The Introduction of Japanese Geisha and Hakata geigi/ 福岡の芸者の歴史

in life •  last year 

The Introduction of Fukuoka’s Geisha

– June 13, 2017

Many people may think of Tokyo or Kyoto when they hear of Japanese geisha. But Fukuoka also historically has had geisha called Hakata geigi, who have carried on the tradition of the ozashiki, which are traditional-styled banquets for elite patrons of exclusive restaurants.

Hakata Dontaku Minato Matsuri is Fukuoka City’s grand annual event that attracts 2 million people. In May, Hakata geigi dancing on the street-corner stage were drawing particular attention as they performed as part of the festivities in the middle of the long holidays.


Geiko of the Hakata Kenban, performing beautiful dance and music at the Hakata Dontaku Minato Festival.

♪Such a handsome man like you
Such a plain woman like me
We wouldn't match, like lanterns and bells
I would understand if you abandoned me

The geiko played the three-stringed shamisen, drums, and bells and sang a typical ozashiki song called Sutotonbushi. They gracefully moved their sleeves, hems, and fingers, accentuating their pale skin and glamorous kimono. Smiling gazes suddenly dropped away and then returned to capture the attention of the admiring spectators.

Hakata has historically prospered as a hanamachi, the entertainment quarter where geiko frequent, and the women’s agencies, called kenban, exist to this day. The geiko on this Dontaku stage belong to the Hakata Kenban. The dancers are called tachikata, and the jikata sing and play instruments. There were 12 tachikata and 7 jikata, for a total of 19 geiko. Commoners can meet geiko at events such as these, but their regular stage is, of course, the ozashiki, where they perform songs and dances at traditional Japanese restaurants.


Jikata geiko who wear black kimono and steadily sing songs and play the shamisen behind the dancers.

Now, then, what kind of people use the ozashiki and for what purpose? We interviewed two super veterans, jikata Madame Mieko (aged 85) and tachikata Madame Fujiko (aged 72). In Japanese, experienced geiko are reverentially called by the honorific neesan.

“This is the entrance to society. Our clients even study on the side about the world of the traditional kouta songs and the shamisen that we have learned to sing and play. That’s called demand of custom. This is where social circles start to grow, where people expand their network, in the political and business establishment that is,” says Mieko Neesan.

“From the olden days in companies in Fukuoka, when men became section chiefs of general affairs and accounting departments, they all began to study kouta. Even today, although the numbers have sadly dwindled, there are still about 50 people studying the songs as Mieko Neesan’s pupils. None of them ask for receipts (to claim expenses with their companies) and they all pay out of pocket. They see it as an investment in themselves,” says Fujiko Neesan.







♪ あなたみたいないい男/私みたいなお多福が/提燈釣り鐘釣り合わぬ/見捨てられても無理はない ―








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