anonymous asked:

What criteria makes Geiko or a Maiko famous?

Well, first of there is beauty. This is by far not the only criteria and I wouldn’t even say it’s the most important, but it definitely helps a lot.

Especially Maiko who have just started out often rely on their beauty and overall cuteness, because they still make a lot of mistakes and don’t have the experience and artistic repertoire their older Geiko-sisters have. Beauty also helps you get your picture taken a lot, which contributes to your face spreading, but how many pictures of a Maiko or Geiko are taken isn’t neccessarily an indicator of fame. Take Geiko Dan-yuu for example. There rarely are any pictures of her and most tourists don’t even recognize her as a Geiko, because she doesn’t wear the white oshiroi and she was in the third bracket of the highest earners of 2016 and has been on the list for years in a row!

A Maiko who has the typical kind of “Maiko-beauty” is Ichiyuu (Katsumi Okiya) of Pontocho. She is short, petite, cute and very much looks like a real life hina doll. Geiko Kikuno (Hanafusa Okiya) of Miyagawacho is a good example for the typical “Geiko-bauty”. She looks elegant and feminine, yet mature and strong.

Basically, the older the Maiko or Geiko gets, the less important beauty is. Senior Maiko wear less flamboyant kimono than junior Maiko, Geiko wear much more subdued kimono and hair ornaments than Maiko and at some point, they are expected to stop wearing the white makeup and wig altogether and switch to wearing mainly ordinary houmongi, iromuji and tomesode (for special occassions).

The older and experienced a Geiko gets, the more she is supposed to focus on and solely rely on her artistic talents. Simply being beautiful and not training hard is not going to work if you want a long and stable career or true fame.

And here we are at the second point: Hard work and dedication. The most famous or even outright legendary Maiko and Geiko are almost always the best or belong to the best of their district or even city. Usually, they are dancers, but jikata Geiko can also earn fame if they are very skilled. They train and study very hard and accept as many engagements as possible. You need to have dedication to the job, lifestyle and arts if you want to make it. If you’re not serious about training, you’re very likely to fail. Geiko Satsuki is a great example. She is not only a great dancer, but also one of the best fue-players of Kyoto, and goes to as many engagements as humanly possible.

Mineko Iwasaki even talks about this in her autobiography. She said that her okaasan told her that her older sister Yaechiyo (her real name was Yaeko) was very beautiful, talented and promising, but very lazy and undisciplined and never paid attention during her lessons (amongst other problems), so her career never really blossomed.

“But there was a problem.  It soon became evident that Yaeko wasn’t serious about her career. Frankly, it is possible for a Maiko, especially one as stunning as Yaeko, to glide for a while on her magnificent costumes and childlike charisma, but her career can’t blossom unless she capitalizes on her talent. Yaeko was lazy and undisciplined. She got bored easily and didn’t see things through. She hated lessons and barely paid attention during rehearsals. Her dancing wasn’t getting any better. Auntie Oima told me it was making her very nervous.”

But training in the arts isn’t the only training you have to do, you also have to train your conversation-skills to become an enjoyable and interesting host and to be able to easily accommodate all different kinds of people. No one expects a fifteen-year old Maiko to be a very extroverted and lively host, so she has to gradually learn from her older sisters. The experience of senior Geiko is often very important for this!

Thirdly, talent can be a good asset. Just as with beauty, just being talented won’t be enough for fame, but it is a good help if your a naturally gifted musician or dancer (or both). It also often makes starting out easier, as a lot of Shikomi and Maiko quit because they feel like they aren’t progressing and are getting to much harsh criticism from their teachers and elders. If you’re naturally gifted, you’re probably going to progress faster, especially at the start, and have a slightly easier time setting foot in the karyukai.

Also, being a naturally extroverted person is a great help especially for ozashiki. Maiko and young Geiko are almost never fully alone and even senior Geiko who live in their own space are with other people most of the time. Also, having to deal with different people all the time and be entertaining to them is hard and is easier if you‘re naturally outgoing and jokey. If you’re a very interested and/or shy person, you’ll have a harder time accommodating to the job.

