GeishaGold.com

Geisha Culture and Arts

Glossary of Terms

Asobi:   play, both for children and adults

Bon: a Midsummer Buddhist festival of souls

Bonchi: a basin or valley ringed by mountains 

Buiki: not iki; boorish

Bunraku: traditional Japanese puppet theater

Butsudan: the household Buddhist shrine 

Danna: a geisha's patron

Dansu Geisha: In the 1920's, geisha who danced in Western ballroom styles 

Darari: a style of tying the obi sash that is used only by apprentice geisha

Desho: a geisha's most formal kimono 

Edo: Tokyo (historical)

Eri: the inside collar of a kimono, at the back of the neck

Erikae o suru: "to turn one's collar" this expression marks the transition from maiko to geisha 

Flower-and-Willow-World: Geisha society as a whole

Fudangi: kimono - every day wear vs Haregi, formal wear 

Furisode: "swinging-sleeve" kimono worn by unmarried girls 

Geigi: alternate term for geisha 

Geiko: a fully qualified geisha (especially in Kyoto)

Geta: informal wooden sandals

Giri: Duty, honor, obligation 

Hanamachi: a geisha district containing okiya (geisha houses) and ochaya (tea houses) 

Haori: jacket worn over kimono 

Hauta: a short song played on the shamisen

Hiki Iwai: Celebration of a woman's departure from the geisha life 

Iki: an aesthetic of sophisticated partying associated with with the flower-and-willow world

Jikata: a geisha specializing in playing music and singing

Jimae geiko: an independent geisha who has finished her apprenticeship at an okiya 

Kaburenjo: a geisha dance theater and rehearsal space

Kagami mochi: round, hard cakes of pounded glutinous rice 

Kenban: the auditing and registration office of a geisha district

Kota: thirteen stringed rectangular harp 

Machiai: Geisha entertainment rooms formerly popular in Tokyo

Maiko: an apprentice Kyoto geisha usually aged between about fifteen and twenty-one

Marumage: traditional hairstyle for adult women 

Meiji: historical period (1868-1912) and reigning emperor

Minarai: an apprentice maiko, learning by observation

Misedashi: a maiko's formal debut

Mizuage: the arranged deflowering of a maiko (historical)

Momoware: traditional hairstyle worn by young girls, now seen only on the maiko of Kyoto

Mon: crest or insignia 

Musume-bun: the "role of daughter" in the fictive kinship system of geisha communities 

Nihon Buyo: traditional Japanese dance

Obi: a kimono sash

Ochaya: (tea house) an exclusive function room catering to regular customers only

Oiran: Edo courtesan (historical)

Okobo: platform clogs worn by maiko

Okamisan: proprietress of a shop or tea house 

Okasan: "Mother", the term used by geisha for tea house managers or okiya owners

Okiya: a house in which Kyoto geiko and maiko live

Okobo: special high clogs worn by maiko 

Oneesan: older sister

Oniisan: older brother

Onsen: hot springs, spa

Oshiroi: the powder used for skin whitening

Otoko Geisha: Male geisha 

Otokosu: a professional geisha dresser

Ozashiki: a small, private party where guests book geisha to perform in an ochaya

Ryotei:  a high-class Japanese restaurant

Sakura: cherry blossoms

Sansan-kudo: "Thrice three, nine times," the ritual exchange of cups of sake in a wedding ceremony or the sisterhood ceremony of geisha

Shakuhachi: a thick bamboo clarinet 

Shamisen: (also samisen): a three-stringed, banjo-like instrument

Shikomi: a maid/apprentice

Tabi: split-toed socks worn with Japanses sandals 

Tachikata: a geisha specializing in dance

Taiko: a drum. Also the name of a common way of tying an obi 

Taikomochi: ("drum-carrier") a male geisha

Tatami: traditional Japanese flooring, made of thickly woven straw

Tayu: Kyoto courtesan (historical)

Tokonoma: alcove in a traditional room where flowers and a hanging scroll can be displayed 

Tsu: a masculine form of iki 

Wabi: an aesthetic of restraint and simplicity associated with tea ceremony

Wareshinobu: a maiko hairstyle

Yukata: a cotton kimono, worn for very informal occasions; bathrobe

Zashiki: a banquet room. Also the term used by geisha for their engagements

Zori: Japanese sandals