Long Road Awaits Young Geisha To Master Art Of Entertaining

Long road awaits young geisha to master art of entertainingSince she debuted as maiko two years ago, Katsuna has devoted most of her efforts to increasing her repertoire of classical dances that she performs for guests in “ozashiki” dining sessions.

At first, Katsuna, 18, a part of the Kamishichiken traditional entertainment district in Kamigyo Ward, could dance only three numbers. But now the teen geisha has a wide array that pays tribute to the changing features of each season.

While respecting tradition is the most important ethos in the world of geisha, Katsuna admitted that she uses the latest technological innovation--smartphones--to record her performances so she can review herself.

In an annual public show held for two weeks every spring, geisha in Kamishichiken perform at the Kitano Odori public demonstration.

In the first year, it was all she could do just to remember how to perform each song. "But I was certainly able to pour my soul into my dance performances this year,” Katsuna said.

During the day before the start of ozashiki sessions, geisha receive a series of lessons on dance, the samisen, singing and the tea ceremony.

Toshihina, a 16-year-old maiko in the Miyagawa-cho district in Higashiyama Ward, also attends English conversation lessons, hoping that she can “expand her horizons” as a professional entertainer.

After serving as “maiko” for four to five years, young geisha become “geigi,” who can entertain patrons by singing, dancing and playing instruments.

After working as geigi for several more years, they become “jimae-san” geisha who are independent from “okiya” geisha houses. At this stage, they must earn enough on their own to cover their housing, costume and other expenses.

Geisha retire from the entertainment world when they marry, but some choose to stay single to continue on in the tradition.

Katsuna, of the Kamishichiken district, said she aspires to continue trying to reach her potential as a geisha and intends to remain single for as long as possible. Her idol is the senior geisha Katsukiyo, the 87-year-old former president of the geisha union in the district, who still performs her traditional dances in front of patrons.

“I do not know how my future will turn out, but I will always continue to make my best effort by reminding myself of the motivation I had as an apprentice geisha,” Katsuna said.