Are you interested in the world of geisha and dream of becoming one of them? Do you want to know the exact steps you must follow to be a real geisha? Is it true that anyone can be a geisha regardless of any condition?
Contrary to what many people believe, a geisha is a traditional Japanese artist who, after being trained from her youth, dedicates herself to entertaining both men and women during parties, meetings or banquets.
What does it mean to be a geisha?
The world of geishas has always produced a certain curiosity and interest, but it was as a result of the premiere of the film «Memories of a Geisha»When this profession began to gain popularity around the world.
There are several misunderstandings related to a geisha, such as that among her work is prostitution; however, this is far from reality.
Some terms you must know to be a geisha
- Erikae: ceremony where a maiko becomes a geisha and begins to wear the white geisha necklace.
- Geiko: means geisha in the Kyoto dialect.
- Hanamachi: city authorized to be inhabited by geishas and maikos.
- Maiko: apprentice geisha.
- Misdeashi: Japanese ceremony where a shikomi becomes a maiko.
- Minarai: period that is based on «learning by observing.
- Nenki: It is the contract that we signed with the okiya to guide us throughout our career as a geisha.
- Okasan: means "mother." She is the leader of the okiya.
- Okiya: shelter where a maiko or geisha lives for the duration of her nenki.
- Onee-san: literally means "respected elder sister" and is the mentor of the minarai.
- Shikomi: they are the girls who aspire to be geisha apprentices who aspire to be geiko or geisha.
Instructions to become a geisha
The first step a woman has to take to become a geisha is to apply for and get accepted into an okiya, a place where a woman pays an okasan to be trained as a geisha.
Before knowing how to be a geisha it is important that you know a few more things. Becoming a geisha can be as long a process as a college degree.
Normally, a young woman can take up to 6 years to learn different arts. Music, dance, tea ceremonies, languages and hostess matters are some of the pillars that make up a geisha's career.
Living in the okiya and learning from the okasan are essential steps to be a geisha but, in addition, you must also pay a fraction of your earnings to maintain both the house where you live, as well as the people who reside there and who are also geishas or that some day they were.
Start your training during adolescence
The first step in becoming a geisha is to introduce yourself to an okiya's okasan.
Once they have accepted you, they will prepare you for the most common skills in a maiko: they will teach you to dance, you will learn to play traditional instruments, vocal techniques and you will know everything about the tea ceremonies.
Start working for an okasan like shikomi
At this point you will have to combine your training with helping other geisha with daily tasks.
You will need about four years before you stop being a shikomi if you agreed to okiya at the right time.
Complete your training as a shikomi
Prepare for your misedashi that will allow you to be a maiko.
By celebrating misedashi you will go from being a shikomi to becoming a maiko.
Introduce yourself as maiko
Even if you manage to become a maiko, the reality is that you will still have to keep going to class and doing the usual tasks.
However, it is from this moment that your okiya should start looking for a onee-san to help you in your training. An onee-san is something like an older sister who acts as a guide or teacher.
Learn like a minarai
As soon as you are assigned a onee-san, you will be considered a minarai.
A minarai is dedicated to seeing and learning. Among other things, your kimono will now have more subdued colors, shorter sleeves, and a shorter obi. It is now that you will wear makeup and red lipstick.
Participate in the hanamachi traditions
Now is the time to strengthen your good reputation.
From now on you will dedicate yourself to honoring both you and your okiya, by holding other ceremonies: Miyako Odori, Setsubun and Haasaku.
Get ready for your erikae
At this point you are very close to being a full-fledged geisha.
Your appearance can change a bit more, since you will be wearing a kimono with shorter sleeves, with a less extravagant design, and with less flashy decorations in your hair. In addition, your makeup will now be more discreet and you no longer need to use your real hair for hairstyles, since you can use wigs.
It is one of the most important moments and that you should enjoy the most, since these celebrations are only for your erikae.
Develop your own path
In general, a maiko follows a training of up to 5 years, where they usually dress in a kimono and use very striking makeup.
Once you start your geisha period, some of the changes will be that you will wear a more discreet makeup, a more solemn kimono and you will start wearing wigs. That is when you will start to be considered a true geisha.