Member of a professional class of women in Japan whose traditional occupation is to entertain men. A geisha must be adept at singing, dancing, and playing traditional musical instruments (e.g., the samisen) in addition to being skilled at making conversation. The geisha system is thought to have emerged in the 17th century to provide a class of well-trained entertainers set apart from courtesans and prostitutes: though geisha sometimes had sexual relationships with their clients, they were supposed to entertain primarily through their accomplishments. The numbers of geisha have declined from some 80,000 in the 1920s to a few thousand at present, almost all in the Tokyo and Kyoto areas, where they are patronized by only the wealthiest businessmen and most influential politicians. Ordinary businessmen seek out bar hostesses, who, though not trained in traditional singing or dance, like geisha excel at supportive conversation.