Geisha Culture and Arts

Shikomi 2: Role Play

Thoughts from the Tao Te Ching

Chapter 6

The Tao is called the Great Mother:

empty yet inexhaustible,

it gives birth to infinite worlds.

It is always present within you.

You can use it any way you want.


What is Role Play (RP) in the online multi-player gaming world?

It is like the pretending games we played as children where we "became" a princess, a horse, a teacher, a magician, etc

In the online gaming world we choose and "play" a character - like acting on a stage, where we assume anything from a certain role in the game - mother, daughter, wizard, dragon, monk, warrior, geisha --and we act out that role with associated others.

In Amatsu Okiya SecondLife, we RP the idea of a geisha school with ranks ranging through shikomi, minarai, maiko, geisha, Okaasan. Sometimes others we associate with include teahouse patrons, benefactors, samurai, danna, hogosha, etc.

There are some RP terms that are good to know, use and teach to others

Character:  everyone in a game is called a character

Player character (PCs) play the main roles in a game -  all activities center around them (this is what we are)

Non-player character (NPC) are those who act on the periphery - they may associate with PCs from time-to-time, but are not a critical part of the play. An NPC may even be a "statue".

Out-of-character (OOC): anything a character says outside their role - like asking a question not pertaining to the role (best to do this in IM)

Example: if you went to a stage play, you would not expect the actors on that stage or the audience members to start talking about their family or how they had to leave to go to the store.

This is very critical for you to understand. As geisha and students of an okya we portray appropriate speech and behavior in chat and dress. When we are wearing our tag or attending other okiya, we stay In Character (IC) do not break the mood and flow by becoming OOC in open chat - especially at critical times like when we are putting on a performance or attending one - mind your manners.

The Best way to learn RP is to observe your older sisters in social interactions --at other okiya, during tea service, with guests, during performances. Also as you progress through these lessons you will learn speech and manners to bring you into our culture in a unique and fun manner. 

The following are some roles you may encounter

Okaasan - mother

The 'mother' of the okiya

Leader and head of the Geisha House (okiya)

Delegates tasks and responsibilities

Oversees and teaches lessons, approves lesson content

Maintains records


Simple kimono or yukata for daily wear, formal kimono for attending certain events or visiting, performance kimono suiting performing event

Her hair is up or down but always neat. Traditional geiko style hair when visiting or may have show hair for performances

Conservative makeup - unless performing or in a formal situation, where she may wear traditional white shironuri make-up


Appropriate to situation. May be extraordinarily polite, playful, quiet, gentle and also become impatient like anyone. At times Okaasan offers correction and discipline

Sometimes "absent-minded"---when it suits her or to teach others responsibility. You might hear her say. "I cannot remember that. What do you remember?"

You will treat Okaasan with reverence, respect and obedience. You will be loyal and support her. You will allow her to enter a room first, do not sit until she sits and indicates you may be seated. What are some other ways you can think of to demonstrate respect for your Okaasan?

Senior Geisha 

Senior Geisha

A Senior Geisha is granted the title because she has demonstrated dedication to the okya and to Okaasan


Active, pro-active and willing to take on responsibilities for Okaasan

"In charge" of particular activities for the Okiya, for instance over productions (misedashi, erikae, events, etc.)

May work with others on these activities for training purposes or to share responsibility

Being "in-charge" does not mean she must do everything - ideally she will delegate a majority of the work.

She is an example for all Okiya members in terms of our principles of Love, Humility and Moderation. 

Exhibits excellent organizational skills

Works with Okaasan to determine when students have completed each lesson to satisfaction and when they are ready to graduate to the next level

Hair and dress are like Okaasan's

The only time Geisha wear white makeup is for special entertainment occasions and formal events.

Geisha - Geiko


Geisha are professional entertainers with a well-rounded knowledge of the arts, current events, and communication and provides wholesome entertainment to clients and patrons. 


Makeup:  light makeup to enhance natural beauty. White (shironuri) only when providing formal entertainment, attending special ceremonies, and/or as situation calls for it. 

Hair: may wear hair down or in a conservative geisha style. Use discretion for hair based on the situation, formality and purpose.

Dress: Kimono, flat soled sandals (zori), high wooden clogs (geta), black lacquered sandals (okobo). Please do not wear shoes indoors in homes.


Adjusts behavior as situation calls for it. Geisha may be flirtatious, teasing, display a sense of humor, laugh, have fun, at times may need to be serious and play the role of counselor and confidante, or teacher. In all things geisha are honorable, self-confident, humble, invite respect --even awe and be lovely, loving and charming. 

Hostess for private events (hostessing may include tea serve, dance music, reading, art --other performance-related activity)

Teach in the okiya or for public events. 

