Well, I will not be buying the CD anytime soon, but I sat attentively watching their purposeful powdered-faces. They moved methodically to the twanging of the Japanese three-stringed instrument. It was a bit hypnotic. With the movie coming out based on the popular book “Memoirs of a Geisha,” I was that much more interested to see them. They were the real deal. Well, almost.
Toshinami and Fukunami are both study in the Gion District in Kyoto, the home of the Geisha. However, they are still practicing (not as if I would know it), holding the title of Maiko. Maiko are Geiko (Geisha) in training. They are usually 15 to 20 years of age and must be trained in singing, dancing,
Toshinami is new to the practice of maiko and is 17 and has been studying for a year and a half. She wore a green kimono representing the color of Shizuoka. Fukunami is 19 and has been studying for three and one-half years. She wore the blue kimono and one day hopes to return to her home in Kobe.
DG: What inspired you to work toward being a geiko?
Fukunami: It is a traditional form of work in Japan. I find the work very worthy and precious to be apart of it.
Toshinami: Yes, I like this work very much. It is very old and important to the Japanese culture. I remember seeing geiko when I was young and thinking they are very special.
What do you enjoy about your work?
Fukanami: Right now, I am in training and spend much time learning about the traditional ways. I learn to sing, dance and other honored traditions typical of the geiko. I look forward to the future as a geiko. As a maiko, I also meet many interesting people. I can listen. This is very important. I also speak to people.
Toshinami: I have always wanted to be independent. Being a geiko is a good career and offers many possibilities that I may not be able to get elsewhere.
Fukanami: I also want to have independence. I want to be a geiko. I want for my parents to be proud.
Sadly, the future geiko were running late for their flight back to Kyoto and were pulled away before an million buzzing questions could be answered. However, there is a sense of it being fitting, the geishas still maintaining their air of mystery.
Written by Devin Galaudet
Photograph by Naoko Marutani
For more on Japan at ITKT