By Sarah Corbett
The original Geisha of Japan were called Taikomochi or Hokan. They were men.
The word Hokan means a jester, and the word Taikomochi means drum beater.
The Taikomochi were jesters, musicians, singers and story tellers. They entertained their feudal lords in 13th Century Japan.
Taikomochi were connoisseurs of the Arts and masters of the tea ceremonies. Alongside their role as entertainers they were party to strategic military planning, and gave their advice and opinions on important matters of war. They went into battle at the side of their lord.
During the peaceful times of the 17th Century the role of the Taikomochi begins to change. No longer engaged in battle strategies the role becomes one of pure entertainer.
The 16th Century had also seen the emergence of courtesan culture in Japan, from the yujo (prostitutes) class emerged a group of educated women, who were skilled in sado (tea ceremonies), ikebana (flower arranging), calligraphy, music and conversation. The highest rank of courtesan was called Tayu. The Tayu had status, prestige and wealth enough to refuse most clients. When the last of the Tayu retired in 1761 the ranks of geisha in the pleasure quarters also ended. All women courtesans then became Oiran.
Many Taikomochi during this period began to work with these high class courtesans.
In the 17th Century the term Geisha, meaning arts person is first used, and by the 18th Century the Geisha women have flourished and outnumbered the Taikomochi by 3 : 1
A Kyoto Taikomochi by the name of Taikomochi Arai is working to keep the tradition alive, and he still performs as a storyteller and entertainer.