A Random PSA On The Gei of Geisha - Part 1

The questions surrounding what arts that maiko and geiko practice comes up regularly, and instead of just posting them onto one of the tabs I’d rather lay it out in a post here first.  

The “Gei” (芸) in Geisha(芸者)/Geiko(芸妓)/Geigi(芸妓) means “Art” and there are many branches and types of art that one can master. For this part we’ll be looking at the direct performing arts that everyone knows the geisha are renowned for: music and dance.

Dance - Mai (舞)
All traditional Japanese dance styles have their roots in Shinto ceremonies that date back at least two millennia. There are two main styles to traditional dance practiced today:

-Noh (能): Originally arrived in Japan from China in the 8th century and developed into the style we know today in the 13th century by Kan’ami (assisted by his son Zeami). Derived from the classical court style dances, it features small, precise movements to tell a story. It can be seen as “boring” or “obscure” if you’re not sure what to look for as you need to understand the movements to appreciate them to the fullest. This isn’t to say that it isn’t beautiful to behold without prior knowledge as it is quite enchanting! Gion Kobu’s Inoue school is part of the Noh tradition. 

-Kabuki (歌舞伎): Derived directly from Shinto ceremonies, it was created in 1603 by Izumo No Okuni, a shrine priestess who created her own style of dance and performed it on the dry riverbed of the Kamo River. She became so famous that she was invited to perform in front of the emperor! After seeing how popular the style of dance had become rival dance groups sprung up around her and established the kabuki that we know today. The style is known for its dramatic and often “wild” movements that are meant to be appreciated by the common people. Pontocho’s Onoe, Miyagawa Cho’s Wakayagi, Kamishichiken’s Hanayagi, and Gion Higashi’s Fujima schools are part of the Kabuki tradition.

Music - Raku (楽)
What would dance be without music? Music, like dance, can be broken down into two types: voice/song and instruments.

Singing - Uta (歌): Maiko and geiko learn traditional ballads that are performed alongside dance. There are two types: Kouta (小唄) which means “short songs/ballads” and Nagauta (長唄) which means “long songs/ballad.” They are learned by listening to an instructor and then repeating and/or transcribing the words and melody together. There’s no “set” way of reading or learning a song like there is for Western music, so it takes a large amount of practice to perform any uta properly (although there are a few methods that do exist).

Instruments - Gakki (楽器)
There are many instruments practiced in the karyukai, but I’ll only go over the most common ones that are seen and heard on a regular basis.

-Shamisen (三味線): A three stringed instrument that is played with a plectrum. It is the most common instrument in the karyukai as it developed as an instrument that the common people used. Most uta were created to be played with a shamisen. It resembles a simplified guitar and is played in a similar fashion.

-Tsuzumi (鼓): The all encompassing word for drums, but specifically dual sided drums that are roped together. There are three main types learned by maiko and geiko:

-Kotsuzumi (小鼓): Literally “Small Drum,” or sometimes known as the “regular” tsuzumi, it is held onto one’s shoulder and played by striking the drum with the free hand. 

-Ōtsuzumi (大鼓): Literally “Large Drum,” it is a larger size of the tsuzumi and features one end that is larger than the other. It produces a much deeper sound when struck.

-Taiko (太鼓): Literally “Great Drum,” they’re not the gigantic ones that are often seen at summer festivals, but rather closer in size to an otsuzumi. The taiko sits on a stand while the musician strikes it with rods known as bachi (桴). It is the closest equivalent to Western style drums.

-Fue (笛): The all encompassing word for flute, which in traditional Japanese style is usually made from bamboo. There are two types of fue that include:

-Shakuhachi (尺八): The high pitched iconic flute that is actually rare in the karyukai, it features 5 holes (4 on top and 1 underneath). Its sound is often described as “haunting” as it gently pierces through silence to deliver melodies full of both happiness and sadness.

