Monthly Archives: May 2021

Maiko dancing

Dance, Mystery, and Murder in The Kimono Tattoo

As Kyoto’s “dancing girl,” the maiko devotes herself to Nihon buyō (literally, Japanese dance).

But how do others learn this dance form?  What does it feel like to try?  A riveting new murder mystery by Rebecca Copeland gives us clues.

Today’s post takes up Copeland’s debut novel, The Kimono Tattoo.  We zoom into the mystery’s dance scenes, finding experiences much like those recounted by maiko and geiko.

From intriguing translation work to puzzling murder, Ruth Bennett is on the trail

But first, what’s the novel about?

Photo by Sravan V on Unsplash,2019.

A fast-paced mystery,  The Kimono Tattoo transports us to Kyoto. We wander into its famous temples, little known alleys, and even its zoo. Before we know it, we’re entangled in a shadowy web of beauty and deception.

We follow Ruth Bennett, a tall, red-haired American who parlays her fluency in Japanese into routine translation work. An avid runner, reader, and consumer of cheap Japanese take-out foods, Ruth works hard to maintain a low-key life. She wants to dull the pain of her past: a failed academic career in Japanese literature, divorce, and a haunting event in her youth.

 

Woman red hair looking at sky. Tyler McRobert.Unsplash. 2016.

 

The mystery begins when Ruth cannot resist accepting a surprising offer.  A stranger asks her to translate a new novel by a long-forgotten writer.  That choice leads Ruth into all kinds of intrigue. She uncovers kimono secrets, family feuds, and ultimately fatal tattoo designs. Her life becomes anything but low key.

 

Once I started The Kimono Tattoo, I couldn’t put it down. I felt like I was back in Kyoto. I enjoyed the plot’s twists and turns. The characters really come alive.  And Ruth’s own connections to her past in Japan become one of its driving forces. Her love of Japanese dance stood out to me.

The American teen finds her way in life through dance and kimono

We learn early on that Ruth is a student of Nihon buyō. This interest develops Ruth’s  difficult past and her intimate connections to Japanese arts and kimono. Surprisingly, we find parallels to the maiko’s experience.

As a troubled fifteen-year-old stuck at a boarding school in Kobe, Ruth came to Nihon buyō at the suggestion of her Japanese language teacher. Taking up dance led Ruth to the kimono. She began regularly wearing kimono to her lessons, learning all the conventions. The entire experience was life changing.  Ruth remembers, “I felt as if I had found something that belonged to me” (198).

Iwasaki Mineko in Moscow, 2008. Photo by Sergey Korneev. Wikimedia Commons.

Interestingly, Ruth’s sense of dance as a powerful channel for youthful angst mirrors comments by Iwasaki Mineko in Geisha, A Life. As a young girl newly living in an okiya in the 1950s, Iwasaki felt that, “dance was an apt vehicle for my determination and pride. I still missed my parents terribly and dance became an outlet for my pent-up emotional energy” (88).

Seeking solace as an adult, Ruth turns again to Nihon buyō and kimono artistry

Back in Japan after a divorce, Ruth takes weekly dance lessons in Kyoto. She puts together her kimono ensemble for each lesson with care. We learn how she selects just the right kimono from her collection to fit the occasion and express her mood. She knows kimono history and customs well.

As Ruth describes to a famous kimono designer, “The way the kimono is worn with an obi and other accessories tells me about the wearer’s taste, mood, or sense of daring” (203).  Here, too, Ruth’s knowledge recalls Iwasaki Mineko and other geiko who describe their acute awareness of kimono customs, developed over many years.

Ruth’s Kyoto dance lessons

We never learn the name of Ruth’s dance teacher.

Japanese traditional dancer, 2004. Posted to Wikimedia Commons by Rdsmith4.

The sensei remains an enigmatic dancer–a brilliant artist and a demanding instructor.  As Ruth says, “Nihon buyō teachers were particularly strict, and mine was no exception” (51).  She does not suffer slackers.   And she expects her students to prepare for their lessons and always come on time.

Maiko and geiko similarly remember the strictness of dance lessons. As Komomo explains in A Geisha’s Journey, “there were lots of rules to be followed at dance practice” (35). In her case, however, it was her strict elder sisters that scared her most at dance lessons.

Maiko inevitably make mistakes in their dance lessons, and Ruth slips up sometimes, too.  She forgets her fan or music cassette. But, like maiko, she tries hard to please her teacher.

