Photo by Tarmo Soodla
THIS IS A PHOTOGRAPH OF A HIGH RANKING OIRAN ---- NOT A GEISHA! PLEASE FIX YOUR PHOTOGRAPH'S LABEL.
the oiran (female entertainers, who came before the geisha) wore their obis on the front to mimic married women of the time who did the same. Prostitutes, like oiran are confined to certain areas of town… thus the prostitutes of our era were/are mimicking the oiran of their countries past. It is likely that the oiran became prostitutes, when geisha (who could exist outside of wall, unlike the oiran) became prominent midways through the Edo period. Oiran (花魁?) were courtesans in Japan. The oiran were considered a type of yūjo (遊女?) "woman of pleasure" or prostitute. However, they are distinguished from the yūjo in that they were entertainers, and many became celebrities of their times outside the pleasure districts. Their art and fashions often set trends among the wealthy and, because of this, cultural aspects of oiran traditions continue to be preserved to this day.
A geisha's appearance changes throughout her career, from the girlish, heavily made-up maiko, to the more sombre appearance of an older established geisha. Different hairstyles and hairpins signify different stages of a young girl’s development and even a detail as minute as the length of one’s eyebrows is significant. Short eyebrows are for the young and long eyebrows display maturity.
The hairstyles of geisha have varied through history. In the past, it has been common for women to wear their hair down in some periods, but up in others. During the 17th century, women began putting all their hair up again, and it is during this time that the traditional shimada hairstyle, a type of traditional chignon worn by most established geisha, developed.
There are four major types of the shimada: the taka shimada, a high chignon usually worn by young, single women; the tsubushi shimada, a more flattened chignon generally worn by older women; the uiwata, a chignon that is usually bound up with a piece of colored cotton crepe; and a style that resembles a divided peach, which is worn only by maiko. This is sometimes called "Momoware", or "split peach". Additional hairstyles: Ofuku, Katsuyama, Yakko-shimada, and Sakko. Maiko of Miyagawa-chō and Pontochō will wear an additional six hairstyles leading up to the Sakko, including Umemodoki, Oshidori no Hina, Kikugasane, and Osafune.
These hairstyles are decorated with elaborate hair-combs and hairpins (kanzashi). In the seventeenth century and after the Meiji Restoration period, hair-combs were large and conspicuous, generally more ornate for higher-class women. Following the Meiji Restoration and into the modern era, smaller and less conspicuous hair-combs became more popular.
Geisha sleep with their necks on small supports (takamakura), instead of pillows, so they could keep their hairstyle perfect. To reinforce this habit, their mentors would pour rice around the base of the support. If the geisha's head rolled off the support while she slept, rice would stick to the pomade in her hair. Even if there are no accidents, a maiko will need her hair styled every week. Many modern geisha use wigs in their professional lives, while maiko use their natural hair. Either must be regularly tended by highly skilled artisans. Traditional hairstyling is a slowly dying art. Over time, the hairstyle can cause balding on the top of the head.
© 1997-2015 Our World Travels