (a traditional Japanese stringed instrument),” she explains. These skills have been transferred from generation to generation of Geisha and Maiko over many centuries.

This age old traditional culture, and the Geisha’s hermetically closed world, tends to initially put off many Japanese. “At first I thought I would not enjoy myself, that I’d be tense, that it is a difficult world to enter,” says Kenji Yamada who works in the legal sector. He is a regular client of Yoshifumi. “But over the years, I recognized that it is a very relaxed and fun world.”
He attends Geisha parties for two reasons, he says. “One is to get to know your business relations by eating and spending time together. The other is that after you have become friends, to not only meet for business, but for friendship.”

Although often seen as entertainment for men, Geisha parties are actually not limited to male clients. There are many female guests, and even couples attend. “For a woman there are lots of things to learn from Geisha,” says Sakurako Naito, a business woman from Tokyo who regularly visits Yoshifumi. “You can experience incredibly refined, artistic performances by dignified, beautiful women,” she explains.
Becoming a Maiko or Geisha seems an unlikely choice for a modern girl. But Fumiyoshi is not the only one who sees her future in this occupation from the past. “Forty years ago, there were only about twenty Maiko left in Kyoto,” says Professor Nishio. “But in the past ten years they have increased to between sixty and eighty.”

The resurgent popularity is due to an explosive increase in tourism, and a new image. “On TV, in movies, and even in novels and manga (Japanese comics), actual Geiko and Maiko have been given exposure as working women,” she explains. “They are like idols.”
Women dominate the world of geisha, men only play a role as client or supplier. “That’s why it’s an easy work place for women,” says Nishio. “It’s a place of female entrepreneurs.”

It is a world that is very diffcult to enter, though. There are few places available, and the training is notoriously tough. A girl who wants to become a Maiko needs to apprentice with a Geisha house for ten months. During this time she is both maid and student, with classes for singing, dancing, and a whole range of traditional instruments. The crammed schedule leaves little time for yourself, or even sleep. Having a date or meeting a friend is out of the question. “Fifty percent of the girls give up before ever becoming a Maiko” explains the owner of Fumiyoshi’s Geisha house. So, training girls to become a Maiko is a huge investment. A Geisha house owner must feel that a girl can handle the challenge, and carries promise. Even then, it still often doesn’t work out.

For the girls who do succeed, the experience is life-changing. “It has changed my way of thinking,” says Fumiyoshi, “I now pay attention to the needs of others, and have become attentive. My life has completely changed.”
“As a Maiko, you get to stand on a huge stage,” says owner-in-training Yoshimi.” You meet lots of different people and you have experiences that you could never have as a student. When I was a Maiko, my world expanded enormously.”

Kjeld Duits has lived in Japan since 1982 and works as a Japan Correspondent for major news organizations.

Most loved
Governed by NO ONE

Marlies Says

Governed by NO ONE

by marlies|dekkers

Flame-haired, brave-hearted and always dressed to dazzle, Elizabeth the First, also known as England’s ‘Virgin Queen’, is one of the most unforgettable women in history. Her glorious reign is known as The Golden Age ~ a period that saw the birth of Shakespeare, the defeat of the Spanish Armada and the emergence of England as a world power. It lasted almost 45 years; Elizabeth’s legacy as a feminist icon however, has already spanned nearly 5 centuries. “My sex cannot diminish my prestige.”

Quiet Power

Blog

Quiet Power

by marlies|dekkers

Only 11 days after he beheaded his second wife (the flamboyant Anne Boleyn), King Henry VIII married a pale, fair-haired maiden called Jane Seymour. Who exactly was this girl, and what had made the king so besotted with her? To this day, historians don’t quite know what to make of her.

Glamour, the magical power of persuasion

Marlies Says

Glamour, the magical power of persuasion

by marlies|dekkers
This season, more is more as glamour is back with a glittery vengeance. But was it ever really away? Not for me! From Marlene Dietrich in a top hat to Beyoncé shaking her booty in glittery thigh-high boots; to me, glamour is timeless and has many faces. It is the magical dust that gives everyday life that golden sparkle. More importantly, when used well, glamour can actually change your life. It has definitely shaped mine…

“Dare to be the CEO of your own career”

MD Friends

“Dare to be the CEO of your own career”

by marlies|dekkers

Who run this (digital) world? For Saskia Van Uffelen, the answer to that question is crystal clear: women. And what better role model for these women than the passionate CEO of Ericsson Belux herself? Named ICT Woman of the Year in 2011, Belgian-born Saskia is a great inspiration -not only as a digital visionary but also as a top manager who gracefully combines a hectic job with a family of five children. “In disruptive times, we need women.”

marlies|dekkers lingerie

Marlies|dekkers heeft een grote variëteit aan lingerie wat gedragen kan worden door iedereen en voldoet aan iedere vrouw haar behoefte. Naast het aanbieden van producten op onze webshop, houden we een blog bij in de categorie ‘Maison Marlies’ waar over verschillende onderwerpen geschreven wordt zoals; Waarom 50 worden fantastisch is, een 5-stappenplan voor het kopen van lingerie voor jouw vriendin, vrouw of partner , hoe je lingerie als deel van je outfit maakt en andere leuke onderwerpen.

Maison Marlies

In Maison Marlies blog kun je van alles lezen over het leven achter en rondom het bedrijf. Of je nu wilt weten waar ze haar inspiratie vandaan haalt voor het ontwerpen van een nieuwe collectie, of dat je interesse hebt in haar levensstijl, gezonde recepten, of haar smaak in bijzondere kunst, je kunt het vinden in de blog. Deze zakenvrouw krijgt het voor elkaar om met een knipoog te schrijven over haar zakenreizen, shop avonturen, haar collega’s, vrienden en familie en zelfs over haar vakanties waar ze even helemaal tot rust komt. Wanneer je even niet meer weet hoe je jou goede bh maat kunt vinden, biedt Maison Marlies een aantal richtlijnen zodat je je boezem kunt schudden zonder dat je borsten eruit floepen. Comfort voor je buste is een combinatie van de juiste maat en de juiste kwaliteit. Je wilt toch geen onhandig ondergoed, terwijl dit eigenlijk heel makkelijk voorkomen kan worden door het dragen van hoge kwaliteit lingerie?! En wanneer je voorgevel goed op z’n plaats gehouden wordt kun je eindelijk volledig je vrouwelijkheid vieren. De blog geeft advies over het mixen en matchen van lingerie, over het stimuleren en inspireren van je eigen stijlgevoel en houdt je op de hoogte van de laatste trends.

blij met marlies|dekkers lingerie

Haar celebrity vrienden zijn ook erg blij met de perfecte pasvorm van de bh's van marlies|dekkers. Deze vriendinnen laten met trots hun sexy lingerie van marlies|dekkers zien in fotoshoots voor tijdschriften, en tijdens optredens, tv-shows of zelfs in films. Maison Marlies wijdt een speciaal gedeelte van de blog aan gerelateerde nieuwtjes en ontwikkelingen zodat je altijd op de hoogte blijft van de laatste ontwikkelingen rondom de speciale missie die de visie van Marlies’ ademt voor de toekomst.