The Geisha are traditional entertainers in Japanese culture. Many parts of their profession are still shrouded in secrecy but they are not considered to be prostitutes. Their focus has always been upon learning the traditional Japanese arts and using their skills to impress wealthy men.
In the past Geisha girls (Called Maiko) would spend nearly their entire lives training for their future profession. Geisha houses would buy young girls from poor families and then take over the responsibility of caring for them and raising them. A geisha girl (Maiko) would then spend the rest of her training living within the Geisha house. She would pay for her education and board by eventually becoming an assistant to a senior Geisha and then becoming a Geisha herself. In order to become Geisha, Maiko had to learn many skills such as song, drum, and arts of gracious etiquette. Once viewed as full-fledged, Maiko was allowed to become Geisha.
Today it is to longer the practice to buy young girls but instead becoming a Geisha is entirely voluntary. Girls will typically enter Geisha training in their late teens. These women will learn the arts of poetry, music, dance and other forms of entertainment.
There is a belief among many non-Japanese that Geisha are akin to prostitution but this has never been the case. It has been known for some prostitutes to try and capitalize on the popularity of the Geisha, but a true Geisha will never involve herself in sexual relations with her clients. In the past it was common for a Geisha to take a “Danna” or patron who would pay for her costs of living. This patron could be a wealthy man, sometimes married who is able to take on the high costs of Geisha training. The Geisha may or may not have been in love with her patron but sexual intimacy between the two was never part of a financial agreement. But still today the truth about this relationship is unknown even among many Japanese.
The number of true Geisha in Japan has been gradually dwindling, in the 1920s there were tens of thousands of Geisha but today their numbers are less than 2000. A Geisha’s time can be measured in a number of different ways and one of the most traditional is for it to be measured in the amount of time it takes for an incense stick to burn.