Through Ruth’s example, we learn dance lesson protocols. We see the greetings, the obligations, the importance of observing other students, and the sensei’s frequent corrections.  We also get a glimpse of Ruth’s experience of dancing. Despite her early training, Ruth confesses that she has no “muscle memory” as an adult. “I felt like I had to start over from the very beginning” (53).

The teacher’s own dancing entrances Ruth. “She moved her hands lithely through the air, delicate but strong” (56). 

Ruth sometimes has lapses in concentration, much to her teacher’s dismay. Of course, Ruth is involved in a murder mystery and that can be distracting.

The Perfect Summer Mystery

The Kimono Tattoo, 2021.

I highly recommend The Kimono Tattoo.  Bringing to life a host of loveable characters (and some evil ones), The Kimono Tattoo weaves a compelling tale of beauty, love, greed, and revenge. It’s easy to visualize. Japanese dance, kimono, lore, and literature all contribute to the richness of its fabric.

Coming next:  An Interview with Rebecca Copeland

How did the author’s own experiences shape the dance scenes in The Kimono Tattoo?  What did she learn by studying Nihon buyō?  Who were her teachers?  In our next post, we sit down with Rebecca Copeland to get the answers.

 

 

 

 

References

Rebecca Copeland, The Kimono Tattoo. Brother Mockingbird, 2021.

Mineko Iwasaki and Rande Brown. Geisha, A Life. Atria, 2002.

Komomo and Naoyuki Ogino. A Geisha’s Journey: My Life as a Kyoto Apprentice. Kodansha International, 2008.

Jan Bardsley, “Dance, Mystery, and Murder in The Kimono Tattoo.” janbardsley. web.unc.edu  May 27, 2021.

Maiko Stories: Hidden Laundry Spaces

The friendly sight of clothes hanging on the line

Seeing laundry hanging outside on the line.” The young Japanese student responded with a smile.  We were talking about signs of home and comfort. Studying in the U.S., he missed this common sight of everyday life in his neighborhood in Japan. Scenes  like this one captured in the photo below of an Osaka home convey hominess to many Japanese.

I confess that when I first came to Tokyo in 1971, the sight of clothes hanging outside tall apartment buildings startled me.  Growing up in a small suburb in southern California, I had become accustomed to dryers. Clotheslines were something from my childhood in the 1950s. Laundry was pretty invisible.

Laundry on the line in Osaka. m-louis .® from Osaka, Japan, 2019.  Wikimedia Commons.

But, when we lived in Tokyo in 2018-19, we regularly hung wash out to dry on the small veranda outside our first-floor apartment. A large green hedge hid all but the tops of it. As you walked by our several-story building, you could see lots of laundry wafting in the breeze on the verandas.  Helpfully, the morning weather report advised whether the day looked good for drying the wash outside.

What about laundry customs in Kyoto’s geisha neighborhoods (hanamachi)? As we explore in this post, evidence of this ordinary chore remains out of sight in these refined neighborhoods. Little wonder that this invisibility gives way to stories about hidden spaces and confessions of washing machine mishaps. All these accounts turn our attention to the difference between the front and back stages of the hanamachi.

Laundry in everyday Pontochō, 1954

“Washing is hung out over one of the [alleys] of Pontochō.” Perkins, Percival Densmore. Geisha of Pontocho. Photos. Tokyo News Service, 1954.

Let’s start with a view from decades past. This sight of laundry signaled everyday life that one photographer sought to document in 1954. This photo by Francis Haar shows laundry hanging high above one of the narrow alleys in the Pontochō hanamachi.   The darkness of the alley and the height of the lines nearly conceal the laundry from view. Many of Haar’s photos and the text by P.D. Perkins capture daily life in the hanamachi. They give a sense of how arts teachers, craftspeople, shopkeepers, and others interacted with geiko, maiko, and their mothers in the 1950s.

Hanging clothes on the okiya’s hidden veranda today

Today, the teahouses and okiya of Kyoto’s hanamachi still convey a quiet, elegant charm, like this Gion dwelling photographed here.  So, where does the laundry hang?

Façade of dwelling in Shinbashi, Gion, Kyoto. Photo by Basile Morin. June 2019. Wikimedia Commons.

Aiko Koyama’s manga Kiyo in Kyoto gives her readers a look behind the scenes. She takes us past the task of doing the wash to the aesthetics of the hanamachi and its hidden conversations.

