Also known as the Japanese version of the jester, these men were once attendants to feudal lords from the 13th century. These men both advised and entertained their lord and came to be known as comrades who were also tea ceremony connoisseurs and artists. By the 16th century, they became known as story tellers, where they focused on story telling, humour and conversation. They were sounding boards for military strategies and they battled at the side of their lord.


A time of peace began in the 17th century and they no longer were required by their lords, and so they had to take on a new role. They changed from being advisors to becoming pure entertainers, and a number of them found employment with high-class Japanese courtesans. 


"Geisha" means "arts person", while hōkan was the formal name for "jester".

In 1751, the first onna geisha (female geisha) arrived at a party and caused quite a stir. She was called geiko ("arts girl"), which is still the term for geisha in Kyoto today. By the end of the 18th century, these onna geisha outnumbered the male geisha – the taikomochi – and the men became so few that they started by otoko geisha ("male geisha"). The geisha even took over from the yujo due to their artistic skills, their contemporary outlook and their sophistication. The men continued to assist the women – this time the geisha – in the entertainment field.



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