Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A Day in the Life...

A la "Stick Figure Masterpiece Theatre"...

In a cruel twist of fate... a la excellent English of Beautiful Mountain School's second year students.

Oshi (close)! I am pretty delicious, if I do say so myself (^-^)

Alive and well, uneaten by unagi (eel) and enjoying every last minute with my super-cute students. God bless them. Every one!
Kickin' it with the kings of the jungle gym. Ena-san, R E P R E S E N T!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Lucky Gaijin!

Did my brother like Kyoto? You better believe it! Here he is pouring some sake for Katsugiku-san.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Kitano Odori

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Ichimame in Kamishichiken's Kitano Odori.

The geiko Umeshizu performing the role of otemae, preparing the tea.

The Kitano Odori is an annual performance of traditional songs and dances by the geiko of the Kamishichiken entertainment district near the Kitano Shrine dedicated to Sugawara no Michizane and has been presented since March 1952. Geiko are indispensable as hostesses in traditional banquets, but an essential part of their duties are performances of traditional music in such tyles as Nagauta, Tokiwazu and Kiyomoto, mastery of instruments like the shamisen and tsuzumi hand-drum, and classical Japanese dance. They also must know traditional popular songs, which are an important part of the culture of the entertainment districts. Constant study and practice are vital to mastering these art forms and the Kitano Odori began as a recital to show off these performance skills, as well as being an entertaining show.

(Excerpt from Ichimame's blog)

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Young Ichiteru in the role of ohikae, delivering tea to the guests in the ceremony before Kitano Odori.

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Ichimame (front) and Naokazu.

Ichimame (front) and Ichifumi.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Did I Mention...

I got to meet Miehina ? (^-^)/

After a enchanting day of geisha dances, temple-hopping, hanami, and all-around enjoying Kyoto, I decided to take one last stroll through Gion and Miyagawa on my way home. I always walk in Kyoto, very rarely taking the bus or trains, and my favorite time to walk is late at night, after the tourists go home and before most of the residents go to sleep. The pleasantly paved lanes of the hanamachi, spotted with the glow of red paper lanterns, fill with a anxious silence, as if even the machiya are holding their breath, waiting for something magical to happen. Every now and then, an outburst of laughter or the sound of a shamisen wafts through the cool night air, betraying the sleepy wooden lattice facades that line the street. Then the sound of a smooth wood Japanese door sliding open, the soft tinkling of bells, and the hollow clop of okobo on stone as a maiko steps out of a tea house.

As I walked down one of the deceivingly silent alleyways I heard that tell-tale rumble of sliding wood, the soft, silvery jingle of bells and the sweet, clear voice of a maiko and shikomi thanking customers at the door. The young shikomi stood in the street infront of the Okiya, bowing and watching the two, silver-haired men stumble away. "Konbanwa!" I smiled as they passed. They stopped in their tracks.

"You can speak Japanese?" One asked, astounded.

"Well, I do my best." I said giggling.

"Why? How?" He asked, confounded.

"Well, I live in Japan. I teach English in Gifu..."

"Gifu? You teach English? This is amazing! Come! Do you like sake? Let's have a drink! Do you know geiko? I will introduce you to Kyoto's famous geiko!"

He turned in his tracks back towards the okiya where the young shikomi was still standing, no doubt shocked and scared by what was transpiring. She tried to look calm as the man explained to her that he was sorry but he would like to bring the nice foreigner in with him. The young girl looked confused and called for the mistress of the house, who came to the door and bowed down on her knees. Again the man explained that he would like to bring me in, and she glanced out the door at me, standing stunned in the street, unable to move or respond in anyway. I finally managed to bow and mumble a meager "sumimasen" before the second man urged me along, past the shikomi and into the door of the ochaya.

"This isin't an ozashiki, but atleast you can meet geiko!" The man laughed as he stepped from the from the entrance. I was still in utter disbelief that I had just crossed the threshold of an ochaya. I followed him into a small room where three other men sat at a low bar, Japanese style, chatting with the geiko Yachiho who was pouring one of them a beer. "We're back, and we brought a foreigner!" One of the silver-haired men announced, and everyone laughed. "Don't worry, she speaks Japanese," he added, and chorus of shock and admiration filled the room.

Yachiho was only with us for a short time before she was called to an appointment. She disappeared between a golden-rod noren adorned with the crest of the ochaya, and a shimmering, powder-blue kimono appeared behind it, dangling sleeves hung almost to the floor. I can't express my suprise and excitement when Miehina slowly appeared through the slit in the curtain, bowing and taking her place at the low wooden bar to introduce herself.

"What's your name?" One of the men asked "I've never met you before."

"Miehina dosu." She answered with a bow. The man introduced me, easily remembering my name and pronouncing it with ease, but for some reason he couldn't quite grasp hers. He asked her two more times before she pronounced it syllable by syllable for him. "Mi-e-hi-na- dosu."

I'm sure she wasn't bothered, as she handled it with exceptional grace and patience, but I felt compelled to school the man. "Haven't you heard of Miehina? She is one of the most popular maiko in the world...Literally. People know her all over the world. She has many fans in England and the USA!"

"Really?" the man asked with a sudden sense of awe.

"Really?" Miehina asked, with a similar sense of suprise.

