Geisha: What are They and Do They Still Exist in Japan?

Do you really know what geisha are?

Geisha are traditional Japanese female entertainers. They are not what you may think they are.

They wear kimono and that distinctive white makeup; like you’ve probably seen in movies.

They usually work in exclusive, traditional Japanese restaurants. Where they entertain guests by pouring drinks, singing, and dancing.

Apprentice geisha are called maiko — they follow their mentor geisha to learn. Geisha are professional entertainers. They are not prostitutes

Some confuse geisha with oiran. 

Oiran were high-class prostitutes also well versed in song and dance. 

It’s easy to see western film producers may have confused them with geisha.

But oiran are from an era long passed in Japan, the Edo period, when prostitution was legal.

TOUR: Want to meet geisha?

Enjoy elegant traditional geisha entertainment while relishing a delicious seasonal kaiseki meal for up to 20 guests at one of three venues in Matsuyama City, Ehime.


  • Experience lively geisha entertainment and seasonal kaiseki dining near Dogo Onsen
  • Interact with English-speaking geisha during your experience
  • Relish a seasonal kaiseki meal while viewing a Japanese garden

Learn more and sign up here (in English)

The geisha tradition is not as old as the samurai but it IS old and I’ve surely developed some sort of mild fear that they might eventually disappear too — which I hope to goodness, they won’t — and this worry of mine makes a bit of sense because there aren’t many geisha anymore. To put it into numbers, back in the 1920s they numbered around 80,000. —IAmAileen

Kyoto is the heart of Japan’s geisha world. In Kyoto, however, fully-fledged geisha are properly called geiko (pronounced “gay-ko”). Young ladies, usually between the ages of 15 and 20, train for five years to become a geiko. During this period, they are known as maiko (pronounced “my-ko”). Knowledgeable insiders estimate that there are about 100 geiko and 100 maiko in Kyoto. —InsideKyoto

If you wanted to spend some time with the oiran, you had to contact someone in between. This person was called a yarite (遣手). This was applied not only to oiran, but to yuujyo in general. —TsunaguJapan

How much does a Geisha cost? The cost of a geisha banquet depends on the food which is usually courses of traditional Japanese cuisine and can be between 5000 yen and 40,000 yen or so. And the geisha costs can run from between 13,000 yen per geisha to 50,000 yen. —Quora

Is a geisha a concubine? is that geisha is a japanese female entertainer skilled in various arts such as tea ceremony, dancing, singing and calligraphy while concubine is a woman who lives with a man, but who is not a wife. —WikiDiff

Here is a fantastic video showing you inside the world of geisha