- Title: JAPAN: One of Japan's exotic Geishas reveals her personal side
- Date: 27th April 2007
- Summary: VARIOUS OF KOKIMI DANCING ON A STAGE FOR MIYAKO ODORI AUDIENCE WATCHING KOKIMI DANCING WIDE OF GEISHA DANCE PERFORMANCE
- Embargoed: 12th May 2007 13:00
- Location: Japan
- Country: Japan
- Topics: Lifestyle
- Reuters ID: LVA551II9X3W3L43OHOL9DJYXE89
- Story Text: 28-year-old Kokimi Yamaguchi is one of 27 remaining authentic Geishas who belongs to Gion Kobu, the most historic and strictly ruled Geisha group based in the ancient capital of Kyoto. It's the only place where Geisha tradition still remains almost intact.
She joined a Geisha school at the age of 15 after graduating from junior high school and since then, she has undergone a series of gruelling training courses in dancing, singing, speech training, how to apply make-up as well as dressing -- to become an officially endorsed Geisha.
Now, as a middle-ranking Geisha, she entertains crowds of company executives, politicians, rock stars and foreign dignitaries almost every night at Kyoto's Japanese style restaurants or tea houses.
She has a lot of wealthy patrons who support her and there are even throngs of groupies who wait outside the tea house to snap photographs of her as she enters or leaves the premises. Thanks party to the blockbuster success of the Hollywood movie "Memoirs of a Geisha", foreign tourists now gather around Gion district to get a glimpse of what a real Geisha is like.
As a proud Geiko, or authentic Geisha, she is pleased with the increasing attention from foreign tourists, but says the box office hit movie spread misconceptions about this age-old tradition.
"It was a really interesting movie. In past times, there used to be the same kind of tragedies and these were depicted in the movie," she explains, referring to past tragedies which were common prior to the 1950s when most Geishas were forced into the tradition in order to pay back their parents' debts.
In modern times, all Geishas including Kokimi, volunteer to work as traditional entertainers.
"It should be noted that Geishas depicted in a movie are a fantasy which has nothing to do with the real Geisha world. The most apparent difference between us and Hollywood's Geishas played by foreign actresses, is the way in which they charm male clients." she added.
Kokimi can be herself only when she returns to her apartment after a hard day's work of dancing, singing, chatting and most of all -- entertaining all night. Returning home from work in the early hours of the morning is quite common.
Once she arrives home, she needs to begin preparing for her next day at work. Preparation includes many hours practicing to play musical instruments and even menial chores such as washing her traditional white Geisha socks which she wears on stage. "I can transform myself into a professional Geisha when I wear a wig which weighs over 10 kilogrammes. It makes me feel uplifted even when I am totally exhausted," she explains while relaxing at home in a western outfit.
She admits that the life of a Geisha is not easy. In fact one third of her friends at school who studied to become Geishas dropped out along the way. 12
However she says she has never thought of quitting.
"Maybe I have made a lot of mistakes. Even so, if I can go back to when I was 15 years old at school, I would definitely choose the same path I have been following," she said.
One of Kokimi's achievements is her performance in the "Miyako Odori" dance which is held every year at the height of the cherry blossom season in April. It has been held every year without fail since 1872 - even through World War Two.
Today, with only a few dozen Geisha left, the tradition is slowly recovering and gaining popularity once more, but it is a far cry from the booming occupation which saw some 1,000 Geishas at its peak during the Edo period between 1603 and 1867.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
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