Thursday, 21 January 2010

Geisha, seasons, flowers

Sayuki is the first non-Japanese, to become a Geisha. She became a Geisha in 2007 and talked to members of College Women's Association Japan for the 2010 January luncheon.
Here she is, kindly posing for me, as I interrupted her before her talk, she was checking the computer and her DVDs.
Sayuki is nothing you expect, extremely polite and gentle like a real Geisha should be, but also extremely intelligent.
She started becoming a Geisha for her research in anthropology and continued as she liked it.
In this picture she is not made up as a geisha with white make up.
My personal experience with Geisha in 1977:
I had one opportunity of being in a party with Geishas in Kobe, I was the unexpected guest, not too often that a young women (this was over 33 years ago) would join a party of men being entertained by Geisha. I was struck by how the "older" Geisha with a look would orchestrate the move of the others so that they would not be lingering too long with the same guest.
I wasn't too used to have my napkin placed on my lap or that much attention with what I was drinking or eating and the fuss of trying to make me try this or that.
This is when I found out that the idea most have of the role of Geisha is quite misunderstood.
They are real artists, entertainers who help liven the atmosphere of a dinner. Somehow in the same way as belly dancers help liven up a wedding in the middle east.
Seasons and flowers:
According to Sayuki, a Geisha should have at least 13 kimonos. The kimonos worn should be carefully chosen to have the flowers that will bloom in the next month. This is why my Japanese friend felt very uncomfortable taking a Nagoya style obi (belt) with a tulip design to wear in Scotland in the summer.
I assured her that no one would mind as long as she wore a kimono.
The hair ornaments should also reflect the season.
In her DVD Sayuki pointed out the pine design on her kimono and rice in her hair for the winter season. The rice can be used until the 15 of January when rice ornaments are burnt.

A picture of ornaments piled in a rice field waiting to be burned.

Geisha training is for one year and includes dancing and playing instruments as well as being able to perform tea ceremony, interestingly ikebana does not seem to be a requisite in the training.

Another name worth mentioning is Liza Dalby who also studied anthropology and was a novice geisha she wrote a book Geisha published in 1983 and served as consultant to the book Memoirs of a Geisha in 2004. It was also made into a film.


  1. Very interesting. I will pay attention to the kimono patterns. When we have an ikebana demo, if the teacher is a Japanese woman, who wares kimonos.

  2. A very enjoyable piece of writing, Nadia,thanks.