Trainee Riko on the okiya veranda. Maiko-san-chi-no Makanai-san, 2017. Koyama Aiko. Vol. 6, Epi. 59,p. 78.

 

 

Here, we see shikomi trainee Riko hanging up laundry on her okiya veranda. She gazes at other, nearly adjacent okiya verandas. She sees the okiya helpers hanging the laundry, too. Riko overhears them talking excitedly about a new maiko. The hidden verandas make an excellent space for gossip.

 

 

Maiko-san-chi-no Makanai-san, 2017. Aiko Koyama manga. Vol. 6, Epi. 59, p. 78.

In the next frame, the narrator explains how the neighborhood preserves its elegant façade by hanging laundry on these verandas behind the buildings.

We see tourists eager to pose for photos in front of the beautiful okiya. Hiding the laundry keeps evidence of ordinary, everyday life at bay.  This frame also makes the point that the hanamachi does not aim to convey hominess, but the air of a world apart.

A private space for confidential chats

Twins Nozomi (maiko Yumehana) and Megumi. https://www.pref.shimane.lg.jp/admin/seisaku/koho/photo/172/4.html

The hidden veranda creates a private space, too, for  the maiko Yumehana in NHK-TV drama Dandan (2008-09). She retreats to the veranda for more than hanging laundry. This is a space for secret phone calls, for private chats with her twin sister, and to reflect on her future.  Notably, we never see the dignified matriarch of this okiya/teahouse on the veranda.  She does not do housework.

The would-be maiko learns laundry skills

Moving from the veranda to the space of the washing machine takes us to the humorous confessions of a shikomi trainee. Her name is Maiko, though written with different characters than “apprentice geisha.” The “baby of her family” and the last of five sisters, Maiko knew nothing about housework until coming to the okiya.

Maiko describes how doing chores around the okiya can challenge the brand new shikomi.  She explains how the trainee assists her elder geiko and maiko sisters with their kimono, runs errands for her mother, and often helps with cleaning.

A bad laundry day for the trainee. Iwashita Takehito, Gion no hosomichi: Otonbo maiko [The narrow road to Gion: The youngest child becomes a maiko] (Tokyo: Bungei Shobō, 2009), 54.

Maiko was new to washing machines. She also didn’t know how to separate colors, once turning everything pink by mixing red and white things together.  Nor did she know how to separate different articles by their material. This comic shows how Maiko learned the hard way: Too much soap led to bubbles bursting out the machine. (Exaggerated here for comic effect).

Luckily, Maiko seems to have learned laundry skills well by the time she debuted as a maiko. But, at this point, she turned her attention full-time to maiko arts lessons, teahouse parties, and Kyoto booster events.  No more need to think about washing machines!

The laundry space in maiko stories

As we see, maiko stories highlight the okiya laundry space as a site of ordinary life, hijinks, and high drama–all unseen from the street.  The mystique of the hanamachi façade piques curiosity about what happens within the refined dwellings, giving rise to all kinds of stories of backstage life.

Having finished this post, I can go hang the laundry outside on a sunny day in North Carolina. Feels pretty homey here, too.

References

Iwashita Takehito. Gion no hosomichi: Otonbo maiko [The narrow road to Gion: The youngest child becomes a maiko] Tokyo: Bungei Shobō, 2009, 54.

Koyama Aiko. Maiko-san-chi no Makanai-san. Serialized manga. Volume 6. Episode 59. Shōgakukan, 2017.  For its new online anime adaptation, NHK World translates the manga title as Kiyo in Kyoto: From the Maiko House.

Perkins, Percival Densmore. Photographs by Francis Haar. Geisha of Pontocho. Tokyo News Service, 1954.

Jan Bardsley, “Maiko Stories: Hidden Laundry Spaces,” janbardsley.web.unc.edu, May 19, 2021.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maiko Greetings with “Stroke of a Pen” Notes

Which pretty notepad will the maiko choose?

Maiko Momohana decides on the most appropriate ippitsu-sen. Maiko-san-chi no Makanai-san. Epi.32, Vol. 4. (2017).

Momohana, the star maiko of Koyama Aiko’s girls comic Kiyo in Kyoto: From the Maiko House, gazes at two long, narrow notepads.  Both pretty options!  Which to choose?

Koyama depicts Momohana browsing in a shop brimming with fans, maiko hair ornaments, and stationery. Her fictional shop closely resembles the lively Gion store, Yamakyo. Established in the Taisho era (1912-26) as a specialty paper store, Yamakyo began selling Japanese-style paper products and other items for maiko, geiko, and Kabuki actors in early Showa (1926-89). If you click the link to Yamakyo, you can see that it still sells many paper products, including the narrow notepads like Momohana holds.

