The Culture and Decline of the Geisha
A look at the historical function of the Geisha and reasons for their decline in popularity.
This paper takes a look at the role and function of the Geisha from the Edo period and the expectations of behavior and conduct of a geisha. As the numbers of geisha in Japan are declining, the paper also looks at a number of reasons to explain this decline
“Entertainment in Japan during the Edo period (1600-1867), especially entertainment involving women, was considered to require close supervision by the government. Prostitution was legal if properly licensed and controlled. Shimbara and Yoshiwara were fenced-in districts on the outskirts of Kyoto and Edo where prostitution was contained and regulated until 1957. Of the numerous hours men spent in these districts, relatively few were devoted to sex. Most of the time was engaged in partying; the lure of the area was the romance, elegance and excitement that could be found in the one place in the structured feudal society where money, wit and charm combined to create a sub-culture rooted in evening recreation. Besides the prostitutes, a number of other classes of female entertainers and waitresses were permitted to work in designated entertainment areas. Geishas belonged in this category, and for them, engaging in sex with customers was officially prohibited. The term geisha literally means “artist.” ”