The Role of the Geisha in Japanese Culture

Topics: Japan, Geisha, Japanese culture Pages: 5 (1695 words) Published: June 28, 2008
Japan, located in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of the Asian Continent, is a nation composed of almost 7,000 islands, many are small. The four main islands are Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu. Japan has the seventh largest population in the world. With approximately 125 million inhabitants, the only countries with a higher population are China, India, the United States, Indonesia, and Brazil. The population which is about half of the United States, lives on only 1/25 as much total land mass, this computes to being one of the highest population densities in the world. These conditions reflect in the Japanese cultural values and their desire for being a collective society.1

The Japanese style of conducting business differs greatly from the western model. It has grown out of the nation's unique history cultured philosophy. The Japanese people are isolated in an island nation's unique history, culture, and philosophy. The island nation is under constant bombardment by the harsh forces of nature, have traditionally placed a strong emphasis on working together as a group in order to survive. Their culture is deeply influenced by Confucianism, with its rigid rules governing conduct and its emphasis on trust, consensus, and hierarchy. These ancient roots have influenced every aspect of Japanese business; from the way formal meetings are conducted to the importance placed on after-hours socializing. It has shaped a business culture in which long-term, mutually beneficial relationships are of paramount importance. By understanding and adapting to this business culture, Western executives eager to do business in Japan will be able to be enlightened to be more productive associations with their Japanese colleagues and will increase the probability of achieving the goals of their meetings there. It is important to understand the role of the female entertainer in Japanese culture. That is why the Geisha has a specific role.2

The geisha is described as a "century old professional entertainer" the geisha is an important part of traditional Japanese social life. Geisha are masters in the arts, trained in music, calligraphy, Sado (tea ceremony) poetry, conversation and social graces as well as three stringed instruments called Shamisen. They dress in traditional kimonos, stunning in their elegance. Basic wooden geta clogs are worn for footwear, and hair is up in bun type coiffures trimmed with metallic accessories. Geisha literally translated means "beauty person" or "person who lives by the arts."3

The geisha emerged around the mid-Edo period (1600- 1868). The first geisha appeared at parties in the 1600's. Surprisingly, they were men. Beating drums and making jokes, they entertained the guests and warriors. As time passed this type of entertaining became a female occupation. By the 1780's female geisha out numbered men and inspired artists, writers, and musicians with their majestic lives in the flower and willow setting. From the end of the Edo period to the present geisha have had connections with businessmen and even with government officials. They were not only revered in Japan, but also fascinated most of western culture. Their fees are rather exorbitantly expensive so they are primarily reserved for the elite. Instead of being calculated by the hour it is referred to in units of sticks, since the fee was formally figured by the lengths of time it took a stick of incense to burn down. One hour generally consists of "four sticks," which is the minimum amount of payment.4

Most people hear about Geisha and believe that they are all prostitutes. Geisha is an art.5 The geisha is not a prostitute, but an entertainer trying to make a living.6 The mystic geisha, at one time admired for purity in keeping with men, is inevitably still a source of desire.7A Geisha is a high-class professional who exists on the same continuum as a prostitute. These women who become geisha's not out of love but because...

Bibliography: Chat Transcripts: Thursday November 5, 1998 7 pm ET ‘the author of Memoirs of a Geisha author Arthur
Geisha: ‘A Japanese Tradition" http;// October 20,
Kuzirian, Stephanie, Geisha, October 20,
The Mystic Geisha, October 20, 1999.
October 20, 1999.
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