-Shinobue (篠笛)/Yokobue (横笛): Flutes that are much closer to Western ones, but are still made from wood. It features 7 holes that allows it to play more notes than the shakuhachi. This type is often played with the end resting on the musician’s shoulder.

-Koto (事): A 13 stringed instrument that’s considered a type of lute although it plays closer to that of a harp. Due to its size it lays flat on the floor and the musician plucks the strings individually to produce sound. Those who are new to the koto often wear metal guards on their fingers to keep the strings from slicing into their skin until their hands have developed enough to withstand the pressure. 

-Kokyū (胡弓): Taught exclusively in Miyagawa Cho as it was once considered an instrument of the oiran, a kokyū is a smaller version of the shamisen that’s played upright with a bow instead of a plectrum. 


Kimono. Taisho period (1912-1927), Japan.  The Kimono Gallery. An antique silk kimono with an unusual pattern design and techniques, featuring a complex shibori of fan and ‘tsuzumi’ (hand drum) motifs. See detail images to view a close-up of the techniques used. The inner hakkake lining is of wool. The tsuzumi is a traditional shoulder drum used by the Japanese in music performances and theatre. 'Sensu’ is the Japanese name referring to the folding fan. Both are used together in certain Kabuki and Noh play stage performances, and in earlier times, during the Heian classical period of a thousand years ago, by shirabyōshi court performances and Muromachi period Kusemai dances. Thus these two motifs on this kimono allude to the stage and theatre, and giving the wearer an aura of class, sophistication and worldliness. The artist and craftspeople involved in the creation of this kimono were elite: the subtlety of the meticulous lavender tie-dye contrasting against the bold yellow and red drum motifs is dramatic and effective. The drum motifs seem to have been created with a complex mix of techniques - localized double kasuri (ikat), shibori (tie dye, and supplementary three-dimensional wefts). The work would have likely involves several months of exacting labour under the direction of a master kimono artist of the day. The confidence, experimentation and wealth of the Taisho period are all reflected in this stunning kimono.

November 2016: Maiko Marika (Tsurui Okiya) of Gion Kobu playing the tsuzumi drum.

Marika is the model for this year’s Miyako Odori poster, in which she strikes a similar pose.

Only the most popular and talented Maiko of Gion Kobu are chosen to be the model for the poster, so this really shows how famous she is!

Source: Kinmokusei on Instagram


Some Japanese musical instruments, because Mun-chan has Ensemble today

Biwa: a short-necked fretted lute that is mostly used in narrative storytelling (First three pictures). Depending on the type of biwa will determine the number of strings.

Tsuzumi: a hand drum, usually played with bigger counterpart, the Ōtsuzumi. The heads of the drum were originally made of fox skin. (Picture 4 & 5)

Shamisen: a three stringed musical instrument (Last two pictures)

anonymous asked:

Hi! May I ask what the difference is between the Geiko and Meiko is?

I’m going to go a bit more in-depth on the process of becoming a Maiko and Geiko, I feel like this makes more sense when I explain it as a “full package”.

Generally speaking, a Maiko is an apprentice Geisha or Geiko, a Geiko-in-training, while a Geiko is considered a fully-fledged artist.

Maiko are ages 15 to 21, while Geiko are at least 20. The “Maiko stage” is approximately 5 years long, in some cases a little bit shorter or longer. Most Maiko debut when they are 15 or 16 and become Geiko when they 20 or 21.

Maiko usually begin their training as a Shikomi at an okiya, a Geisha-house, at age 15 or 16. During their time as a Shikomi, they start taking lessons traditional Japanese dance, singing, instruments, the tea ceremony etc., help with chores around the house and run errands. Then, the have to pass a test to deem if they are ready to become a Maiko

The “Shikomi-stage” is usually 6 months to 1 year long, with 6 months being what is by most considered the minimum.

After passing the test, the girl will become a Minarai, a watching apprentice. She starts wearing the Maiko-outfit and going to parties with her older Maiko and Geiko-sisters, but keeps mostly in the background and observes the way ozashiki work.

