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Word Count: 2,577
Geisha have been symbols of Japan to foreigners for many years Who are geisha We often perceive them not to be prostitutes but highly trained entertainers We cannot simply reproduce a picture of such an emblem but to touch the surface These female entertainers have survived purely over the years purely for their love of the preserving art and culture Saburuko ones who served were the earliest predecessors to geisha who arose at the end of the seventh century Because of social displacement they were forced to become wanderers who traded their sexual favors in order to survive From the twelfth to the fourteenth centuries a new class of courtesans called shirabyoshi emerged Saburuko and shirabyoshi were only related to geisha in that they were female entertainers who used their bodies freely But geisha would not appear without the aid of the yujo who lived in the pleasure quarters Around 1600 the walled-in quarters were established in order to contain the destitutes prostitutes and entertainers from the streets Large numbers of young girls were sold by their own families who couldnt support them and they could not leave until the debt was paid By the 1800s these entertainment districts existed in Japans three largest cities Yoshiwa in Edo now Tokyo Shimmachi in Osaka and Shimbara in Kyoto Underwood 16 The pleasure quarters were separated from the rest of the cities by walls and moats There were restaurants brothels teahouses theaters and shops Cobb 5 During the Edo period 1600-1867 Prostitution was legal only if it was licensed and controlled Underwood 54 The culture of the pleasure quarters contained classical references The courtesans made constant reference to the romantic novel The Tale of Genji written by Lady Murasaki Shikibu The courtesans acquired the skills of calligraphy poetry flower arranging tea ceremony dancing and musicianship A few courtesans were given the highest rank of tayu or oiran and were treated like royalty
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