Farewell, Mamefuji
a Last Shot by photographer ta_ta999.

Every detail is beautiful and touched with melancholy. Her fuji (wisteria) colored kimono with the auspicious crane - a symbol of longevity - in the details of her obiage… her kago bag is patterned with fuji blossoms and covered in so many omamori (lucky charms). Sakura, the symbol of life’s ephemeral beauty, weep softly over her wistful face. The outside world continues turning behind her.

It was true after all, she is indeed retiring. You can see candid shots of her at the Hôgoku Matsuri closing the Miyako Odori today, May 1st, here. She entered the karyûkai on her birthday, Dec 1, 2013; with her charming beauty, artistic grace, and sensual, dynamic personality she quickly became the crown jewel of Kyôto’s maiko… She will be remembered for a long time.

I don’t want to pry into her life about the reasons for leaving, so let’s keep in the spirit of geiko propriety and pray for her future happiness. She is from Kumamoto, which was hit with a series of destructive earthquakes on April 16, and will be returning home to her family.
m(_  _)m



Her name has been announced! The lovely woman we know as “Furisode-tayuu” will make her formal debut as Aoi (hollyhock)! Tayuu names are often taken from classical sources: her name is a reference to the character Aoi-no-Ue from Genji Monogatari.

On November 26, at 10 am she will make her way to Shimogamo Shrine, where she will pray for support and blessings, and then perform a dedication dance in honor of her debut. She is the first woman in 50 years to follow the traditional tayuu path from the bottom up. Read more about her in my previous post.

What’s in a Book? Part 1

Image of book’s softcover courtesy of Amazon.

And thus begins the newest series about reviewing books on the karyukai. All of the books shown on here are personally owned by myself, so please know that you’ll be getting a review from someone who has read it (likely many times) and not just, “I heard about it from so and so”.

Since this is the first one I thought I’d start with the basic karyukai staple:

Geisha: A Living Tradition
by Kyoko Aihara
(IBSN 1-84442-302-6)
Date of Publication: 1999
Language: English, Polish, French, and many more
Format: Hardcover and Softcover
Availability: Can still be bought new or used from most major book suppliers and is easily found online
Price: Around $10-15
Errors: 1

I call this a staple as it is the book that anyone interested in the karyukai should own at some point, if not, as their first book into this complex system. It provides all basic information with fantastic explanations of all terms coupled with beautiful photography. Some images may seem a bit out-dated (car phones, since cell phones weren’t widespread back then), but the main information never gets old. It goes through the misedashi and erikae processes, shows the full calendar of maiko kanzashi, gives insight into their daily lives, and shows how they work in a world that’s constantly changing around them.

Some of the early reviews posted online were meant to tank an excellent book by people who are quite toxic in the community, so ignore the old reviews and read the newer reviews from people who actually bought it.

When it comes to errors I could only find one, and it’s a printing error, not one by the author. The descriptions of the images on pages 100 and 101 are swapped so, when reading those pages just keep that in mind. There’s also an image in the back that talks about maiko seen outside with tourists that possibly should have been re-worded as the image is one of the author doing a maiko henshin (and being mistaken for a real maiko) ^^

There really is no better foundation book to have in your collection and I highly recommend it to anyone, whether they’re starting out or already immersed and the price is within anyone’s budget

Rating: ✪✪✪✪✪ (out of 5)

Tanabata 2016 decorations at Kifune-jinja (Kyôto)
with Gion Higashi geiko, Tsunemomo つね桃

(photo source: passionchiang)

Tanabata 七夕 is a magical, romantic festival of wishes that is celebrated July 7th or on a floating date in August, depending on the region. The kanji mean “night of the seventh / seventh night” which is why the festival is celebrated on the auspicious 7/7 of the Western (solar) calendar. The August dates are based off the Japanese lunar calendar, and according to this system the months are pushed out of Western alignment and the time period we call August is the 7th month.

For a few days leading up to the festival, people write their wishes on colorful rectangular pieces of paper called tanzaku 短冊. They tie these wishes and 6 other types of lucky paper decorations to bamboo plants. The plants and wishes are ceremoniously burned or set afloat after the festival, as a way of purification and sending the wishes off to the gods. Tanabata is a time where the Japanese can express their hearts’ desires… I wonder what Tsunemomo-san prayed for?

You can learn more about Tanabata in Kyôto here.
(check out their facebook and twitter links at the bottom!)

Tsukasa-tayuu 司太夫 & Furisode-tayuu 振袖太夫

(Photo Credit)

Pictured above is Tsukasa-tayuu (to the right) and her Tayuu apprentice known as “Furisode-tayuu.”

“Furisode-tayuu” is not her name, but her title: the rank just bellow Tayuu, named for the long-sleeved kimono she wears signifying youth and her amateur status (known as “furisode-shinzou” in the Kanto region). This will all be changing on November 26th when she has her formal debut (misedashi) after an almost 12-year apprenticeship, and becomes a full-fledged Tayuu. She will probably be renamed when she moves up in rank, as is customary with the this profession. (Unlike geisha, who are given one name when they become apprentices which they will carry through their professional lives.)

This young woman is a unique case of being born into the profession! From the age of 2 until 12 she had been in the position of child attendant (kamuro) to her mother, Tsukasa-tayuu. At 15 she moved up in rank and began formal training, which involves following Tsukasa-tayuu to ozashiki and other events, learning by watching and participation. She is now 27.

Furisode-tayuu, whose real name is Ayaka, is also a part-time actress (drama as well as voice acting) and singer, according to her blog.