After about four to six weeks, the girl will have her misedashi, her official debut as a Maiko.

During their time as a Maiko, the girls continues to daily lessons in traditional Japanese arts and begins to entertain at ozashiki, traditional “Geisha parties” just like Geiko do. They get paid less though because they aren’t seen as full artists yet, and are still dependent on their okiya.

After about 5 years as a Maiko, the woman has her Erikae, the ceremony during which a Maiko becomes a Geiko. A Geiko has to become independent from their okiya after a certain amount of time, which is different in every hanamachi.

Once she is independent, she lives in her own appartment, and has her own collection of kimono, obi and hair ornaments. Most Geiko have their engagements managed by their old okiya, which they pay them for.

Most Geiko also specialize in either music and dance: Dancers are called tachikata Geiko and musicians are called jikata Geiko. Geiko still continue taking lessons, but their lessons will mostly focus on the field they specialize in, while Maiko receive a broad education in both music and dance.

And now for the visible differences: Maiko wear kimono with long furisode-sleeves and a long, dangling darari obi, while Geiko wear short tomesode-sleeves and a short, box-like obi in the tsuzumi obi style.

Maiko have their own hair styled in traditional Japanese hairstyles, while Geiko wear a wig in the geiko shimada hairstyle. The geiko shimada hairstyle frames the face, while the Maiko-hairstyles have two “wings” at each side of the head. Junior Maiko wear the wareshinobbu hairstyle, while senior Maiko wear the ofuku hairstyle on a daily basis. For special occassions like Shigyoshiki, Setsubun, the Gion Matsuri or Hassaku, Maiko also often wear special hairstyles like the yakko shimada hairstyle.

Maiko also wear an obidome, a brooch that is attached to the obijime, a cord that keeps the obi in place, that is made of expensive materials like silver, platinum, jade and precious gemstones.

Maiko often wear okobo, high, wooden platform shoes that have bells inside them that make a very significant sound when a Maiko walks. These shoes are usually worn for short walks and special and/or important occassions, for longer walks, a Maiko will wear zori, much more comfortable sandals traditionally amde of rice-straw (today they are usually made of other materials, though) that can also be worn by geiko though.

For formal occassions or short walks, Geiko will wear the traditional, low wooden sandals called geta.

This is Maiko Mamesumi (Ninben Okiya) of Gion kobu. You can clearly see her long kimono-sleeves, broad obi and obidome (in this case it’s made to look like a rose). Her yellow darari obi dangles down below her knees. (Source)

This is Maiko Koeri (Hiroshimaya Okiya) of Gion Kobu. Here you can see her darari obi and the way it overlaps at the bottom better. She is also wearing okobo. (Source)

This is Geiko Fumino (Fukushima Okiya) of Gion Kobu. You can clearly see her shorter sleeves and smaller, simpler obi and the fact that she isn’t wearing an obidome. She is also wearing zori, not okobo. (Source)

These are Geiko Momifuku and Momiyuki (Yamaguchi Okiya) of Pontocho. Here you can see part of Momifuku’s box-like obi and the special kind of geta Geiko wear. (Source)

For more information on the visible difference between Maiko and Geiko, check out missmyloko’s Anatomy of Maiko and Geiko tab!

A Random PSA on The Japanese Language

Subtitle: And How Most People Are Pronouncing Everything Wrong

This is something that I’ve noticed for a long time, and sometimes I do tend to brush it off. However, when it gets to the point that people (I’m specifically referring to English speaking individuals) are mispronouncing things so badly that I cringe, it’s time for a little lesson.

The biggest difference between Japanese and English is:

There are no silent letters in Japanese

Everything you see gets pronounced (I know where you’re trying to raise an objection here, but let me finish this thought first) and, unless specified, no vowels are stressed. When you grow up speaking and writing English you have to remember a myriad of rules which, for the most part, make absolutely no sense and you wonder if someone put them in there just to mess with people and then that word got made into standardized English and now you’re saying “bae” everywhere (side note: I really don’t like the word “bae”).

