kimono trend

anonymous asked:

Hi! I need your help again. According to what I read, in the geisha world the mizuage ceremony is nothing to do with sex, however in Liza Dalby's 'Geisha' she states that in older times mizuage did involve sex, lasted for seven days and even involved eggs! ("...her sexual initiation was part of becoming a full geisha", page 111). Now I wonder if this is some sort of joke or if I bought the wrong book... Please help me :(

This is one of the problems of things getting lost in translation. For this answer I’m going to quote directly from Sheridan Prasso’s book The Asian Mystique. In this section she is interviewing Mineko Iwasaki in her own home about the various misconceptions that geisha face. On pages 208 and 209:

“But I take from our discussions that the worst crime in her mind is confounding the practices of prostitutes or lower-class geisha with those of the geisha of Gion Kobu - namely, that the Sayuri girl has her virginity auctioned off in a system called mizuage. “In a sense, he opened a closed world to the public and I should be appreciative towards him,” she says. “But the Sayuri he presented is not agreeable, because it is not how a geiko really is.” A real geisha from this quarter would have never auctioned her virginity, she asserts. Miss Iwasaki herself did not, and nobody she knew or knew of did either. But Dalby and Downer had bot recorded discussions with older geisha who reported the ritual deflowering of young girls back in the old days, an act which a patron pays the geisha house a large sum to perform. Dalby reported that the practice, in the area she studied in nearby Pontocho, had stopped before World War II. Downer was less specific about the area of Gion she had researched. Perhaps this could have happened in the “lower” quarters (she’s referring to Miyagawa Cho and Gion Higashi), Miss Iwasaki says. Who knows what those low women get up to. But never in Gion Kobu. Mizuage has another meaning as well, Miss Iwasaki states; fishermen speak of it to talk of the quantity of their daily catch. A day’s cash register receipts are mizuage. So when she had spoken of her mizuage with Golden, she says, she meant that her monthly earnings, the payments by customers to the geisha house in exchange for her presence at parties, were the highest of any geisha in Gion. When she said her mizuage was the highest in Gion, it simply meant that she had the most number of requests for her presence, not that a customer had paid for her virginity, she says, “Also, a geisha from this quarter would never have slept with men she didn’t care for, particularly when she had such relentless feelings for someone else,” she says… If you wanted to reduce the geisha world to crass financial transactions, she says, why not consider all marriage a type of ritual mizuage as well? After all the tradition in Japan is that the husband’s family buys a gift for the family of the bride. It is ab exchange of money, she says tartly.”      


Continued on page 212:

“Miss Iwasaki returns to the subject of why westerners misunderstand geisha. She criticizes Dalby and Downer, though not by name, but says

[S]ome of them were here for about three months or so and stayed in one of the establishments in Kyoto and just looked and experienced being a geisha, and they wrote a thesis or a book about it as if they learned everything and knew everything. But in three months they cannot learn everything, they cannot know everything. For example, they write about costumes and kimonos, but we wonder what age kimonos are they talking about? When they talk about how to wear kimono there is a trend for fashion depending on the period. The hairstyle as well. So when they talk about kimono from the Edo Period, that is not appropriate now. And from the starting point, they have the wrong impression about geisha, that geisha is equal to prostitute. I’m sorry, but what these people wrote is wrong.

Based on reading those books, I had found that they both pointed out over and over that geisha were women trained in the arts, were keepers of Japanese tradition, and most definitely were not prostitutes, whose bodies were not for sale. Both took great care in making that distinction, noting the powerful lobbies in Japan dedicated to correcting any lingering misconceptions from the Occupation years. But upon re-reading them after my discussion with Miss Iwasaki, I realized that they both mention the auction of virginity of young geisha, the mizuage. That is what is common to all three books, including Golden’s, and that is what has upset her. “For those who are going to carry on the geisha tradition as a profession, we need to clarify at this point that the geisha are different from prostitutes,” she says. I tell her that I don’t think it needs clarifying. She insists that, because foreigners keep writing about auctioning of virginity and having sex with male patrons, it does. Surely it is what sells books back in the West, she says, but it is grossly inaccurate.”

So, in the end Mineko states that they misunderstood mizuage and its significance, possibly conflating it with the acts of “lower” areas. I hope that this has helped you to understand a tricky subject ^^

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etsyfindoftheday 2 | 9.8.15

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