Geisha (Geiko) ≠ Prostitution | Kyoto, Japan

The original geishas were men, but the profession was quickly taken over by women during the 18th century. Geishas are entertainers with years of training in the art of dancing, instrument playing, tea pouring, and making conversation. This profession has been mislabeled as prostitution by foreigners, which is understandable due to the history.

***Note: A geisha and a geiko are the same thing. The term used depends on the city. Geisha is used in Tokyo while geiko is used in Kyoto. I will be using the term Geisha in this blog--even though I visited Kyoto--to not cause confusion.***


In the past, there was a practice called “mizuage.” Mizuage was a coming of age celebration. During this period a Maiko (apprentice Geisha) would find a wealthy man to sponsor her expensive training. Due to this, he reserved the right to take her virginity. This practice ended in the late 1950s.
Some geishas take a “danna”-- a rich man who will financially support her for a great period. The relationship between the two is not inherently intimate. A person might decide to become a danna to show their social status or to help this tradition continue.
During the Allies occupation of Japan from 1945 to 1952, soldiers did pursue intercourse with prostitutes known as “geisha girls.”  Geisha girls imitated the appearance of the Geishas: the kimono and white painted face. Many soldiers could not tell the difference between the two, due to their lack of knowledge about Japanese 

Geisha(Geikos)vs Maikos

The two women I met were Maikos. Maikos are between the ages of 15 to 20, while Geishas are 20+ years old. The easy give away were their kimono collars. Geishas only wear white collars, while Maikos have decorative collars.

Other ways to tell the difference...

Geishas: real hair, simple hair ornaments/kimonos (maybe a pattern on the bottom), plain white-collar, and not hanging obi (sash)

Maikos: wigs, extravagant hair ornaments, decorative kimonos/collar, and hanging obi (sash)

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