So, if I have a word like (髷/まげ) spelled “mage” in Romaji (what our alphabet is called in Japanese) it isn’t pronounced “mayj” like the spell caster, it’s “mahgay” or “ma-gé” (oddly enough, most English speakers understand French accents).

When it comes to “skipping” sounds, the sounds themselves aren’t actually skipped, but they’re said so quickly or so fluidly that you barely hear them. For example, one of my friends was writing out Japanese words for a presenter to say and she put (着付け/きつけ) “kitsuke” as “Kit-soo-kay”. My response was “No, it is not ‘Kit-soo-kay’, it’s ‘Kit-skay’.” She unknowingly tried to stress a vowel that did not have indication that it needed to be stressed. If you think that you can’t pronounce all three kana in “kitsuke” try saying it the way that I wrote it and I dare you to try really hard not to get any of the “tsu” in there. You’ll find it pretty much impossible.

Japanese prides itself on being a very fluid language and will even add accents to kana to make words flow better. For example, let’s look at the word 菊/きく (kiku). On it’s own or at the start of the word it’s fine, but if we put it at the end of other kana the sound becomes too hard and we need to add an accent and change the sound we’re associating with it. Japanese letters change to the following when an accent is added:

K -> G

S -> Z

T -> D

H -> B or P

So, when adding “菊/きく” (kiku) to “乱/らん” (ran) we get “乱菊/らんぎく” (rangiku) as “rankiku” is too rough and doesn’t flow (again, try the difference for yourself).

Yes, this is where I need to bring out the “exceptions to the rules”. In Japanese there’s a vowel pairing for each consonant (K,S,T,H,M,N,R,Y) and the entire hiragana kana set looks like this:

A/あ     I/い     U/う     E/え    O/お    

Ka/か   Ki/き   Ku/く  Ke/け  Ko/こ  
Ga/が   Gi/ぎ   Gu/ぐ  Ge/げ  Go/ご

Sa/さ   Shi/し Su/す  Se/せ   So/そ  
Za/ざ   Ji/じ     Zu/ず  Ze/ぜ   Zo/ぞ  

Ta/た    Chi/ち Tsu/つTe/て   To/と   
Da/だ   Ji/ぢ    Zu/づ   De/で Do/ど  

Na/な   Ni/に   Nu/ぬ   Ne/ね  No/の  

Ha/は   Hi/ひ   Fu/ふ   He/へ  Ho/ほ  
Ba/ば   Bi/び   Bu/ぶ  Be/べ   Bo/ぼ
Pa/ぱ   Pi/ぴ   Pu/ぷ   Pe/ぺ   Po/ぽ

Ma/ま   Mi/み  Mu/む   Me/め Mo/も  

Ra/ら   Ri/り   Ru/る   Re/れ  Ro/ろ   

Wa/わ      -           -           -      Wo/O/を      

Ya/や        -       Yu/ゆ       -     Yo/よ    


So, there’s a few things to notice in the “one of these things is not like the other ones” category of thinking. Mainly, Chi/ち, Ji/じ/ぢ, Tsu/つ, Zu/づ, and Fu/ふ. The obvious thoughts would be, “Why isn’t Chi “Ti”, Shi “Si”, and Tsu “Tu”?” and “How the hell did you get “Zu” out of “Tsu”?”

For fun reasons. In the late 19th century James Hepburn made the chart that you see above, to which we now call The Hepburn System. He wrote out the literal sounds to each kana and noticed the small changes that didn’t follow the predicted English outcome. Mainly, that “Ti” had a “Ch” sound and made it “Chi”, “Si” had a “Sh” sound and made it “Shi”, and “Tu” had an “S” sound and made it “Tsu”. When it got to “Hu” he noticed how the sound became an “F” without an accent and a “B” when one was added, so “Hu” became “Fu”. For “Zu” (づ) it’s sometimes written out as “Dzu” even today to give confused English speakers a bit more background as to what the base kana is when speaking, but for the most part it’s written as “Zu”. In the Hepburn System the basic reading rules are called Gojūon.

