The Secret World of Male Geishas
The original Japanese geishas were male, and today their influence is apparent in the burgeoning popularity of male ‘hosts’ in bars and clubs. Just don’t mention sex.
White powder, cherry lips, a dazzling robe, and flirty eyes—the geisha wins the audience’s attention in the hidden ochaya, a wooden teahouse tucked down a Kyoto back alley. Graceful arm gestures are the prelude to a carefully crafted joke, then, suddenly a low voice bellows from the geisha’s mouth. This isn’t a drag show—it’s a rare appearance by the elusive taikomochi, or male geisha.
“Today there are only a handful of taikomochi left in the country,” says Akemi Toyama, the head concierge of the Ritz-Carlton Kyoto, “but long ago they were much more popular.”
“Actually, the original geisha were only men,” adds Laura Miller, a leading professor of Japanese Studies at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.