Mizuage is the auctioning of a Geisha's virginity. This is especially important when a Geisha has a high-standing, for the funds gained by this procedure will allow her to pay back her den-mother for services and materials rendered. Regardless of how this seems to us, this was not looked at as prostitution in ancient Japan; a respectable Geisha would never agree to have sex for money if only to maintain her high standing.
     During the bidding , all of the contestants showered the Geisha with gifts as a sign of goodwill; the highest bidder also became sort of a godfather to the Geisha. While the relationship after the Mizuage was always disbanded, the client had earned himself a predominant position in the ranks of a den's customers.
While occasionally girls were born to geisha and became geisha themselves, mostly this was avoided. Pregnancy tended to detract from the popularity of a Geisha, and abortions were common.

Instead, girls were purchased from poor families. . . this provided the family with finances, and the girl with a life that her family was no longer required to support. The price of this purchase was placed against the girl, with the understanding that when/if she became a successful geisha, the house she lived in would absorb her earnings until such time as the debt was repayed.

This is where mizuage became important. Men would bid on the mizuage, and the highest bid won. . . this often meant a substantial amount of money. . . all of which was meant to go towards paying off a young geisha's debt.

If the girl became popular enough, the Mother (who was in charge of everything in the house, or okiya) might adopt the girl in a ceremony that made the girl a true daughter. In this case, everything the girl owned or earned went directly into the house funds, and when the mother died, the girl was installed as the new "mother".

Before a geisha's mizuage, there was a ceremony in which the geisha and her Mizuage Patron (the man who won) would drink sake to bind them together. The reason for this ceremony was that even though the mizuage itself would be over quickly, the man would remain the Mizuage Patron for the rest of his life.

After mizuage had occured, the geisha changed her hairstyle so that instead of a patterned silk band she wore a red silk band at the base of her pincusion bun. . . this way everyone would know that her mizuage had been fulfilled.

It isn't explicitly said in the other writeups, but I think it should be, to avoid misconceptions to be formed: nowadays, this would be illegal and isn't any more part of the Geisha traditions.

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.

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