You may have noticed that “Ye” and “Yi” and most “W” sounds are missing. Technically, they did exist for the most part a long time ago, but modern Japanese has made them obsolete because you can make the same sounds with existing kana and there’s no need for repetition. “Ye” was “ゑ” which we now pronounce as “E” and “Yi” was “ゐ”, which we now pronounce as “I”. For the “W” sounds Ye/We and Yi/WI were the same sound and letter and “Wu” never really existed. “Wo/O” is a bit odd since we do spell it as “O” today but it used to be “Wo” and “O” before standardization (it’s normal to be confused by this point). “を” isn’t replaced by “お” today because “を” is a particle that’s still in active use. As for “ん” it used to be interchangeable between “M” or “N”, but standardization has mostly dropped “M”. Some old habits die hard so you’ll often see this quirk pop up in words like “Kampai” or “Sempai”, even though that pronunciation is considered dated.

Also, there’s the odd part where “H” can turn into both “B” and “P”. By using a slightly different looking accent () instead of (), we add in an entirely new consonant.

After all of this you’re probably like, “But there’s all kinds of “J” sounds in Japanese!” and you’re correct. To make these sounds we need to combine two kana that we now call Yōon instead of Gojūon, with the added kana being slightly smaller beside the first kana. This size differences tells the viewer that these two sounds should be combined. With the exception of the “Wa” and the “Y” kana everything can be combined. So, why can’t “Y” be combined with other kata? Well, it is, but it can never be the main kata as “Y” kata are always the modifiers. To make the sound “Ja” we write it as “じゃ” which is the combination of “Ji” and “Ya”. The middle vowel gets dropped in pronunciation and the modifying kata gets the majority of the sound. Technically it should be written as “Jya” but since the “Y” isn’t even pronounced it gets dropped with the standardized Hepburn system. When you add the modifiers your Yōon set now looks like this:

Ya/や            Yu/ゆ          Yo/よ   

Kya/きゃ      Kyu/きゅ   Kyo/きょ
Gya/ぎゃ      Gyu/ぎゅ   Gyo/ぎょ

Sha/しゃ     Shu/しゅ    Sho/しょ
Ja/じゃ       Ju/じゅ       Jo/じょ

Cha/ちゃ     Chu/ちゅ   Cho/ちょ

Hya/ひゃ      Hyu/ひゅ    Hyo/ひょ
Bya/びゃ      Byu/びゅ    Byo/びょ
Pya/ぴゃ      Pyu/ぴゅ    Pyo/ぴょ

Mya/みゃ     Myu/みゅ    Myo/みょ

Nya/にゃ      Nyu/にゅ    Nyo/にょ

Rya/りゃ      Ryu/りゅ    Ryo/りょ

It should be pretty easy to notice that only Ki/き, Gi/ぎ, Shi/し, Ji/じ, Chi/ち, Hi/ひ, Bi/び, Pi/ぴ, Mi/み, Ni/に, and Ri/り are used, or, only kana with “I” in them. This is because the rule of double sounds is only applied properly to the “I” sound. Like, if I tried to make “Kya” with anything but “Ki” and “Ya” I’d get “Kaya” or “Keya” or “Koya” or “Kuya”, which is not fluid as each kana contains hard sounds and the desired sound can be made without a modifier. Since I/Y have the same sound in English the “I” is simply dropped due to the double vowel rule. Since “Wa” is the only “W” kana and contains no “I” it cannot be modified. At this point you may be wondering why there’s no “T” sounds represented or why “ぢ” isn’t like “じ” on the Jōon list. For starters, “Chi” is the “I” kana in the “T” line, so there’s no “T”s in the first part. “Ja/Ju/Jo” aren’t spelled with “ち” because “し” already gives us the sounds we need so there’s no need to repeat.