Also, having taken lessons in traditional Japanese arts can be a great help, too, as it gives you an advantage over your peers. Retired Maiko Mamefuji and Geiko Toshimana had both taken lessons in traditional Japanese dance for years prior to becoming Maiko, and it certainly helped them. Mamefuji got to wear a white collar after a little over a year already because she was progressing so fastly and Toshimana became a Geiko after just 3 years and two months! However, it’s not only talent and having already taken lessons in dancing that made them so good and famous, it really is mainly hard work. Also, there are plenty of Maiko and Geiko who have never ad any lessons in Japanese arts before entering the karyukai who became very famous regardless of that (as far as I know, Satsuki didn’t have any, too)!

Famous Maiko and Geiko also often have very unique and bright personalities that enchant people very easily and make people remember them. So, there really are a lot of reasons intersecting.

midnight-in-greece  asked:

In a previous ask about the MoaG you mentioned that geimaiko always have a part of their onee-san's geimei in their own with only one known exception. May I ask who was that exception and why this happened (if the reason is known)?

The only known exception is Mineko Iwasaki and her older sister Yaeko. As Yaeko (八重子) was the atotori and being groomed to become the heir to the Iwasaki part of her real name was put into her geimei and it ended up being Yaechiyo (八重千代), while her onesan’s geimei was Yoneyū (米勇). When it came time for Mineko to debut her geimei was Mineko (峰子) as she had been known and promoted within Gion Kobu since she was 3 years old, so it only made sense to make her geimei sound like her real name as well (she actually spells it as 究香).

What’s In a Book? Part 5

You’ve requested it, so here’s the next book in our continuing series. While the closest we’ve come so far to hearing from real maiko and geiko has been the interviews that John Paul Foster conducted and the research that Dr. Dalby undertook, it is still not the same as coming from the mouth of a person who belonged to this closed world directly (although they are still fantastic sources). Today we’re taking a look inside the life of one of the most famous geisha ever and follow her story from an unknown young girl to a cultural icon.

Book’s softcover courtesy of Amazon.
Geisha, a Life by Mineko Iwasaki (ISBN 9-780743-444293)
Published as Geisha of Gion in Europe (ISBN 9-78-0743-430593)  
Date of Publication: 2002, has been reprinted a few times
Language: English, French, Spanish, Polish, German, and more
Availability: Still found in most bookstores and easily online.
Price: $10-15 new
Errors: 0

Mineko Iwasaki (究香 岩崎) was (and still is) one of the most famous geisha to ever live, and easily the most famous of the 20th century. Her life from the age of 3 (her first introduction to the karyukai) to age 29 (her retirement) is chronicled in this autobiography.

Born Masako Tanaka (政子 田中), the youngest of eleven children in 1949, she lived with relative comfort with her parents and seven other siblings until the day when Oima Iwasaki, the proprietress of the Iwasaki (岩崎) okiya in Gion Kobu, came to visit her parents to inquire if her older sister Tomiko might be interested in going to Kyoto and becoming a maiko. Unbeknownst to her at the time, Masako already had three older sisters living in Kyoto - Yaeko, Kikuko, and Kuniko - all of whom were employed in the karyukai. While Kikuko joined an okiya in Pontocho, Yaeko and Kuniko both lived and worked at the Iwasaki okiya. Yaeko went through the training to become a maiko (and then a geiko) while Kuniko worked at the okiya as a maid and helped to run the house.

The Tanakas had sent their daughters to okiya in Kyoto due to a lack of funds but also to ensure that the girls got a good education in the arts and had access to the finer things in life (giving better marriage prospects didn’t hurt either). While it may sound like slavery, at the time a girl could only hold a contract with an okiya for a maximum of seven years and certain standards of living had to be provided by the okiya for the girl while she was under contract. It was a much better option than being shackled to poverty for many girls who came from the previously rich samurai class, although it still meant a life away in a strange new place with a large amount of rules that one had to learn quickly.

