The Japanese Geisha culture is brought to life by the Mint of Poland on a new silver coin

There are few things that evoke Japan more than the iconic and distinctive Geisha. These finely decorated women have come to encapsulate Japanese Culture around the world and they inhabit a world of strict traditions of aesthetics and behaviour, much like those in the Sumo wrestling world do. There has been surprisingly little in the way of modern collectable coins on this subject, indeed, on Japanese culture at all.

Utilising their hugely popular 2oz high-relief coin style, the Mint of Poland have chosen the Geisha for their latest release, and brought several of their finishing techniques to aid in the depiction. Antique-finished, rimless, and with colour and gilding employed to bring the design to life, this is a fine and rare look at this mysterious world.

Depicting a Geisha performing the Japanese Tea Ceremony, she kneels in a traditional house with recognisable elements of this country in the background, including architecture, Mount Fuji, and cherry blossom trees. It really doesn’t get any more Japanese than this, short of having her cut sushi with a katana… The reverse is full of great touches. The red sun evokes the flag and the white face and red lips are bang on topic. Hard to argue that this doesn’t hit the mark.

The obverse is the usual effigy of Queen Elizabeth II, as you would expect of an issue from Niue, but a border of cherry blossom at least makes some attempt at integrating with the theme of the reverse face. It all comes in a nice wooden box with a certificate of authenticity. Typically of these 2oz coins, the mintage is capped at 500 pieces and it’s available to order now. While this isn’t being pushed as the first coin in a series, we’d certainly be amenable to seeing more Japanese themed coins like this. Bring on the Sumo!

REVERSEOBVERSE

GEISHA

Geisha (芸者) or geigi (芸妓) are traditional female Japanese entertainers. They are skilled at different Japanese arts, like playing classical Japanese music, dancing and poetry. Some people believe that geisha are prostitutes, this however is false. The term “geisha” is made of two Japanese words, 芸 (gei) meaning “art” and 者 (sha) meaning “person who does” or “to be employed in”. The most literal translation of geisha to English is “artist”. Geisha are very respected and it is hard to become one.

Another term for a geisha is geiko (芸子). This word is mainly used in Kyoto, the city where the geisha tradition is older and stronger. Becoming a professional geisha (geiko) in Kyoto usually takes five years of training. Apprentice geisha are called “maiko” (舞子). This name is made of the
Japanese words 舞 (mai) meaning “dancing” and 子 (ko) meaning “child”.
Maiko wear white make-up and kimono of many bright colors. Full geisha
wear simpler kimonos, and only use white make-up at special times.

There are also geisha in other cities, but they are different. In Tokyo, becoming a full geisha takes from six months to a year. The Tokyo geisha apprentice is called “han’gyoku” (半玉) “half-jewel”, or “o-shaku” (御酌), “one who serves (alcohol)”. Tokyo geisha are normally older than Kyoto geiko.

Modern geisha still live in traditional geisha houses called “okiya” (置屋) in neighbourhoods named “hanamachi” (花街 “flower towns”). However, most older geisha who are successful have their own home. The elegant world that geisha are a part of is called “karyūkai” (花柳界 “the flower and willow world”). A famous geisha, Mineko Iwasaki, said this is because “geisha is like a flower, beautiful in her own way, and like a willow tree, gracious, flexible, and strong”.

The geisha are considered cultural icons of Japan. (Wikipedia)

SPECIFICATION
DENOMINATION $2 NZD (Niue)
COMPOSITION 0.999 silver
WEIGHT 62.20 grams
DIMENSIONS 45.0 mm
FINISH Antique
MODIFICATIONS High-relief, colour, gilding
MINTAGE 500
BOX / C.O.A. Yes / Yes
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