Again, you interject, “But, I see words spelled with a “つ” in the middle and it’s not pronounced! What’s up with that?” Well, Japanese uses that to indicate a slight pause. Like with the Jōon combinations the “つ” is made smaller and when writing the word out in English you’d double the letter that follows directly behind it. Let’s use the word “Hakkake” (はっかけ) as an example. Your formula for this would be Ha+(pause+double next letter)Ka+Ke. Since “K” is the letter directly beside the pause it is doubled in an attempt to show when and how a pause should be used. Saying it like “Hakake” is fluid, but doesn’t show that there needs to be something extra. Saying it as “Hakkake” makes you pause in an attempt to pronounce two “K”s. That attempt at pronouncing two “Ks” is enough to equal the pause in Japanese. The one very small exception to this rule is when there’s a pause right before “Chi”. In this case you wouldn’t double the “C”, but rather write in a “T” (as “Chi” is in the “T” kana line).

Then there’s the repeating kana rule. When there’s two identical kana beside each other the second will get the accent in an attempt to continue the flow of the world. This is also where people like to call “づ” as “dzu” since it’s common to get combinations like “”tsuzumi” (つづみ) and it’s totally okay to write it as “tsudzumi” to allow for people to understand a double kana, but keeping it simple usually means writing it as “Tsuzumi”. When kata doubles you get the following:

K + K = K + G
S + S = S + Z
T + T = T+ D
H + H = H + B or H + P
F + F = F + B or F + P

But now you cry, “I see other kana used all of the time, especially with foreign words!” and, once again, you’re correct. Japanese uses three different sets of writing to make up their entire “alphabet” known as Kana (仮名), the word I’ve been using throughout this lesson. The first is Kanji (漢字), which are logographic symbols that were “borrowed” (re: totally copied) from the Chinese in the 7th century. The second is Hiragana (ひらがな), which is considered to be the “true” script of the Japanese language as it was developed within Japan and has been in use for over 1,000 years. The third is Katakana (カタカナ), a more angular and rigid form of hiragana that’s used for “borrowed” words; that is, words that are not native to Japan or the Japanese language before Japan opened the country up for trading again in the 19th century. Katakana not only takes the sounds that hiragana has, but also adds sounds that Hiragana couldn’t/were not native Japanese sounds, such as “Ti” or “Je” (yes, they really do exist). So, here’s the Gojūon for katakana:

A/ア     I/イ     U/ウ     E/エ    O/オ    

Ka/カ   Ki/キ   Ku/ク  Ke/ケ  Ko/コ  
Ga/ガ   Gi/ギ   Gu/グ  Ge/ゲ Go/ゴ

Sa/サ   Shi/シ Su/ス  Se/セ   So/ソ  
Za/ザ   Ji/ジ     Zu/ズ  Ze/ゼ   Zo/ゾ  

Ta/タ    Chi/チ Tsu/ツ Te/テ  To/ト   
Da/ダ   Ji/ヂ    Zu/ヅ   De/デ  Do/ド  

Na/ナ   Ni/ニ   Nu/ヌ   Ne/ネ  No/ノ  

Ha/ハ   Hi/ヒ   Fu/フ   He/ヘ  Ho/ホ  
Ba/バ   Bi/ビ   Bu/ブ   Be/ベ  Bo/ボ
Pa/パ   Pi/ピ   Pu/プ   Pe/ペ   Po/ポ   

Ma/マ   Mi/ミ  Mu/ム   Me/メ Mo/モ  

Ra/ラ   Ri/リ   Ru/ル   Re/レ Ro/ロ   

Wa/ワ      -           -           -    Wo/O/ヲ      

Ya/ヤ        -       Yu/ユ       -    Yo/ヨ    


You may notice that he/be don’t change at all from hiragana to katakana and most tend to look like their hiragana counterparts. The Wo/O (ヲ) is barely ever used at all. Here’s what Jōon looks like:

