Explaining Geisha in English Expressions to enjoy entertaining overseas guests.
An important guest or group of guests are visiting Japan.
During their visit you want them to experience Japanese hospitality/Omotenashi to the utmost, and you have arranged a Geisha performance as a way of achieving this goal.
If you can directly explain about Geisha to your guests rather than leaving this to an interpreter, you may deepen your relationship them.
It is not always easy to explain Geisha even to Japanese people in simple Japanese, let alone to an overseas guest. You may have trouble knowing what to say. In this article, we will introduce you to some useful English phrases and words to use with your guests in such situations.
What exactly is a Geisha?
As a starting point, here’s some basic information about Geisha:
A Geisha ( or Geiko) is a highly skilled female artist and performer who provides entertainment at banquets by dancing, singing and playing Japanese musical instruments.
Geisha have been popular with the general public since the Edo period and continue to be so to the present day.
The difference between a Geisha and a Maiko (which you may have heard about) is that a Maiko is what a Geisha is called during her training period or apprenticeship.
Geisha train for many years, practicing their skills daily. Through Geisha visitors can truly enjoy authentic Japanese traditional culture and arts.
What’s more, Geisha are experts in creating a lively yet relaxed and intimate atmosphere for their guests.
What is ‘o-zashiki’ play?
O-zashiki play (literally translated, a zashiki is a Japanese style room with ‘Tatami’ mat flooring) refers to enjoying a banquet at a teahouse with Geisha invited to provide company and entertainment.
In concrete terms, it means chatting with Geisha or Maiko whilst enjoying sake, watching dances, playing games, etc.
Ochaya-san (literally translated, a tea-house), is an eating and drinking establishment usually with private rooms, as found in Tokyo’s ‘Hanamachi’ districts (Flower towns), including Akasaka, Asakusa and Shinbashi.
Geisha related words
Please see the following words:
- Gei – A trained or skillfull entertainer
- Sha – person (for example, Gei-sha – skilled entertainer, i-sha’ – doctor)
- Gi – A woman who serves at a banquet with traditional Japanese music and singing
Remembering the following is also helpful:
- Kimono – The national dress/costume of Japan, a traditional robe or garment, made of finely woven silk
- Obi – the wide sash that wraps around the waist of the Kimono, and ‘Keikogi’ (uniforms for Japanese martial arts)
Geisha related facts and information
As well as being trained in various traditional Japanese arts such as dance and music, and artistic entertainment they are also skilled communicators.
The Geisha’s make-up is unique
- ‘Oshiroi’ – the white powder covering the Geisha’s face, and the front and back of her neck.
About Maiko’s make-up is a little different to that of the Geisha
- The traditional makeup of a Maiko features a base of white foundation, but also red lipstick and red and black accents around the eyes and eyebrows.
- Mature/older geisha ordinarily wear more subdued clothing, makeup, and hair styles.
Also unfortunately, there is still some misunderstanding with non-Japanese that Geisha are high-class prostitutes, which is not the case at all.
This has been perpetuted by such movies as [SAYURI] from 2005, about the life of a female Geisha before and after the 2nd World War, and also the Chinese written characters for Geisha. This is not the case. As explained, Geisha are entertainers.
- As well as to entertain their role is to make guests feel at ease with conversation, drinking games and dance performances.
We hope this has equipped you to explain Geisha to your guests, and to remove any misconceptions they may hold.
It is quite acceptable to take photos with the Geisha, in fact it is recommended to do so, to evoke your happy memories of the occasion.
Just be sure to ask the Geisha before taking photos as a courtesy.
There are a number of original games you can play with Geisha. An example of one is “Tora-Tora-Tora” a gesture game simliar to “Rock, Paper, Scissors”. An old woman, a tiger, and a soldier are the three characters that feature in the game.
You can also try dancing, singing and gesturing with Geisha.
The Geisha will show you what to do, and ensure you enjoy yourself to the fullest.
There are many other traditional games you can experience with Geisha.
Please enjoy the experience the delicate intimacy of having Geisha personally coach you in these games.
Every Geisha dance relates a story through body movement and hand gestures.
For example, a tiny hand gesture may represent reading a love letter. Holding the corner of a handkerchief in the mouth represents flirtaciousnes. The flick of a long sleeve of an elaborate Kimono is often used to symbolize dabbing away tears.
Sharing such points of knowledge before or during the dance performance, will enhance and deepen your guests’ appreciation of its nuances.
Music of the Teahouse
Music of the Teahouse
Dances are accompanied by traditional Japanese music, especially composed for the main instrument, the ‘Shamisen’.
The musical form played is called ‘Ohayashi’ a kind of music performed during traditional festivals which are still held throughout Japan at certain times in the year.
The music’s unique tone and the sophisticated movements of the Geisha are what fascinate and attract the viewer.
The Geisha is a true Japanese icon.
As banquet professionals, adept at performing for small audiences, yet able to convey an atmosphere of refined intimacy, they are the ideal for entertaining important guests.
Explaining Geisha and their performance requires a little specialized knowledge, but if you able to share a few points with your guests it may enhance their appreciation of their experience as well as your relationship with them.
For many Geisha communicating in English is a skill they now acquire to allow them to better entertain overseas guests. Your guests can take the opportunity whilst chatting to get to know the Geisha better by asking them questions about their profession and lifestyle.