What actually happened during the mizuage is perhaps, one of the gentlest sexual awakenings possible (at least under the circumstances). The term seems to have come from, of all things, the Christian Bible
, as transmitted by Jesuit
missionaries in the 17th century
, in which virgins
are spoken of as an untapped spring: mizuage means "(first) drawing of the waters", a festive occasion, in which a woman became symbolically married to her profession.
According to Ichigiku, the American geisha, who lived for some time in Kyoto collecting geisha lore, it happened thus: the house would pick the man whom they considered an ideal client to represent the groom -- an attractive older man, gentle, fatherly, and with impeccable manners, perhaps a man that the girl had a bit of a crush on already. (Read to Memoirs fans:Chairman.) He would be informed of this honor, and was expected to return the favor by paying a special, negotiable, fee, which was almost always quite high. If the fee was not paid, or, after a short interview, the girl disliked the man for any reason whatsoever (Read: Crab), the honor would be given to someone else...and although the exact amount of the fee was supposed to fall under the sworn secrecy of the geisha house, it might be "accidentally" leaked, especially if it was considered unusually generous, as an indication of the patron's wealth, the prestige of the house, and the desirability of the girl. In this, as with the choice of a patron, no one, not even the House Mother, could influence the girl's choice -- in this total experience of ultimate glamor and romance, the geisha ideal of independence and freedom reigned supreme.
Mizuage generally took about seven to ten days. During the day, the girl would be dressed in the best kimono, excused from all but shopping and other light duties (the better to show off a bit), showered with gifts, and treated like Luck's own tot, while everyone around her talked about nothing but love, romance, and the happiness of the occasion. Sometimes the man would visit her, bearing gifts, courting her, and taking her for walks and informal chats, about sexual matters predominately, but not exclusively, but generally they would not see each other until the night, when they would both retire to a special room next to the main dormitory. On the other side of the screen, the housemother and her charges would make occasional coughs and rustlings -- this was to reassure the girl that she could cry for help, if need be. She, in turn, would make up the bed, and set on the windowsill three hen's eggs, before undressing for bed.
He would come in, break and separate the eggs into two cups. Drinking the yolks (raw), he would lay the cup with the whites beside the bed and proceed to rub the whites onto her vulva, getting in as much tickling and digital penetration as she was ready for. Then he would say, "This is what mizuage feels like, my dear. Good-night." and go to sleep. In the morning, he'd leave for work, and start the day anew.
On the last night, as deemed by all concerned, it would be different. The by-now utterly besotted girl would be left completely alone with her lover, who would go about everything in the by-now familiar ritual and then add "And tonight, we're going to do it!"
Dalby's source added "With all the rubbing, it was never painful at all. And with all those eggs, he'd have the strength of a tiger!"
Must have been a letdown, though, getting it broken to you that you were now unfit for marriage to earthly men, and that your sweetheart was now "just another client"...but the deal with the auction and the coercion seems to have been just Golden's sick fantasy, at least in Pontocho. In Gion, perhaps they do it differently.