Gion shop, Yamakyo. Gion Shopping Street Promotion Associates Website. https://www.gion.or.jp

After making her purchase, Momohana takes off on her afternoon round of greetings to the teahouses in her hanamachi. The notepads will come in handy, as we later learn.

Greeting the okami-san with a short note

Momohana’s greeting.  Epi. 32, Vol.4. (2017)

Finding one okami-san (manager) away from her teahouse, Momohana pulls out one of her trusty new notepads. She pens a short note and leaves it with a housekeeper to pass on. The notepad cover is marked 一筆箋 (ippitsu-sen), a “slip of paper for one stroke of the pen.”  Sometimes translated simply as “one slip notes.”

 

 

What are ippitsu-sen? How are they used?

Ippitsu-sen perfect for spring. Brand: MIDORI. amazon.co.jp April 2021.

A little research produced some interesting answers.

Maiko are not the only ones who use ippitsu-sen.  They are a common paper for short notes at work and among friends and family.  These notes may be plain, business-like and efficient or warm and funny.  Books published in Japanese guide readers to all kinds of ways to use ippitsu-sen.  Since I had long been curious about these pretty notepads, using them merely for to-do lists and phone messages, I was eager to learn more.

Lovely Manners and Words for One-Slip Notes for Every Occasion. Author, Murakami Kazuko. PHP, 2015.

To find out about ippitsu-sen, I turned to the colorful guide authored by Kazuko Murakami, Lovely Manners and Words for One-Slip Notes. This is one in her series of manuals directed to women readers offering advice “which you can use your entire life.”

Murakami champions the warmth of the handwritten note—the human touch—amid the ubiquity of electronic communication in email, texts, and social media platforms. She advises that even a short note will touch the person who receives it, inspiring “goodwill and trust.” Murakami recommends using these short notes to boost one’s communication skills and self-confidence.

Getting started with ippitsu-sen: Choose your favorite design

Sakura and Japanese candy design. https://minne.com/items/26153939. May 11, 2021

Murakami introduces several types of ippitsu-sen: designs variously associated with the season, good luck symbols, locale, or a current topic. Other designs might reflect your own hobbies, work, or even your name. You can add personal flair (jibun rashisa) by adding stickers and using inked, wooden stamps (hanko).  Although choosing a design with the recipient in mind can be lots of fun,  Murakami advises that it’s fine to choose plain paper, too. Selecting a pale pink or blue may seem softer and friendlier than white.

Do you write vertically or horizontally?

You can write Japanese vertically (top to bottom, right to left) and horizontally (left to right, as in English). How about when writing ippitsu-sen?

Murakami  advises  readers that either way is fine, but writing vertically will seem more business-like and official. In Momohana’s case, we see that she writes vertically in her ippitsu-sen for her elder, the okami-san. Her casual mini-card to her pal Kiyo shows the horizontal style. Similarly, Murakami’s models for all the formal ippitsu-sen in her book, and all written to people older or in positions of some importance are written vertically. The model informal notes to children and husband use the horizontal format. [In the gendered universe of stationery, I did find some sites aimed at men as potential ippitsu-sen users, including one that shows how to use ippitsu-sen for a thank-you note in English].

Did Momohana’s ippitsu-sen appeal?

This ippitsu-sen notepad features cats.amazon.co.jp

Momohana’s ippitsu-sen was a success.  Later in the chapter, we see the elderly okami-san who had received the note calling that evening at Momohana’s okiya. Apologizing for being out earlier, she holds up Momohana’s note.

She exclaims how delighted she was with the black cat on the stationery–it’s just like her own cat.  The okami-san thanks Momohana for choosing such a thoughtful, personal design (p. 24). (Momohana’s surprised look makes me think this might have been a lucky coincidence).

Once again, star maiko Momohana has made an excellent impression.

References

Koyama Aiko. Maiko-san-chi no Makanai-san. Serialized manga. Episode 32, Volume 4. Shōgakukan, 2017.  For its new online anime adaptation, NHK World translates the manga title as Kiyo in Kyoto: From the Maiko House.

Murakami Kazuko, Isshō tsukaeru, ippitsu-sen no utsukushii manā to kotoba [Lovely Manners and Words for One-Slip Notes You Can Use Your Entire Life]. Kyoto: PHP, 2015; rpt. 2108.

