The Unknown World of Male Geishas

Geisha | © Kent Wang / Flickr
Lucy Dayman

When it comes to iconic Japanese figures, there is really none more iconic than the geisha. Shrouded in mythical legends and misunderstandings, there’s a lot for outsiders to learn about the geisha, but one of the more interesting facts is the existence of taikomochi – aka the male geisha.

Loved by over 40s

A brief rundown: What is a geisha?

Let’s begin learning about taikomochi by first looking at one of Japan’s most famous and mystical and misunderstood figures: the geisha. Though from an outsider’s perspective, geisha have been seen as ancient hostesses whose role in everyday culture is one of sexual innuendos and unspoken deeds, in reality, this is far from the truth. Yes, geisha are hostesses of sorts (in the non-sexual way), however that’s where the accuracies end.

In traditional and contemporary culture, geisha are hired to be like hostesses, part cultural tutor, part performer and well versed in the world of classical Japanese art and entertainment. An expert of culture, typically men would hire geisha as a way to both enjoy their time away from the stresses of work, but to also be guided through the world of Japanese culture. Educated conversation, dance, ceremonies, and company are the main reasons geisha were and continue to be hired by the wealthy. In almost every case (though it’s difficult to say 100%, because the world is full of exceptions), there is strictly no physical relationship between a geisha and her client.

The role of a geisha is difficult to explain to outsiders simply because in the Western world there really is no equivalent figure, which is possibly from where all the misconceptions stem.

The original geisha, taikomochi

It’s a very little known fact, but Japan’s original geisha were actually men known as taikomochi. It’s hard to believe given the level of femininity ascribed to geisha culture; however, the history of the male geisha dates all the way back to the 13th century.

Female geishas didn’t even exist until 1751. Known at the time as geiko, which translates to “arts child” (a term that’s still used in Kyoto today), female geishas became so popular that it took just 25 years for them to outnumber the amount of working taikomochi. During their peak, there were around an estimated 500-600 working taikomochi. As female company was more desired, and the fact that World War II brought with it great cultural change, the taikomochi rapidly became an endangered species. Today it’s said that there are only five taikomochi working in Japan, four in Tokyo and one in the geisha capital of Kyoto.

The duties of taikomochi

During feudal times, jester-like figures would entertain the people of the court and offer advice to the high-ranking lords. As the wants and needs of Japan’s royal families changed, so did the role of taikomochi; soon, rather than focusing on the arts, taikomochi performances became a lot more comical, which is perhaps why in some strange, connected way Japan has so many comedians today. Turn on the TV here in Japan, and you’ll see variety programs featuring panels overflowing with jokers keeping the live studio audiences in stitches.

How taikomochi and geisha culture permeates modern life

Even though the culture of taikomochi is now something generally relegated to the history books, it’s interesting to compare their role with that of contemporary host clubs. With a little stretch of the imagination, Japan’s host club culture could be seen as a modern-day take on the taikomochi ideology.

A cultural quirk that is rather challenging for outside visitors to comprehend, male host clubs are a place where women pay for the company of fashionable, affable, fun-loving and good-looking men, whose primary role is to entertain. A majority of these types of establishments are located in the nightlife meccas of Japan, like Tokyo’s red light district of Kabuki-cho in Shinjuku.

An interesting fact unearthed by The Daily Beast notes the interesting comparison that today there are in fact a lot more more male hosts working the neon- and booze-soaked corner of Kabuki-cho than there are authentic female geisha working in all of Japan. Though, of course, there are a number of reasons for which male host clubs exist, it’s hard not to see an underlying connection.

culture trip left arrow
 culture trip brand logo

Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip

meet our Local Insider


women sitting on iceberg


2 years.


It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.


I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!

culture trip logo letter c
group posing for picture on iceberg
group posing for picture on iceberg

Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.

map of volcanic iceland trip destination points
culture trip brand logo
culture trip right arrow
landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.