"Why? Why is she so popular? How do people in those places know her?" Someone asked.

"Why? Do you have to ask? Look at her! She's so cute! She's tall and elegant, and she's a beautiful dancer. Haven't you ever seen her dance? Its so moving, like a dream! I'm so looking forward to seeing her dance in the Kyo Odori this year! Will you be going?"

"Well, I..."

"I'm buying my tickets tomorrow. Miehina, may I ask? When will you be performing? I hope I'll have the pleasure of seeing you perform!"

"Ookini, onesan!" She said with a sweet smile, and wrote down the days she would perform on a dance pamphlet. "I hope you can come."

"What's her name again?" The man asked me,grinning. "I'm going to have to write it down."

"You don't remember? You better write it down!" I said laughing.

"Well, you know her name, but does she remember yours?" He asked.

"Melissa-san dosune." She smiled.

"Yes! Thank you!" I said.


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Saturday, May 19, 2007

Kyo Odori: Maiko of Miyagawa

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Satoai, Fukuya, and Fukuhina

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Fukuya and Kimika
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Satoai and Yasuha

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Fukunao and Fukuyuu

Friday, May 18, 2007

Kyo Odori: Irises of Heian Shrine

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The elegant, classic beauty, Kimina.

Toshihana and Fukunami with a senior geiko.
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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Kyo Odori

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An Introduction to Kyo Odori ( from the Kyo Odori Programme)

With the arrival of another beautiful spring in the ancient capital, we are again staging the brilliant annual Kyo Odori. The 58th event of the traditional spring dance performance presents the seven scenes of Miyako no Shiki no Mai Ogi (expressing the four seasons in Kyoto through dancer's fans). The Miyagawa-cho Geiko crew provides a tour of many Kyoto attractions, depicting the manners and customs of Kyoto people and performing a powerful and majestic dance inspired by an old legend.

By holding the Kyo Odori performance every year, we at the Miyagawa-cho Kabukai aim to help refine our performing skills even further and develop new talents for traditonal Miyagawa-cho entertainment.

We are convinced that our sustained devotion and passion for traditional dance will enable us to meet your expectations. . .

Fukuaya, Kikutsuru, and Komomo

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Well, I certaintly wasn't disappointed (^_<)

Friday, May 11, 2007

Coming Soon: Kyo Odori

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The stunningly beautiful Kikusturu performing the tea ceremony before her final Kyo Odori as a maiko. This summer, she will turn her collar and become a full-fledged geisha.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

I Love Kyoto!

Waiting in line for the tea ceremony on the opening day of Miyako Odori, I found myself staring out at the garden of the Gion Kaburenjo (theater), losing myself in daydreams of sweet pink cherry blossoms and brilliantly colored kimono-clad women, gracefully floating beneath them as if every movement were a dance. A sudden, brilliant flash of royal blue silk caught my attention, and my eyes were drawn to a stunningly rich obi, hanging like two scrolls of woven gold on a canvas of twilight-colored silk, swaying softly with every step. She made her way through the garden, disappearing beneath softly blooming cherry trees and spring-fresh greens before I was able to see her face.

I recognized Tsunemomo immediately, now the most senior maiko in Gion Higashi. It was only last February that I had the pleasure of seeing her at Yasaka Shrine's mamemaki ceremony. Even then, she had remembered me from the fall dance, where she was performing tea ceremony. "Ara, oneesan!" she greeted me, "Hisashiburi dosu!" (Long time no see!) "Thank you for always coming to see me!" I was so stunned that she remembered me, not to mention that she was actually talking to me, that I completely froze and started bowing uncontrollably. Of course, I never expected her to remember me again, especially after so long, but when she came in from the garden to take her place in line behind my brother and I, I overheard her speaking with her customer.

"The cute girl in front of us often comes to see us," she began. "I remember her well."

I probably should have just kept my face forward and pretended not to understand Japanese, but I couldn't help myself. Before I knew it, I was looking over my shoulder, smiling with a bow. "Konnichiwa. Hisashiburi dosu." Her patron was a kind old man, and began talking to me about the dances and his work as a professional photographer. We walked through the line together chatting, and after the tea ceremony we found them waiting for us. "Just a minute, oneesan," Tsunemomo called in a sweet, friendly voice, "Please, if you'd like..." She had pulled out a small card holder, and was offering me one of her name cards. "Here's one for you, too, Oniisan!" She smiled, holding it out for my brother. Her customer asked us to stop in the hallway to take our picture, and afterwards we walked into the theater together. Before taking our seats, he asked me to meet them after the show. He had written down his number and address so that we could keep in touch, and offered to take us out and show us around Gion.

Just one of the many reasons I LOVE KYOTO!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Miyako Odori: Finale

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Kotoha, my favorite dancer (^-^) Text coming soon!

Cherry Blossoms in the Kinkakuji Temple: Kinkakuji was originally built in 1397 as a villa for Ashikaga Yoshimatsu, the third shogun of the Muromachi Shogunate.. After Yoshimitsu's death, in accordance with his will, the villa became a temple of the Rinzai sect. The official name is Hokuzan Rokuonji, but people have called it Kinkakuji (golden pavillion temple) ever since it's three-story pavillion was covered in pure gold leaf.

Katsuyuki and Ayakazu.
Koyuki , Terutoyo, and Kotoha