A good Friday evening suddenly turned super awesome when Divya and me made an impromptu Gion plan. We started slightly later than planned and was not quite sure if we would make it on time for the Gion Night walk. But as luck had it, we made exactly on time, as the tour was beginning. We joined a group of around twenty people, all of them tourists, for the walk around the Geisha District of Gion.
Geisha is a part of the culture and tradition at Japan. And Kyoto is the epicentre. As history has it, Geisha culture originated at Kyoto. The tourists who visited the Yasaka shrine were treated with tea, and over the years, with traditional music and dance as well. The origin of ochaya, the tea house, and that of Geisha are attributed to this popular belief. Eventually, Geisha grew to be a trained form of art and culture, which required special centres of training – the okiya. An aspiring girl can sign up to be a Meiko at the age of fifteen. Meiko is a Geisha under training. The young girl, after five years of learning and practice, grows up to be a Geisha. The okiya mother – the trainer – guides the girl through her apprenticeship.
The life of a Geisha is challenging. The attention and adoration they get are the perks of a very demanding life. The training period puts the body to a lot of pressure – the make up, the dressing and so on. And beyond the training, the profession in itself is a tough balance between career and marriage. A Geisha can continue her career only till marriage. But despite all the troubles and challenges, they seem to enjoy their way of life, and embrace it dearly. The aura around the Geisha way of life is one of unattainable beauty and perfection. The charm and grace of a Geisha takes your breath away. The flawless beauty and the elegant demeanour grab one’s attention. They earn respect and admiration.
Walking around the streets of Gion, listening to the narration of our guide, the desire to meet a Geisha strengthened. Though we weren’t lucky enough to see a Geisha, we caught a glimpse of a Meiko, as the tour ended near a concert hall. Rushing past us, radiance emanated from her. Lingering around the streets for a while more, we set out on our way back to hostel.
I was caught off guard at a convenience store when Sangeetha asked me if I were an Indian. She absolutely didn’t look Indian to me though. Next thing we know, she was walking with us to Nishiki. Sangeetha, our new found acquaintance for the evening, was on a business trip and was looking for some English speaking company. The rest of the night, however, she was mostly speaking in Hindi. Meanwhile, Divya was throwing a tantrum for the salmon and the caramel ice cream from Nishiki, despite it being way past the closing hours! We walked around Nishiki, in pursuit of other food options. 😀
We walked into the Wendy’s at Teramachi as our last resort for dinner. While Divya got a burger and we got some French fries, we all tried out all the dips they had, and stuck around beyond their closing hours, till they politely kicked us out. The conversations with Sangeetha started with what we saw in Gion, and went beyond our perceptions on the cultural differences between India and Japan. The evening suddenly got a lot more vocal, and engaging. Walking back in the rain to the bus stop, we bid bye to Sangeetha and promised to keep in touch. I am not sure if we would. I don’t think I even want to write more about her. Some people make an appearance in our lives, for no real reason. But they leave behind a memory to cherish. She has left one such with me. A very memorable evening, that’d always be cherished. Getting into the last bus, we reached hostel in no time. It was still raining. Like a day that sheds tears, as it meets its end.