Beautiful Geisha – Tea House of the Geisha – Ochaya Shima

Geisha-KitagawaUtamaro_FlowersOfEdo

Geisha-KitagawaUtamaro_Flowers of Edo

1820  Higashi Kuruwa – a high-class eastern pleasure quarter

After our visit to Nagamachi Samurai District we moved on to the Higashi Kuruwa, a high-class eastern pleasure quarter established by the Kaga  Clan in 1820. Wealthy merchants and men of letters sought the upper circles of society and its pleasures. In particular the geisha  performing the many Japanese fine arts; musical instruments – the Koto (Japanese Harp), the Shamisen (a three-stringed instrument), shakuhachi (bamboo flute) and drums. I found it hard to imagine a Kimono clad Geisha playing drums?

The Higashi Kuruwa, high-class eastern pleasure quarter in the Edo Period, Tea house of the Geisha

The Higashi Kuruwa, high-class eastern pleasure quarter in the Edo Period, Tea house of the Geisha

Ochay-Shima-musical-Istrume

Traditional musical instruments played by the Geisha -the Koto (Japanese Harp),and Shamisen (a three-stringed instrument)

Ochaya Shima -  Drums - another skill of the Geisha

Ochaya Shima – Drums – skills of the Geisha (If only  I had a Kimono to wear and some talent!)

Geisha – highly skilled  in all the traditional fine art of Japan

The geisha,  highly skilled in many other fine arts such as Japanese traditional dance, singing – traditional songs – youkyoku (Noh songs), tea ceremony, literature and poetry. It takes many years of study and practice (up to five years in Kyoto) to become a Geisha, and now I understand why!

To be able to excel at all the arts to such a high standard of artistry and perfection is not mastered overnight!  The make-up and elegant  hair style of a Geisha, a special way of wearing a kimono are also skills to be learnt.  

The word geisha, made of two Japanese word ‘gei‘ meaning “art” and ‘sha‘ meaning “person who does”. In English the most literal translation of geisha is “artist”.

Geisha-kyoto-2004-11-21

Two Geisha conversing near the Golden Temple in Kyoto, Japan. Parts of the kimono and the special make-up are clearly visible. 2004-11-21 |Courtesy Daniel Bachler

“Maiko” apprentice Geisha

A young women who become an apprentice geisha is known as “maiko”. In  Japanese the word ‘mai’ means “dancing” and ‘ko’ means “child”. Maiko wear white make-up and a kimono of many bright colors. When finished their apprenticeship the Geisha wear a simpler kimono, and only use white make-up at  special times.

Guest room,sliding doors to waiting room - Ochaya ShimaTea House of the Geisha

Guest room,sliding doors to waiting room – Ochaya ShimaTea House of the Geisha

Ochaya Shima – Tea House of the Geisha

Ochaya Shima (Tea House) provided a fascinating look into the life of a Geisha in the days of the Samurai, the feudal lords of the Kaga Clan. This type of tea house would have been exclusively patronized by upper class merchants.Each waiting room has a guest room attached. The customer would sit in the guest room, the waiting room would serve as the “stage” for the Geisha who appears wearing a traditional Kimono to perform her song and dance routines. Customers would sip sake while being entertained by a Geisha.  There are three such rooms upstairs in the tea house  for entertaining.

Quarters of the proprietress on ground floor

Quarters of the proprietress on ground floor opening onto the garden.

Ochaya Shima (tea House) Japanese garden

Ochaya Shima (tea House) Japanese garden

Shima tea house built 182 years ago, remains much the same today as it was then, except for  electric lighting and modern toilets. Many building restrictions imposed under Samurai rule included  height.  The tea houses including Ochaya  Shima one of the few building of its time allowed to have a second story, this indicates  how luxurious Shima was for that time. The Tea Houses each have a lattice door plastered with Benigara Koshi or Indian red, and a big door, a reminder of the atmosphere of the feudal days . 

 'Irori' or sunken hearth-overhead 'Jizai-kagi' an adjustable hanging hook

‘Irori’ or sunken hearth,overhead ‘Jizai-kagi’ an adjustable hanging hook

Traditional kitchen area Ochaya Shima - House of the Geisha

Traditional kitchen area Ochaya Shima – House of the Geisha

The Tea House is beautifully finished, decorated and furnished with lacquered wood surfaces, and cloisonne ware door catches. Guests rooms  are all on the upper floor. The proprietress have quarters on the ground floor looking out on a Japanese garden.  The dressing rooms for the Geisha are also on the ground floor.

Inside entrance door to Ochaya Shima

Inside entrance door to Ochaya Shima

This was such an interesting visit. I found the different hair adornments worn by the Geisha fascinating, the beautiful silk kimono they wear, and the many instruments these talented ladies had to master. Sadly, the only thing missing on our visit to Ochaya Shima or Shima (tea house) is a Geisha to perform for us.

Ochaya Shima (Tea house) Hair adornments of a Geish

Ochaya Shima (Tea house) Hair adornments of a Geisha

One more stop before leaving –  about gold leaf and artisans of Kanazawa….


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