Tsukasa-tayuu was born Nakagawa Yukie in the Yamashina district of Kyoto. At the age of 16 she became a maiko (geimei: Namiko 奈見子) in the most famous geisha district, Gion Kobu, where she studied dance, tea ceremony, ikebana, and the koto — all artistic accomplishments relevant to her later career. At the age of 23, when her contact as a geisha ended, the head of the Wachigaiya teahouse in Shimabara suggested she become a tayuu.

Tsukasa-tayuu has appeared on television, radio, and the stage, as well as giving lectures all over Japan. In 2001 she launched a small newspaper aimed at gathering information about the goings-on of the few Shimabara Tayuu, called Kottai no Kai, (Kottai Association; “kottai” being the word used in Shimabara to refer to courtesans). In October 2009 she opened her own bar/lounge called Kottai no Mise Tsukasa. And in 2014 she helped coach the cast of Maiko wa Lady (舞妓はレディ) in proper Kyoto dialect and mannerisms.

She has certainly been a busy woman from the very beginning of her career! You can follow her on her blog and keep track of both women at once on their website.

(source 1) (source 2) (source 3) (source 4)


A farewell to Mamefuji-san… She will retire next month at the end of the Miyako Odori. Her retirement was very sudden and unexpected news, but I wish her all the best in the world. m(_  _)m 

Here is the Miyako Odori site (English) if you want to know more about the performances. Tickets are on sale now. 

(photo Source)


胡蝶太夫と禿・Kochou-tayuu and her kamuro

The more kamuro (child attendants) a courtesan had, the more wealthy this meant her patrons were. Tayuu were responsible for paying for the food, clothing, and dressing ornaments of their kamuro. Kochou is seen here with 6! Amazing for a courtesan in the late 19th/early 20th century, when the yukaku (pleasure quarters) were in serious decline. At this point kamuro were largely just for show and no longer actual apprentices.

(photo credit to Naomi no Kimono Asobi on flickr)

Page 15

I’m sorry it took so long everyone, I know some people had been waiting for this and I know not much has happened in the story. Life has been really stressful and overwhelming and on top of that my laptop has been giving me issues. I know it’s not an excuse and I need to do better and I’m going to try and I’m really grateful for all of your patience you’ve shown me. I’m keeping my old laptop to draw on because the accuracy of the colors are better than my new one, I’m looking at it on my new laptop after saving it as a draft on my old one and the green almost looks like a lime green while the blue looks navy? I don’t know why but that tells me that this laptop is not good for coloring. I can’t wait until one day when we have room for a little work station for me where I can have a nice combination of using my new laptop to look up references, videos and the like and use my old one for the actual drawing. That’ll be nice. Also as the series goes on and our character joins the hanamachi more hanamachi specific vocabulary is going to be used. Okiya is another word for house, a geisha’s boarding house is called an okiya and yakata (This time I used Okiya but both terms are interchangeable) if I use a new word that hasn’t been used in the series yet I’ll try to include a short description of it’s meaning as these words flow more easily in the context it’s being used in rather than English descriptions of what the word could mean (For example I’m not going to call an obi a belt, okobo clogs, or zori sandals, they’ll be called by their proper terminology and will be given a description so people can understand them as they’re being used. ^^ 

The jikata (musician) geiko, Masaki 満彩希 of the Gion Higashi district in Kyôto. She is affiliated with the Man ochaya, owned by her onêsan, the geiko Masami. Rather than enter the karyûkai as a maiko, Masaki-san debuted as a geiko after graduating college last year. Even though she is new to the geisha world, she’s popular for her beauty and I personally think she’s one of the most stylish geiko. You can read a small article I translated about her debut here.

(photo Source)

anonymous asked:

how do you know Ichiyu and Ayaha are most popular in Pontocho?


There are several ways to tell which Maiko and Geiko are the most successful.

The clearest and easisest way is the list of each Maiko’s and Geiko’s yearly earnings, which is given out every New Year during the annual Shigyoshiki ceremony, and which are sometimes made public.

However, the list of Pontocho wasn’t published last year, so I can’t tell you for sure which rank they have.

Another way is to tell by how often they are photographed, and generally how much public attention they receive. Ichiyū-san and Ayaha-san have a lot of photoshoots scheduled and also have a lot of pictures taken of them by tourists.

At big events like Shigyoshiki and Hassaku, famous Geimaiko are photographed the most often and the front of their okiya can be extremely crowded, because so many people are trying to catch a glimpse of them.

If you search through Tumblr, you will usually find more pictures of famous Geimaiko than of their sisters (which I find sad, but that’s another topic).

Another way to tell is what roles they get in public performances. Ayaha-san and Ichiyū-san were both chosen by their dance masters to perform at this year’s Higashiyama Hanatouro as just first-year Maiko, for example.

You can also often tell how famous a Geimaiko is by how big her roles at odori are, as the best dancers are often also the most famous.

And the best way to tell is by asking people someway involved in the hanamachi. I don’t speak Japanese, but there are a number of Geisha-enthusiasts online who do and share their knowledge with others in forums or, like missmyloko for example, also on their own blogs.

Some of them are clients of Geisha or in another way affiliated with them and speaking Japanese makes you able to access a lot of information about Geisha other people don’t have access to.

There are also photographers who share both pictures and information about Geimaiko, most in Japanese and some also in English.

So there are a number of things which give clues about the success of a Geimaiko, but a Maiko or Geiko not having many pictures taken isn’t necessarily a sign of them being unsuccessful.
Geiko Katsutomo of Gion Kobu is immensely successful and there aren’t that many pictures of her either!

The answer tunred out kind of long, but I’ve always had a problem with giving short, on point answers, sorry.