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 Post subject: Do onsen geisha still exist?
PostPosted: Mon Dec 10, 2012 10:09 am 
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Shikomi-san
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I've heard about onsen geisha as being some of the humblest and low-ranking geisha around. It may sound a bit unusual to be interested in them, but I guess I have an interest in diversity.

Does the term "onsen geisha" originate from the fact that onsen towns are much smaller than places like Kyoto and Tokyo, and that people who live in small towns are seen as not as smart, well-educated and cultured as people living in the big cities? And therefore the girls who work in onsen towns aren't as sophisticated as their Kyoto counterparts, and the customers also aren't as sophisticated? (This may sound offensive, but I'm trying to understand what other people think, not describing what I myself think) :frazzled

Or is it that people who are going there are going "on holiday", as it were, and behave differently, and expect different kinds of entertainment, than the way they'd behave in the city they lived in?

Do onsen geisha still exist nowadays? I've heard that there were a lot of geisha before world war 2, but that the number of geisha has declined dramatically, and I wonder if onsen geisha would be the first to disappear.

Are geisha who perform at onsen towns necessarily onsen geisha? Sometimes when I'm searching the web for information on onsen geisha, I come across pages with mention of "(Location Onsen) geisha". For example, One of Nagano’s “Treasures” — The Togura Kamiyamada Onsen Geisha is an article I came across - would such geisha be onsen geisha, or just geisha who happen to perform at an onsen town? Also, are the geisha at Atami "onsen geisha"?

I'm not even sure that "onsen geisha" is a real term, rather than just an insult!

If they do exist, in which respects do they differ from their big city counterparts? Do they have a different personality? Do they differ in what kind of music they perform, and kind of ozashiki asobi (games) they play?

I hope this isn't too controversial a topic for my first topic on this forum! :oops:


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 Post subject: Re: Do onsen geisha still exist?
PostPosted: Mon Dec 10, 2012 10:50 pm 
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Geiko-san
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AFAIK there are still geisha working at resorts; Liza Dalby mentions visiting one of these resorts in the 70s and I'm pretty sure I've seen photos of geisha performing at large banquet halls at resorts.

However I don't know if they're referred to as 'onsen geisha' or if there's another term used.

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 Post subject: Re: Do onsen geisha still exist?
PostPosted: Tue Dec 11, 2012 2:12 pm 
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Furisode Shinzo
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A couple of years ago i found one film about geisha world(The Secret Life of Geisha 1999), and there was a mention of the onsen geisha. :]In the film it was said that they are prostitutes but i dont think it is actually possible nowadays in Japan :sigh In the film, One onsen Okasan, called Kamani, said that most of their clients are tourists. They have 2 shows per week for tourists. For $8 visitors get tea and and hour of dances. In 1999 there were near 400 onsen geisha in Japan :smug:


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 Post subject: Re: Do onsen geisha still exist?
PostPosted: Thu Dec 13, 2012 5:42 am 
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Geiko-san
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Few years ago Dawn Porter did a Geisha Girl episode (part of "Extreme wives" series) and first she heads up to meet onsen geisha, so I would say they do exist. The episode I think is still foundable in youtube.

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 Post subject: Re: Do onsen geisha still exist?
PostPosted: Sun Dec 16, 2012 1:11 pm 
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Maiko-san
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Joined: Sun Sep 02, 2012 10:22 am
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The chapter in Liza Dalbys book concerning geisha in Atami which is an onsen is titled "geisha in the country" ( I have to translate it back ) as opposed to geisha in cities.
In this chapter she describes a drunken guest who rudely asks ( He calls her "obachan" = grandmother/old woman ) a geisha to play shamisen. The geisha let it pass and plays, but he is not able to sing along and after a while calls for the manager to complain about her. When the manager comes, the geisha says that if there is a geisha who plays shamisen better than she does, she would like to meet her.
That is not exactly humble. That is the voice of a confident musician.

A geisha is someone who plays shamisen, dances, is well versed in conversation and wears kimono, not to mention the fact to be able to sit in seiza for hours. I tried my hand at shamisen, it was painful. To hold the plectron with three fingers and at the same time concentrate on what I was doing, my teacher told me not to look at my shamisen....well, I stopped. If one wants to earn money with pillow work, it is much easier to become a bar hostess.

The dances are more formation dances, as there are sometimes up to 600 people to a party. This comes when companies arrive. So, unlike in Kyoto or Tokyo a geisha who works in a hot spring resort rarely sees a customer twice. It is custom for hot springs that people wear yukata, the most informal wear during the day. It may be easy to slip out if this in a jiffy, but as holiday making in Japan is insanely expensive, they sleep (genders seperatly ) in groups of 15 people in one room. That would mean that a geisha has to meet a man outside a hotel with possible 599 witnesses. The geisha Liza Dalby visited said that a geisha who would do this, would be cut. And probably soon be out of work.
Surely the rather skimpy clothes on the side of the customer ( a geisha will always wear silk, anything alse might be disrespectful ) plus alcohol may lead to phantasies, but thats what it is, a phantasy.