Perform at okiya functions - it is an expectation that geisha conduct herself in a professional manner, attend, support and fully participate in okiya functions. 

Promote the okiya, support younger sisters, make public appearances. 

Pay respects to other okaasan and their okiyas by viisiting and attending their programs...always stay in character during these times and wear Amatsu Okiya tag. 

Thoughts: continue to develop yourself in knowledge of RL current events, movies, books. Continue to grow and develop your skills and learn new ones. Treat patrons with respect and show them honor...make them feel like they are the most important person in the world. Hand out card advertising your services and that of the Okiya opportunities. You are self-sustaining, self-promoting...Work toward your own success and that of your Okiya sisters.

Once you have reached the level of Geisha, you are eligible to have a Danna. Please be professional in your relationship to demonstrate continued respect for the okiya, your sisters and your Okaasan.


Maiko- Beautiful Butterfly!

A Maiko shows off her beauty in an elaborate manner. This level of becoming geisha is what most people picture in their minds when the word "geisha" is mentioned. You become maiko and begin these studies after your misedashi ceremony  -- a graduation celebration from Minarai to Maiko. 

Makeup: Maiko must wear white (shironuri) in all public areas and at all times while wearing our tag- May wear natural in your rooms or when not in character. 

Hair: Maiko style (wareshinobu) many hair accessories (flowers  or kanzashi, pins or kunai, &/or chopsticks) in all public areas. May wear hair down in your rooms or when not in character. Do not wear more than two sticks at a time in your hair. More than two is the look of the courtesan or (onsen, tayu, oiran). 

Dress: brightly colored kimono with long Obi tails, high wooden clogs (geta), black lacquered sandals (okobo). Please do not wear shoes indoors. 

Behavior: Demure, feminine, flirtatious and teasing, respectful, having a sense of humor, likes to laugh, have fun, yet always loving and lovely

Activity: Accompany an older sister or Okaasan to entertain at an ochaya or gathering. Role play a service or entertainment for Okaasan or your Oneesan. Upon approval, begin advertising and recruiting clients and patrons. When providing escort to a patron or entertaining them, please remember that we portray grace and entertainment. We are not sexual escorts. 

Thoughts: consider an art to work on or perfect your good skills: stories, music, dance, landscaping, creation of flowers, sculpture, clothing, or other geisha-related theme.


Minarai are like our uncut jewels

Minarai observe and become familiar with their new world. While wearing the Amatsu Okiya tag, please maintain your role. Of course if you are not wearing our tag you may do as you wish.

Makeup: subdued, natural - 

Hair: wear down, may be braided or to one side, natural, not in the face please (Okaason wants to see your pretty eyes).

Dress: kimono, zori (flat soled sandals), tabi

Behavior: demure, quiet, respectful, shy

Activity: make friends with your sisters, accompany sister geisha, Okaasan or Maiko on outings. Practice &  study minarai lessons, attend any classes and any okiya productions (even if you are not directly involved - our expectation is that you attend, participate by meeting and greeting guests and showing everyone your loyalty and respect to your okaasan, okiya and sisters.

Thoughts: consider specializing in an instrument or practicing dances

At the end of this stage you will have:

-Completed all of the Minarai lessons

-Demonstrated your ability to become a Maiko by: greeting, touring and serving Amatsu Guests, telling a story or poem, dancing or playing an instrument and by participating or observing ceremonies or Okiya-sponsored events.

Become proficient in manners that will bring honor to your Okiya family and those who are our benefactors and protectors of the Okiya

In order to graduate you will also need maiko kimono, hairstyle and white makeup. PLEASE do not purchase these things without discussing with your Oneesan or Okaasan first!

Study this website for information on hair and dress:

Geisha Make Up

Geisha Hairstyles

Geisha Dress

Assignments are usually completed by creating a notecard in SecondLife and giving the finished assignment to your mentor or Okaasan. 

Copy and paste questions 1 and 2 into a notecard and add your answers, then turn it in. 

Follow up by going to the forums on this site and add a simple comment about this lesson that includes question 3. 

1.   Define the following abbreviations about role play: 

In Character: (IC) - 

Out of Character (OOC): 

Non Player Character (NPC):

2. The Golden Rule states: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto your." Explain how that might fit into your relationships in the okiya and your geisha training.

3. In the forums on this website, write what you think is the most important thing to remember about being a shikomi at Amatsu Okiya.


are the novices of the okiya

This is a time of learning the joys of serving others, completing okiya chores and your studies. Learn by listening and doing. 

Dress: simple plain yukata

Hair: may be worn long, but you must not have it all over your face.. see this picture

Makeup: none

You are portraying a young novice/servant to the okiya. At this stage you look in wonder, awe and longing to be like the geisha you see around you. 


After completing this assignment, you may proceed to Shikomi 3: Meet and Greet