So what has resulted from all this wandering? We were invited to return to the town’s New Year’s festivities at the Civic Hall the next year where I was able to play my shamisen with much more confidence – including singing and playing a kouta that accompanies one of the dances Hachihana performs.
Live music and dancing at once – not to concert standard on my part but good enough for either ozashiki or to give people a taste of Japan’s most iconic instruments. I performed a public Tea Ceremony at last summer’s ozashiki which resulted in tasty matcha tea and wagashi sweets and was invited to perform at a few private parties around the town.
One particular party I remember was hosted by Transition Town Totnes. It was in collaboration with the local Japanese community and for people who were visiting from Japan to learn more about the movement. One of my supporters asked me to come and perform at this event so I went along with my dance props and shamisen and did some nihon buyo and played and sang some songs. The warmth that exuded from the party towards me is something I will never forget, and the nostalgic murmurs from those who knew the tunes and sang along with me was a defining moment in my understanding of what I can do artistically and diplomatically.
The journey of what it has been like to be a Maiko for Totnes, to assemble a team that can provide competent ozashiki for the town and to be able to share some traditional Japanese culture with Gaijin and Nihonjin alike has been full of challenging and educational moments. After 5 years of Maikohood; many shakuhachi and shamisen lessons, self driven and nurtured study of dance and Tea Ceremony, and struggling less and less with the language, – it’s time to start thinking about what a Geisha is, and what it will mean to be a Geisha for Totnes.
All our members, past and present, have taught me things.. the practicality of living, working and sharing art together. The fact that we all view art from different angles means one Geisha will be very different from another Geisha. Maybe they all might look the same to some people from a distance but viewed up close maybe as a non ‘first customer’ at a party the personality and differences shine out. When we paint our faces it doesn’t ‘hide our face’ it makes our face stand out and draw in those who seek something of interest today, in this moment. We paint the parts of our faces that portray our emotion so that you can sense the kindness we like to share and so that you can join us in celebration.
A journey of zen.. the presence of the moment hidden, perhaps, in a lot of colour and laughter and art and games… but present none the less. And a dull mind is a boring mind where a distracted happy mind can become aware of new opportunities, plans, vistas and ideas. Sleeping minds awake!
I am enjoying this path of bringing Japanese art into my life and letting it describe a valley path through Sumi-e style mountains. I can feel it filtering into my art and expressions like the detail of the bright Maiko kimono colours and kanzashi.. off the ‘page’ and into my heart.
For a “little lotus” this is a big story….