I really recommend Liza Dalbys book. There may be less geisha today than in her time, but I think the basics are still true.

The geiko of Kyoto are surely very sophisticated with a lot of traditions, but to call geisha who work in hot spring resorts " some of the humblest and low ranking geisha " sounds a bit sad. I am curious. Where did you find this description ?

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 Post subject: Re: Do onsen geisha still exist?
PostPosted: Mon Dec 17, 2012 1:11 pm 
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Shikomi-san
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Joined: Mon Dec 03, 2012 9:41 am
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Toyoka wrote:
In the film, One onsen Okasan, called Kamani, said that most of their clients are tourists. They have 2 shows per week for tourists. For $8 visitors get tea and and hour of dances. In 1999 there were near 400 onsen geisha in Japan :smug:

At first I was a little concerned at hearing that it was only $8 per visitor, but was a little reassured by utsusemi's description of how many people see a performance, and also considered that maybe they earn additional income on the other nights of the week.

As they're still around, I guess I can find out more about them by seeing them!

utsusemi wrote:
I really recommend Liza Dalbys book. There may be less geisha today than in her time, but I think the basics are still true.

Thanks for the suggestion.

utsusemi wrote:
The geiko of Kyoto are surely very sophisticated with a lot of traditions, but to call geisha who work in hot spring resorts " some of the humblest and low ranking geisha " sounds a bit sad. I am curious. Where did you find this description ?

I wrote it myself - it felt a bit awkward while I was writing it, but I wasn't sure how to phrase it better.


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 Post subject: Re: Do onsen geisha still exist?
PostPosted: Wed Dec 19, 2012 10:08 pm 
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Shikomi-san
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I think the people who posted before me explained everything rather well. I'd just like to add that Onsen geisha, in fact, are very active! There is a place called Higashiyama onsen. It is the only geisha onsen I know of but it has 22 geisha (not sure how many of them are currently working). I have to say that onsen geisha have beautiful geimyo. Here are the onsen geisha from Higashiyama (I must warn you that I'm not too good with reading kanji. I also do not know how many of them are currently active, which okiya they belong. I simply sorted them according their name kanji):

1. Mamewaka (豆若), Mariwaka (まり若), Wakaba (若葉), Momowaka (桃若)

2. Sakura (櫻)

3. Kotochiyo (琴千代), Michiyo (実千代), Kichiyo (紀千代), Takechiyo (竹千代), Benichiyo (紅千代), Chiyoyakko (千代奴), Yachiyo (八千代)

4. Koume (小梅), Kobuku (小福)

5. Some-ji (染次)

6. Mikiko (美紀子), Tamami (玉美)

7. Hitomi (ひとみ)

8. Tsukino (月乃), Yukino (ゆき乃), Kikuno (菊乃)

9. Youdzuru / Youtsuru (夕鶴)

10. Mai (真衣)


I hope this helps you to find more information about them!

edit:
I did a little research of my own and discovered several pictures of the geisha!

Mamewaka and Mariwaka
Ozashiki with Mamewaka and Mariwaka
Ozashiki with Mikiko, Yukino and Kikuno
Some photos of Mamewaka, Mariwaka, Sakura, Tsukino, Kichiyo, Mikiko and Tamami
Bon Odori at Higashiyama with Mikiko, Kikuno and another geisha-san (not 100% sure)
Kichiyo and Mayumi
Mai
Mai again
Higashiyama Setsubun


I discovered that there are quite a lot pictures of them and I suggest we start some threads for non-Kyoto geisha :katana:


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 Post subject: Re: Do onsen geisha still exist?
PostPosted: Thu Dec 20, 2012 9:53 pm 
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Shikomi-san
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Joined: Mon Nov 19, 2012 10:45 am
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Fav. Motif: Mizu, take, hotaru
Geimyo: 千代奴 - Chiyoyakko
Ok so I discovered the okiya and who lives in them!

1. Yaebotan
Yachiyo (八千代), Mamewaka (豆若), Mariwaka (まり若), Sakura (櫻), Momowaka (桃若)

2. Hanaka
Youdzuru (夕鶴), Yukino (ゆき乃), Kikuno (菊乃), Chiyono (千代乃)

3. Seiyoshimaru (?)
Tamami (玉美)

4. Shintatsuru (?)
Wakaba (若葉)

5. Matsuikeda (?)
Mikiko (美紀子)

6. Shinosuni
Kobuku (小福)

7. Hananoya
Michiyo (実千代), Mai (真衣)

8. Bunkowada
Takechiyo (竹千代)

9. Masumiya
Koume (小梅)

10. Toyogiku
Hitomi (ひとみ)

11. Yutakaosuni
Kotochiyo (琴千代)

12. Shinbotan
Kichiyo (紀千代)


It's very late where I live so I'll finish reading the okiya names, adding who quit and adding their name kanji tomorrow :frazzled

edit: there I finished adding everything. I hope we'll find more information on them :kawaii:


