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Understanding the Facts, History & Myths

Understanding the Facts, History & Myths

Have you ever had the chance to watch the movie: ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’? Or at least read the book? I’ve done both at a young age and I instantly fell in love with Japan’s geisha as I witnessed their unique beauty, grace, and discipline. In fact, ever since then, I have been deeply enamored by their mystifying world — which, thankfully, has still survived up to this day!

I say ‘survived’ because I was also interested in the samurai (Japan’s olden warriors who typically serve a feudal lord or daimyo). I badly wanted to witness their noble way of life; however, it stumbled upon the upsetting fact that they no longer exist.
Apparently, their social class has died down around the late 1800s after the emperor favored a modern western-style army. Today, there may be descendants and people who still try to practice samurai swordsmanship, BUT it’s not the same given how the whole samurai lifestyle and system are non-existent anymore.

The geisha tradition is not as old as the samurai but it IS old and I must say… I’ve developed some sort of mild fear that they might eventually disappear too — which I hope to goodness, they won’t. This worry of mine makes a bit of sense because there aren’t that many of them anymore. To put it into numbers, back in the 1920s geishas numbered around 80,000. The current number? It is now estimated to be only 1,000 to 2,000! Because of this, I’ve actually made ‘meeting or seeing a legit geisha‘ as an item on the very top of my bucket list.

Thankfully, I’ve already made that dream come true from some of the many trips I’ve done to Japan! For instance, I talked to a geisha in Tokyo and Kyoto over a dinner banquet, I played games with 2 young senior maiko in Niigata, I caught sight of a legitimate maiko (who was on her way to work) in one of Kyoto’s narrow alleys, and I even watched two young Japanese maikos perform in Gion Corner among many others.

I definitely feel lucky for having the chance to undergo these breathtaking experiences, and now that I have met and seen them, my wish for their practices to continue for eternity has been strengthened even more! It is also my wish that more people would get to know their tradition — and the real one at that.

I say this because there is a LOT of misunderstandings about the geisha profession. In fact, ‘Memoirs of a Geishais a prime example of this! Since it was made in Hollywood, it surely had several aspects that were false (if not…

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