After reading Arthur Golden’s 1998 novel Memoirs of a Geisha, it inspired me to travel to Japan to check out the Geisha scene. To explore and to fully appreciate what I had read. It is a really fascinating experience for me. The book really revived i
nterest in an aspect of Japan that is so intrinsic to the Western stereotype and yet so far removed from the reality of daily life here.
When I was in Japan in Kyoto in the Shimabara district, I
managed a get a glimpse of a few Geishas going about their activities, mostly going to work. Conversation was difficult as I only spoke very little Japanese. I understood from the snippets of conversations and actions that she is on her way to work in a nearby premise. She comes across as shy and smiled a lot. I felt that most Japanese ladies who meet a stranger
tend to do that i.e. smile a lot. I wonder if that is because they are shy and also because they do not really understand English well or just a cultural mannerism
I am in awe of their make-up (white painted face) and the way they moved (small quick steps). When you think that most westerners like to have tan skin/face etc and it is also per
ceived that white colour skin is a horrible colour for the skin, I find that most Japanese are very ‘white’, not pale. However, they looked really beautiful. Thus the painted white face on the Ge
isha really looks exotic. Maybe only the Japanese ladies can carry that colour on their face well, due to their bone structure.
I understood from my tour guide that the role that these modern Geisha played in modern society is minor. They
mostly get the attention from camera-wielding tourists. My tour guide told me that a lot of women are actually tourists themselves or those who seek attention (done up for a few hours of exotic sophistication) They do this mostly for fun. How interesting. Maybe I should do that for fun too and see the reaction I get !
Before I fully understand the significance of the Geishas, I thought they are prostitutes. Now, I fully understand and appreciate that they are entertainers. The word geisha itself literally means ‘person of the arts’ – indeed the earliest geisha were men (imagine that !)- and it is as performers of dance, music and poetry that they actually spend most of their working time.