Ya/ヤ            Yu/ユ          Yo/ヨ   

Kya/キャ      Kyu/キュ   Kyo/キョ
Gya/ギャ      Gyu/ギュ   Gyo/ギョ

Sha/シャ     Shu/シュ    Sho/ショ
Ja/ジャ       Ju/ジュ       Jo/ジョ

Cha/チャ     Chu/チュ   Cho/チョ

Hya/ヒャ      Hyu/ヒュ    Hyo/ヒョ
Bya/ビャ      Byu/ビュ    Byo/ビョ
Pya/ピャ      Pyu/ピュ    Pyo/ピョ

Mya/ミャ     Myu/ミュ    Myo/ミョ

Nya/ニャ      Nyu/ニュ    Nyo/ニョ

Rya/リャ      Ryu/リュ    Ryo/リョ

For the extended sounds that I mentioned, like “Ti” and “Je” this is where katakana comes in. However, there’s different systems that try to decide which kana should be used for foreign words, and, they’re all valid, but I’ll only show the ones that are accepted by pretty much every system. They are:

Ti/ティ     Di/ディ     Dyu/デュ  
Che/チェ She/シェ  Je/ジェ
Fa/ファ    Fi/フィ    Fe/フェ   Fo/フォ

Now we can make cool words like “New York” (ニューヨーク) or “Fancy” (ファンシー). The “ー” in katakana means an elongated vowel for the Japanese speaker/reader.

So, now that we got all of that language stuff out of the way, time to forget all of it if you’re the Japanese government. Yes, you read that right. The Japanese government doesn’t recognize the Hepburn System as the “official” way to Romanize/Latinize the Japanese language. Just give that a second to sink in. The first, most used, and most sound “accurate” system is not the one that the Japanese government wants people to use. There’s actually two competing systems that Japan teaches: The Nihon-Shiki and Kunrei-Shiki systems. There’s not much of a difference between them, but they basically answer the question of “Why is it “Tsu” and not “Tu”?”. Well, in those systems it is Tu. Now, you may look at this and be like, “So, what’s the problem?” Well, under the Hepburn System no sound is silent and it reads exactly as it’s written. Under the Nihon or Kunrei Systems it tries to make it look like the predicted result (like “Tsu” being “Tu”), but the sound that’s made is completely different and you would need the background knowledge of how a kana should actually be pronounced (this brings to mind a Monty Python sketch, bonus points if you get the reference to the actual skit).

How do you know which to use then? Well, the Hepburn System is used to teach Japanese to English speakers/readers and the Nihon or Kunrei Systems are for native Japanese speakers to Latinize their writing systems. However, you may notice that almost everything is written using the Hepburn System, even in Japan. This is because it was heavily promoted by the United States government after World War II and it’s kinda stuck. Since I am a native English speaker who speaks to other (mostly) native speakers I use the Hepburn System as that’s what was taught to me in university as well.

Now, you’d think I’d end it here, but, if you thought I had covered everything then you weren’t paying enough attention. “Būt what abōūt thōse stress marks ōver vōwels that yōū keep ūsing!?” some of you who lasted this long may ask. That’s an excellent question! To keep things “neat” all systems of Romanization/Latinization will often leave out vowels or place markers on vowels that should be stressed if the hiragana or katakana is not given. Like, “Okasan” is actually spelled as “お母さん/おかあさん” (okaasan) in Japanese, but Hepburn usually drops the second “A” as it would lead English speakers to mispronounce the vowel and the word correctly. Another great example is “Kyoto” which is actually “京都/きょうと” (kyouto) and has a “U” in there that most English speakers aren’t even aware of. “Kyoto” is the very much Anglicized way of pronouncing the former imperial capital, but in Japanese you would actually hear the extended vowels and you do end up hearing or saying “Kyou-to” over there. To remedy the situation the “U” is represented with a stress mark over the “O” indicating that this is a long vowel and that the word “Kyōto” has a vowel that needs to be elongated upon speech.

