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Unformatted text preview: a on the one hand and courtesans and the other, lesser
prostitutes on the other. Geisha were expected to be strictly entertainers
and not engage in the business of sexually gratifying men. But the distinction between entertainment and sex was not always precisely maintained, and some geisha even became the concubines or mistresses of
men who purchased their contracts from the masters who held them in
bondage. Although the Tokugawa government frequently directed the
geisha not to compete with prostitutes, even seeking to restrict the luxu- 204 The Flourishing of a Bourgeois Culture riousness of their style of dressing and encouraging plain and older
women to become geisha, the problem of geisha and the sex business
Later in the Tokugawa period, free-lance geisha pursued their profession outside the pleasure quarters, securing for themselves much greater
freedom of movement and activity. Some, like leading courtesans of the
pleasure quarters, acquired considerable fame, and some even became
the fashion setters for women.
The musical instrument par excellence of the geisha was the samisen,
which, as we have seen, also enlivened the kabuki and puppet theatres.
Even today, nothing can evoke the feeling and mood of the world of
entertainment and pleasure of Tokugawa times like the brittle twanging
of the samisen, especially as played by geisha. Although the profession of
geisha has declined greatly in modern times, some geisha have been successful working in the political world. These geisha are engaged to entertain at parties of leading politicians, where the sake flows freely and sometimes important political negotiations are conducted. Although geisha
are supposed to remain silent about what they hear at these affairs, it is
interesting that the leading political parties tend to patronize their own
groups of geisha.24 8 Heterodox Trends The Tokugawa system of rule was shaped by the first three shoguns,
who ruled from 1600 until 1651. During this half century the shogunate
pursued policies—including national seclusion, alternate attendance, and
the confiscation (on the one hand) and transfer (on the other hand) of
daimyo domains—that increasingly strengthened its control over b...
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This note was uploaded on 02/08/2013 for the course ANTH 142 taught by Professor Hans during the Spring '13 term at UBC.
- Spring '13