Geishas are traditional female Japanese entertainers who perform in the crafts of classical music, dance or other Japanese arts. Geisha’s are sometimes wrongly confused with shogi or prostitutes, but the Geisha does not engage in paid sex as she is an entertainer only.
The Geisha must be a single woman and must retire from performing her art once she marries. The costume and makeup are all part of being a Geisha and changes with the age of the girl. The makeup consist of a heavy white base which today is rice based and bright red lipstick. Deep black accents are added around the eyes and eyebrows to create a mask like face. The makeup can take many hours to put on. As the girl grows up less makeup is applied, and the older woman takes on a sombre appearance.
The Geisha always wears a kimono, with the younger and less experienced women wearing a more colourful costume. The kimono can have anywhere up to about 15 layers of maiko and can be quite heavy. The kimono may take anywhere from 2 to 3 years to make, with countless hours of sewing, painting and decorating.
Hairstyles are also an vital part of the Geisha’s dress and there are several major styles used today. The taka shimada is high and usually the choice of the young, while the tsubishi shimada is a more flattened chignon which older women tend to wear. The Uiwata style is a similar style which is bound with a piece of fabric and resembles a divided peach and is only worn by the maiko, which are apprentice Geishas. Due to the work in keeping the hairstyle so perfect many Geishas today use wigs.
Kyoto is considered as the strongest city in Japan for the Geisha tradition, although parts of Tokyo like Shimbashi, Asakusa and Kagurazaka also have strong links. As many of Japan’s traditions have moved on there is not as much demand for the Geisha as there was decades ago. Today the Geisha is usually hired for parties, festive gatherings and for traditional tea ceremonies or restaurant appearances.