It’s the 18th century that the geisha appeared dissolved in the middle of the Japanese society, as a form of moral opposition or rival to the courtesan (with which it is sometimes confused too often) prevailing at the time. After centuries of warrior domination under the tutelage of the samurai, they are merchants, new bourgeois, who will take the upper hand of the great Japanese capitals and will establish a new moral code full of aesthetic and artistic values. The Japanese have always had a strong sense of hierarchy and even prostitution catered to these specific structures.
Until the mid-18th century, one could consume tiered prostitution either on the streets or in brothels in red-light districts. The queens of this period were the tayu or Great Courtesans, which outperformed other as much by their fine ways by luxury they were shoplifting. But as they were very expensive, we then thought train women (some men too) who would combine several beauty skills to entertain revelers bourgeois. In receptions, it is increasingly appeal to those people who can dance, sing, play different instruments, storytelling, do acrobatics or give small shows. Geishas are born of this desire to combine all the pleasures in one person. The Gei (art) Sha (person) would now embody more aesthetic manifestations of pleasure and entertainment.
Organized like a corporation, geishas have their activities regulated by fixed working hours, uniforms and a strict ethical code. The painted face in white silk kimono strapped to perfection, the mat under his arm, geishas however, are not for sale, they are not prostitutes. Yet many prostitutes have claimed the status of a geisha to lure men. This theft has significantly tarnished the reputation of these great artists. Today, few of them still exercise their admirable profession and their number decreases every year. And soon, the magnificence of geishas do more than survive to entertain tourists…
(Refrence from http://www.le-japon.com/)