Within the ultramodern culture of Tokyo lies an ancient tradition shrouded in secrecy and full of intrigue—the art of being a geisha.

Geisha translates to "a person of the arts." For nearly 400 years, the life of a geisha was highly coveted for Japanese women. One hundred years ago, there were 80,000 geisha in Japan. Today, there are only 2,000 who uphold the strict traditions of this unchanged, fascinating world.

To become a geisha often meant years of intense training—sometimes from childhood—in the quest for artistic beauty in music, dancing, tea ceremony and conversation.

Geisha also look like works of art, wearing elaborate hairstyles, intricate kimonos and white makeup with dark red lips.

For centuries, geisha were highly paid companions to elite wealthy men. Today, they perform mostly for businessmen and tourists. Whether pouring tea or making conversation, a geisha always acts as the perfect hostess.

While some were paid to meet a man's sexual desires in the past, this is not the case for modern geisha. They may play the part of perfect Japanese women, but they are not prostitutes.

Oprah Show correspondent Lisa Ling traveled to Japan to get a glimpse into this secret society.


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