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The Role Of The Geisha In Japanese Culture

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 theyare
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 opportunity affords them this life. Men hire women to entertain them, and the
principal role of a geisha is to provide female companionship. At times that entails just being arm candy,
and unfortunately at other times it also involves sex.8
These women are professional hostesses in a variation. The geisha primarily entertain the higher
class. These women are extensively trained in many of the traditional Japanese arts.9 Men have sought
women of another type (instead of their wives) to entertain them in public, to break the ice of social
convention-thicker in Japan than elsewhere, to pour sake, to sing, dance, play the

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