The featured image for this post–maiko ippitsu-sen–comes from amazon.co.jp on May 11, 2021.

Jan Bardsley, “Maiko Greetings with ‘Stroke of a Pen’ Notes,” janbardsley.web.unc.edu, May 13, 2021.

 

Carnations

Maiko celebrate Mother’s Day in the Hanamachi

Gifts of Pink Carnations to Hanamachi Mothers

Mother’s Day in Japan takes place on the second Sunday in May.  The hanamachi celebrates this custom, too. Maiko and geiko honor their hanamachi “mothers”—the managers of okiya and ochaya as well as their teachers—by presenting them with bouquets of pink carnations.

Photo by FLY:D on Unsplash

The Maternal Role of Hanamachi Mothers

This okiya mother sends maiko off to their evening assignments, remindsing them, “Do your best.” Koyama Aiko, Maiko-san chi no Makanai-san, Vol. 1 (2017), p. 33

Certainly, the hanamachi could not survive without its mothers. They are its main business leaders, curators of tradition, and teachers of the next generations of maiko and geiko.  As I discuss in Maiko Masquerade, popular guides and fiction on the hanamachi praise okiya mothers (okāsan) for embracing a maternal role.

Fictional mothers, such as the okāsan of the Ichi okiya, depicted (left) in Koyama’s popular manga, nurture with affection, advice, and admonishment. Actual mothers portray their roles similarly.  Masuda Kazuyo, one Pontochō mother remarked, “Unless you think of them as your own children, you cannot raise [a maiko]. It truly warms my heart when even those who have left Pontochō to marry come back for
a visit, still calling me “Mother” (Interview with Kyoko Aihara, 2012).

What’s the history of Mother’s Day in Japan?

Age of Shōjo: The Emergence, Evolution, and Power of Japanese Girls’ Magazine (SUNY Press, 2019).

This attention to Mother’s Day in the hanamachi makes me curious about the holiday’s origins in Japan. Historians have written at length about its connection to American influence, militarism, and commerce. Here are just a few highlights.

It was American missionaries who introduced Mother’s Day to Japan.  In 1931, the Ministry of Education formed the Greater Japan Federated Women’s Association  (Dai Nihon Rengo Fujinkai ). At that point,  the Association rebranded Mother’s Day as a celebration of the March 6th birthday of Empress Kojun (1903-2000). In the postwar, however, as Hiromi Tsuchiya Dollase explains, Mother’s Day was “re-introduced as a Western holiday” (89). Dr. Dollase points to the cover of the girls’ magazine Shōjo no tomo (43, no. 5, 1950), featuring “Japanese Little Women,” which “explains how the Nishikawa family spent their Mother’s Day” (90).  Four smiling girls in western dress surround their mother, who wears kimono, as she opens a present.

Mother’s Day Carnations in the Hanamachi

Cover, Hannari to: Kyō maiko no kisetsu (2004).

 

In 2004, photographer Mizobuchi Hiroshi captured kimono-clad maiko and geiko carrying gift bouquets of pink carnations in the Miyagawa-chō hanamachi. He remarks that the practice took hold in the hanamachi, but does not mention when or why (24).

Given the importance of okāsan leadership in the hanamachi, it is little wonder they are honored on Mother’s Day.

References

Kyoko Aihara, Kyoto hanamachi: Maiko to geiko no uchiake-banashi [The Kyoto hanamachi: Frank talk from maiko and geiko]. Tokyo: Tankōsha, 2012.

Hiromi Tsuchiya Dollase, Age of Shōjo: The Emergence, Evolution, and Power of Japanese Girls’ Magazine (SUNY Press, 2019).

Mizobuchi Hiroshi, Hannari to: Kyō maiko no kisetsu [Elegance: Kyoto Maiko Four Seasons] Kyoto Shinbun Shuppan Sentā, 2004.

Jan Bardsley, “Maiko celebrate Mother’s Day in the Hanamachi,” janbardsley.web.unc.edu, May 9, 2021.

 

 

Enjoying summer breezes at Kamo River, Kyoto

Outside Dining at Kamo River on Raised Platforms

How does Kyoto’s Kamo River become a festive site of outdoor dining in early summer? What does this mean for maiko and geiko? This post explores the custom of erecting raised yuka platforms and the changes wrought by Covid-19.  Seeing these photos also takes me back to a delightful student party on the platforms, too.

What are the raised platforms 納涼床?

