Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

neck.icon.gif Kyoto is the center for the geisha business. In Kyoto, there are two main districts for geisha, Gion and Pontocho. Everyone has their preference, but Gion is the more traditional of the two.

In Gion, there are tea houses called ochaya where they geisha and the maiko go to perform and entertain guests. The ochaya manager is called okasan and she orders food and arranges the entertainment for the guests. The customers usually have a relationship with the Ochaya. Ochaya generally do not take new costumers without an introduction.

Young women are first enlisted into the trade as Maiko and move into dorm like facilities called okiya. okiya have managers who act like the Maiko's mother and set up lessons, make sure they come home on time and generally take care of the Maiko's affairs. At first they are taught the Kyoto dialect if they are from out of town. They then undergo substantial training in dance, singing, and general social rules. Maiko wear very heavy white makeup and are generally very young. In the past, when a Maiko found a patron, she would move out of the okiya and into a home sponsored by the patron. These days, when Maiko perform this ritual called erigaishi, they move out of the okiya into single living quarters. At this time they stop wearing the white makeup. Recently, this happens when Maiko are around 18 years old.

In Gion, most Maiko's names start with either "mame" or "ichi" representing the two main Maiko lineages from two very famous geisha. Ichisuzu is a representative from the "ichi" group. The image above is an image of her from behind. Mamehide is from the "mame" lineage.

To be continued...


I have a question.

I'm American and i just married a japanese woman. I love her and everything, but i dont like her job.

She works as a hostess at a Karaoke bar (waterbar). She told me she gets paid to talk to customers and make their drinks. Every now and then, she says she has to go to dinner with the customers and take them back to the Karaoke bar.

Anyway, i dont trust her or the job and i think its just a front for sex.

Can you anyone give me insight to the culture and her job?


A hostess and a geisha have similar job descriptions (cater to guests, mainly men) but very different job requirements. A hostess isn't expected to dance Gion Kouta or accompany a guest on the shamisen like a true geisha, and singing karaoke might be the extent of her 'gei', if you will.

I often think Japan has perfected compartmentalized relations between men and women. A man has a wife to care exclusively for the home and children, a pretty young hostess or geisha to have drinks with after a stressful day of work, and any number of prostitutes to sleep with if he feels the urge. Of those options, the prostitute is likely the cheapest.

It's okay if you don't trust the job, but you should trust your wife. Otherwise it might be a source of quarrels.