Oima Iwasaki was a woman for spotting talent, and she became interested in Masako from the first time she saw her. By the old standards a “true” artist would begin dance lessons by the age of 6 and Ms. Oima saw the potential for an artist in Masako. While her parents allowed Tomiko to live and train at the Iwasaki okiya, they were very reluctant to hand over their youngest daughter. However, curiosity soon won over and Masako wanted to visit the Iwasaki okiya more and more to see the the beautiful kimono and the dog (Big John). When she was told that if she stayed at the Iwasaki okiya she could attend dance lessons the young girl was adamant in moving to Kyoto and her parents relented and let her go.

In this way, she grew up as a true daughter of Gion. She learned the mannerisms of the Kyoto dialect and the myriad rules that went along with living in an hierarchical society. She was groomed to be the future heir of the Iwasaki okiya. Since the Iwasaki was a famous okiya she was known to everyone who lived in Gion and had a very large head start when it eventually came time for her debut. Her biggest change when coming to Kyoto was her name - she could no longer be known as Masako since a Masako Iwasaki (the current heir) already lived at the okiya. She was given the name Mineko (究香), one that she originally hated but then came to appreciate.

Masako Iwasaki was the daughter of Gion’s #1 geiko Yoneyu (Unknown Spelling), who was the heir of the Iwasaki okiya. While she worked as a geiko Yoneyu allowed Oima Iwasaki to take care of the business side of the okiya, knowing that she’d eventually run it upon her retirement. Much hope was placed in Masako due to her mother’s standing, but she was very resentful for being an illegitimate child (her father was rich and an heir to a kimono conglomerate) and tried to leave the karyukai during the war when she became betrothed. Her fiancé died in action and they never married, however, Masako was seen almost as a widower and they decided that they needed an heir who would be a popular geiko in Gion. This is where Yaeko, Mineko’s eldest sister, comes into the picture. She was sold off to the Iwasaki Okiya in hopes that she would be groomed to become the heir someday. She made her formal debut as Yaechiyo (八重千代), the imouto of Yoneyu, and was formally adopted by the Iwasakis. She, however, hated her life in the karyukai and left during World War II to marry her lover. Sadly, Yoneyu passed away of kidney failure in 1944 and the Iwasaki okiya no longer had a viable heir.

Around the time when Mineko joined the Iwasaki okiya her sister Yaeko’s marriage had failed and she returned to the okiya to live as a geisha once again. Oima was a bit bullied by Yaeko but allowed her to join the ranks of the Gion geisha once again so that the okiya could continue to earn money. Yaeko had broken a taboo and also brought her two sons to live in the okiya with her. They caused much trouble and eventually Oima made Yaeko get an apartment for herself and her sons.

From this time until the age of 10 Mineko attended both elementary school at a nearby public school all while taking dance lessons and involving herself in the intricacies of Gion. It was at this time that she had to decide whether she wanted to officially be adopted as an Iwasaki or return to her parents. The first time she went to the courthouse she became ill and the judge could not make a ruling. The second time the judge made her declare her intentions even through her sickness and she officially became Mineko Iwasaki, daughter of Masako Iwasaki and the eventual heir to the Iwasaki Okiya. At the age of 15 she passed the test to become a maiko and was finally set to enter the ranks of Gion’s working elite. Sadly, before her debut Oima Iwasaki passed away, but she was said to have been happy to know that Mineko was about to become a maiko. Mineko debuted as Yaeko (Yaechiyo)’s younger sister under the geimei Mineko (峰子) and, after only being a maiko for a year, found herself at the top of Gion’s highest earner’s list. She kept this spot until age 21, when she had her erikae and became a geiko (as a geiko she had a bit more freedom to choose when to go to banquets). 

Her time as a maiko and a geiko are truly fantastic parts of this book and I really don’t want to continue to lay out everything as I believe it is best read from its primary source. If what I’ve said so far has got you hooked then great! If it hasn’t, then I suggest reading the first chapter from the author’s perspective. Either way, you’ll find this story to bring a very human side to the karyukai - all that glitters certainly isn’t gold, but, with perseverance and dedication, you can rise higher than you ever imagined. 

Like Dr. Dalby’s book I could find no errors.

Also like Dr. Dalby’s book you can find this one at your local public library if you cannot afford to buy a copy. It is a rare glimpse into a hidden world as told by one of its biggest stars and an opportunity to learn about the karyukai may never happen again.

Rating: ✪✪✪✪✪ (out of 5)