Noryo-yuka by einalem. 2007. Wikimedia Commons.

This photo shows the platforms open for outdoor seating. They extend from a row of restaurants in the Pontochō district and overlook the Kamogawa “riverbed” (kawadoko). 

Japanese accounts use the term 納涼床, pronounced nōryō-yuka or nōryō-doko. Jim Breen translates this as “raised platform on the bank of a river for enjoying the summer cool.” Visiting the website of the Kyoto Kamo River Nōryō-yuka Association, I found a detailed history. Here are some highlights. (Check their site for breathtaking photos.)

Roots in the 1600s Entertainment District

“Shijo Kawara Yusuzumi Kiitsu” by Yōzaburō Shirahata. “History of Kamo River Nouryou-yuka” 2021. https://yuka-kyoto.com/history/

The custom of enjoying the river breeze while dining outside dates back to the early 1600s when the riverbed became an entertainment district. Artist Shirahata’s print here shows people seated on mats directly on the riverbed. Wealthy clients sit on raised platforms outside the teahouses.  In the mid-Edo period (1603-1867), access to riverbed seating became regulated, allowing teahouses only a limited number of outside seats.  (History of Kamo River Nouryou-Yuka).

Evening Cool on the Riverbank

I’m re Evening Cool on the Riverbank. Utagawa Toyohiro (1773-1828). British Museum. Part of woodblock triptych.

The custom inspired artists, photographers, and writers.  This ukiyo-e (woodblock print) by Utagawa Toyohiro creates a sensual nōryō-yuka scene. The river flows, the robes flow, and perhaps the sake flows, too. In Geisha (1983), Liza Dalby observes how the print shows  “a geisha holding a shamisen, a maid with a kettle of sake, and a lady of pleasure on a wooden veranda over the Kamo River in the early 1800s” (50). 

I’m reminded that women in the 2000s enjoy the nōryō-yuka experience for their own pleasure.

Modern Summer Festivity

ca. 1870-1900. Rijksmuseum. Wikimedia Commons.

In the Meiji era (1868-1912), platforms were regularly erected in July and August. This photo features nōryō-yuka and apprentice geisha together as signs of summer leisure in Kyoto.  Today, too, one may catch sight of maiko and geiko hired to attend riverside parties. Walking along the river in 2015, I happened to see a maiko’s bright hair ornament (kanzashi) through the open window of a restaurant above the platforms. One also sees many groups of young people relaxing on the riverbanks closer to the water, enjoying the experience for free, rather like the crowds that flocked there centuries ago.

A Whiff of Nostalgia in the 2000s

This 2005 daytime photo captures the look of buildings that reflect a bygone era. In 1955, 40-50 establishments sought permission to construct platforms; in 2015, over 100 did. (History of Kamo River Nouryou-Yuka).

Photo by Wolfiewolf from Pontocho, Nakagyo, Kyoto. Wikimedia Commons, 2005.

Walking across the bridges over the Kamo River at night, one catches sight of yuka festivities.  It looks like a blaze of fun!

This reminds me of a wonderful farewell party. In 2005, UNC students, our guides, teachers, and I celebrated the end of our summer study with a nōryō-yuka party.  The weather was perfect.  We’d become a close group. The students had worked hard, literally day and night, learning about Japanese culture, education, and theater. They attended field trips, gave class presentations, and did their own research projects. Funny, I don’t have any photos of this memorable party, but I will never forget it. I wish I could have invited a maiko to join us but that was beyond our budget.

Closed in 2020, Platforms open again in 2021

View at Twilight. Photo by MShades. 2006. Wikimedia Commons

On May 1, 2021, the platforms along the Kamo River opened once again. But, with a twist–shorter hours and no alcohol–in response to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. According to Kyoto Shinbun, the season will extend through October this year, given the warmer months of early autumn. I hope visitors enjoy this year’s nōryō-yuka safely.

 

References
Liza Dalby. Geisha. University of California Press, 1983; 2008.

Find a detailed history of the yuka in English and Japanese : https://www.kyoto-yuka.com/about/history.html ; In English, https://yuka-kyoto.com/

You can find an intriguing historical analysis of nōryō-yuka at RADIANT, Ritsumeikan University Research Report: Issue #7, Kyoto: http://www.ritsumei.ac.jp/research/radiant/eng/kyoto/story6.html/

Jan Bardsley, “Enjoying summer breezes at Kamo River, Kyoto,” janbardsley.web.unc.edu, May 5, 2021.