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Word Count: 2,125
Geishas of the New World Introduction Many different cultures and countries have created niches in American society that sustain and envelop traditions from their native lands Within these miniature sub-countries some traditional practices defy the typical American beliefs Of these the Japanese cultural practice of the Geisha has been brought to the societal forefront by the recently published novel Memoirs of a Geisha The artisan practice of being a Geisha is a long-lived tradition in Japan and some of its roots have been established in the Japanese-American subculture Background Many of Japans unique cultural practices emerged during the Edo period 1600-1868 a period well known for Japans self-imposed isolation from the rest of the world The first geisha appeared during this period as male entertainers much like court jesters where comedy played a central role in their performances Women slowly infiltrated the profession and by 1800 most geisha were female The government controlled the profession by requiring licenses for each geisha In 1872 the new Meiji government required that geisha who also practiced prostitution maintain a license for each service This allowed some geisha to distinguish themselves as solely artistic professionals The lengthy training and concomitant expense associated with such training limited the number of woman in the profession It was during this time the geisha overshadowed high-class courtesans and prostitutes by being harbingers of popular Japanese music and fashion In contrast during the 1920s popular style was anything western At this point geisha made a critical change in the direction of their profession While they had emerged triumphantly as the vanguard of popular style in the late 1800s the 1920s saw the geisha instilling themselves as protectors of traditional Japanese culture Their new role ensured the geishas place in modern Japan as living museums Definition In order to be a Geisha you must be born the daughter of a geisha or you are accepted by an okiya geisha
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