So, tl;dr: Romanized/Latinized Japanese letters sound exactly like they look and should be pronounced that way. There are no hidden sounds in the Japanese language. A stress mark over a vowel means that two vowels should actually be written there (the second of which is usually a “U”), but one is taken out because it makes the word too long or it becomes unfamiliar to English speakers who have seen it written as “Kyoto” all their lives when it should be “Kyouto” or “Kyōto” as a compromise.

Slight Edit: To people wondering about the “Kitsuke” pronunciation above and how I mentioned that “there are no silent letters in Japanese”, yes, the “U” is pronounced even in “Kit-skay” (try it). Japanese tends to like to downplay “U”s to the point where they’re the most fluid letter/sound of all. Again, I’m reminded of a discussion I had in high school with a friend over how to pronounce “Sasuke” (さすけ) from Naruto. She insisted it was “Sa-Soo-Ke”, which is elongating a vowel that has no mention or reason to be stressed. It should be “Sas-ke” as your mouth with make the “U” sound whether you like it or not (again, try it). The more you practice speaking Japanese the easier it will come to you and the better you’ll be able to understand how a vowel should or should not be elongated.

Yusuke’s persona Goemon is actually one very complicated reference to Japanese culture.  it’s a giant rabbit hole that i accidentally fell into and now i can’t stop thinking about it and the internet needs to know.

warning, it’s really long and is likely nothing but a truly ridiculous visual reference intended for only the Japanese audience 

Keep reading

Interest (McHanzo)

Title: Interest
Chapter: Oneshot
Description:  Hanzo is bored out of his mind at his own party. McCree saves the day with his charming smile. For McHanzo Week 2016 (the prompt was “young love”).
Pairing: Jesse McCree x Hanzo Shimada.  McHanzo.
Word Count: 833
Rating: Teen and Up

Keep reading

Maiko Tomigiku of Gion Kobu playing the tsuzumi hand-drum; 1910s.

Tomigiku-san became a Maiko in the very late Meiji Period (1868-1912) and worked as a Geiko until the early Shōwa Period (1926-1989).

She was already popular as a Maiko and became tremendously successful as a young Geiko in the late 1910s and early 1920s.

She also was a very popular model for photographs as many people found her eyes to be very beautiful, and was often photographed alongside the equally famous Momotaro-san.

She appears in several Miyako Odori programmes as a dancer, a tachikata Geiko.

Source: Blue Ruin 1 Flickr

It takes a lot of skill to handle two different tsuzumi drums at once, but she aptly did it.  April 12, 2015, Tokyo, Japan.  Text and photography by Rekishi no Tabi on Flickr


A fine silk “miyamairi” kimono, one utilized to drape over a one-month old baby boy during rite of passage at a Shinto Shrine. Mid to late Meiji (1880-1911), Japan.  The Kimono Gallery.  This example has very exacting yuzen-dye work on the many auspicious symbols, with many embroidery highlights on the ‘Kaendaiko’ (flame), 'tsuzumi’ (Japanese hand drum), 'shou’ (Japanese flute), and phoenix head. All the items on the ship are treasures associated with the seven gods of good fortune. According to legend, the takarabune sails into port on New Years Eve to dispense gifts of happiness and luck to believers. Children receive red envelopes emblazoned with the takarabune and containing money on New Year’s Eve and many people sleep with a depiction of the seven Gods and the takarabune under their pillow at New Year in order to ensure prosperity and good dreams for the coming months. If the bearer has nightmares, the picture should be set adrift in the river or sea to neutralize the bad luck. The ship is always depicted at full sail, laden with food and treasures, and prints of it usually include an auspicious palindromic poem: “During the endless night, half sleeping, half waking, I hear sounds of a ship sailing over the wave crests –Oh, I know it is bringing good fortune!”