Last edited by Hisayakko on Fri Dec 21, 2012 9:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Do onsen geisha still exist?
PostPosted: Fri Dec 21, 2012 5:34 pm 
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Furisode Shinzo
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As you can see there are different thoughts about onsen geisha :] Maybe they are lower ranked because of having clients that are from middle class and tourists. And you can attend the ozashiki if you have money. Its quite different from what is in Kyoto - you have to have a friend that already is a client of ochaya, that would present you to the ochaya okasan. And not even then you can attend ozashiki:] But i think they would survive much longer in our changing world :]


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 Post subject: Re: Do onsen geisha still exist?
PostPosted: Fri Dec 21, 2012 10:57 pm 
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Maiko-san
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Joined: Fri Jul 25, 2008 10:04 pm
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Location: Maryland, USA
I saw a program on NHK that visited onsen geisha.

They were mostly older ladies that had been doing this their whole lives. As far as I can tell, some had families and did this as a job they went to from their homes.

The course of the evening seemed to go in a similar manner to one in Kyoto, however the guests were in a hotel area. Games, drink, song, dance, etc.

Everyone seemed to be having a great time. There were men and women as guests and I'm guessing they were tourists.

Honestly, they actually looked like they were having more fun than the ladies of Kyoto with their beautiful, sophisticated way.


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 Post subject: Re: Do onsen geisha still exist?
PostPosted: Thu Aug 15, 2013 6:04 pm 
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Shikomi-san
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Chiisana Hato wrote:
I saw a program on NHK that visited onsen geisha.

They were mostly older ladies that had been doing this their whole lives. As far as I can tell, some had families and did this as a job they went to from their homes.

The course of the evening seemed to go in a similar manner to one in Kyoto, however the guests were in a hotel area. Games, drink, song, dance, etc.

Everyone seemed to be having a great time. There were men and women as guests and I'm guessing they were tourists.

Honestly, they actually looked like they were having more fun than the ladies of Kyoto with their beautiful, sophisticated way.


100% of what you've said it totally true!
Onsen geisha certainly still exist, and boy are they a lot of fun!


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 Post subject: Re: Do onsen geisha still exist?
PostPosted: Mon Aug 19, 2013 6:20 pm 
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Maiko-san
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from the videos of onsen geisha that i have seen, i find them to be more interesting than kyoto geisha (from the videos only) the clinets seem to be jollier, the music a bit more lively, the dance very interesting to look at and the atmosphere seems a bit more relaxed somehow. It could just be me...but i really do enjoy watching videos of the onsen geisha and would probably choose to meet one over a kyoto geiko if i had the chance to choose. (thats just me :lol: ) or maybe i just lack the "class" to appreciate the kyoto gals.

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 Post subject: Re: Do onsen geisha still exist?
PostPosted: Sun Oct 13, 2013 9:55 am 
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Shikomi-san
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I had dinner with two geishas from Higashiyama Onsen, Aizuwakamatsu. I had a great time. (Thanks for mentioning that location, Hisayakko-san!)

The geishas I had dinner with spoke a bit of English. I can't really say how much English they could speak, because having a translator available meant they mainly spoke in Japanese. They had had foreign customers before the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, but none since. They hope to see more foreigners come!

They did a dance for a male guest (me), and one for a female guest (my translator). I didn't know about different dances for women before.

We played a few ozashiki asobi. We played "Konpira Fune Fune", and "Ohirakisan", and a drinking game with a small, a medium and a large cup (I don't know the name of it) - does anyone know the name of it?

I also learnt that geishas from different parts of Japan don't necessarily wear white make-up.

I've written a bit more about it on lang-8 at http://lang-8.com/424295/journals/26590 ... 0134755206 and on a travel related website at http://travel.stackexchange.com/a/14233/324

I also happened to have my photo taken with a geisha while celebrating the Dontsuku festival (don't google this festival at work!) in Izu Inatori, Shizuoka, which is south of Atami.


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 Post subject: Re: Do onsen geisha still exist?
PostPosted: Mon Oct 14, 2013 11:01 am 
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Maiko-san
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Joined: Thu Nov 24, 2011 7:27 pm
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Location: Leeds, West Yorkshire.
Thanks for posting this... I have a general interest in Japanese culture and history rather than focusing on Geisha related subjects, and found this fascinating. Good to know that the Geisha tradition still lives outside of the well known locations.
They seem more of a "living tradition" than the big city girls, who I get the impression are more of a "living history" display. That of course is just my impression gained from my rather superficial knowledgs of the subject.


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