11 October 2012

A glimpse of the Geisha

Delicate porcelain skin and Dior red lips, wrapped in a silk kimono is what comes to mind when we think of a Geisha – Japan’s iconic beacon of culture and elegance. And it’s in the fascinating city of Kyoto, Japan’s traditional heart, where you can discover these mysterious beauties.

As you meander through Kyoto, weaving in and out of their enchanting districts (aim for Gion or Pontocho), you may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of these allusive creatures. Darting in and out of Tea houses to their next appointment like a mystical being.

The Geisha, locally known as a Geiko, has a role which is often misconstrued. They are women trained to entertain their guests with singing, dancing, engaging in conversations, and serving sake. They are well educated and have their own views and opinions. Once being declared the freest women in Japan, in their world they are both divas and directors.

If you are graced with their presence, there are rules and etiquette which we must abide by. Firsrly you must not touch them (let alone approach them), even if there is a temptation to make sure they are real. You must not follow them and we all need to respect their space.

From this distance it’s difficult to understand who these Geishas really are. They almost lead an anonymous life but if you witness the sight of one, they are immaculately presented and it’s clear they take great pride in their appearance. Maybe it’s because they are so captivating and misunderstood that we become even more intrigued by their graceful presence. Their distinct way of life and what they represent is something alien to us in the West. But they have become a staple of Japanese history and are as famous as the Buddha – although the Geisha obviously still comes out on top of the beauty ranks.

Words by Prudence Patterson