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 Post subject: Discussion of the Week: The Modern Hanamachi
PostPosted: Sun Jan 31, 2010 10:24 am 
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Been too long without one of these and it's been a bit quiet, guys! :)

What do you guys think of the modernity that the Hanamachi's have made? For example, the Hanamachi, especially Miyagawa-Cho are becoming more public versus private. More and more push is made to preserve the Hanamachi, while at the same time revealing the secretive flower and willow world. Yet, with these changes, is it really preservation? There are now events where you get to see a Maiko dance for $5 about. Will the hanamachi allow first time customers without an introduction in? Or what changes do you foresee happening in the future? What ways do you think the hanamachi should change?


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 Post subject: Re: Discussion of the Week: The Modern Hanamachi
PostPosted: Mon Feb 01, 2010 12:27 am 
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I was talking to a friend about this subject just a little while ago. He attends ozashiki in Miyagawacho, and I asked him what he thought about all of the tourism promotions Kyoto has been putting out that involve maiko, and the meet-a-maiko for five dollar deal.

He said that the tourism promotions were mostly just a bother for them, which I thought made sense. As he put it, none of the people who do the meet maiko for cheap plans actually become long-term customers, so they don't actually bring any new revenue. Those plans are usually set up with the idea of large tourists groups from businesses, schools, etc. It's a way to make their trip more memorable, but no one really makes a profit from it. Either the maiko (and by extenion, the okiya) is short-changed or the agency that set it up was. I mean, how can anyone who's used to charging $100 an hour and getting $100 tips make a profit when the customer is only paying five dollars? You would need at least twenty customers at one go just to give only one maiko what she would have charged without tip. I know that doesn't mean they hate going to those events, but I bet whoever's balancing the account doesn't like those promotions.

He said that what the hanamachi really need are more long-term customers, but that it is still very difficult to get them. He said that there are ways other than a long introduction via another long-term customer, such as the bars attached to ochaya. Visit those enough, and you might get approved for entering the inner sanctem... but that doesn't change the fact that A. you need to find the bar B. you need to be allowed in C. You need to go there a lot and spend lots of money. It's still not exactly easy to get more long-term customers, and TV documentaries don't exactly help. TV ads make it easier to attract more girls towards the geisha profession, but they really don't do that much in attracting more customers. He also said that many of the hanamachi's own tradition are getting in the way of a thriving hanamachi, but without them they wouldn't be the same anymore.

What I found interesting in my talk with him was that he didn't use the term hanamachi at all, he strictly used the term Kagai. I hear that term far more often now in modern documentaries and ads. I'm wondering if perhaps the term hanamachi is a touch outdated...

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 Post subject: Re: Discussion of the Week: The Modern Hanamachi
PostPosted: Mon Feb 01, 2010 11:46 pm 
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Forgive my ignorance Fuyohime but what does "Kagai" mean, or is just another name for Hanamachi?
Not that i have any connections whatsoever with anyone in Kyoto... but i would think that sure the meet a maiko thing would produce some good customers, perhaps not of the caliber of the old-school customers who would come often and spend heaps, but those who come occasionally and go lavish when they are there (make sense?)
I think that the system has to loosen up a lil or the girl's will eventually be out of customers.
I'm quite fond of the okaasan from the Hanafuse okiya (in miyagawho cho) because she does all those docos (kikuyu and the dawn porter one) and also has a henshin studio. I think by doing those things its raising awareness of the profession and getting fresh blood into the system. That and she is a savvy business woman :wink:

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 Post subject: Re: Discussion of the Week: The Modern Hanamachi
PostPosted: Tue Feb 02, 2010 3:51 am 
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Vogel wrote:
Forgive my ignorance Fuyohime but what does "Kagai" mean, or is just another name for Hanamachi?
Not that i have any connections whatsoever with anyone in Kyoto... but i would think that sure the meet a maiko thing would produce some good customers, perhaps not of the caliber of the old-school customers who would come often and spend heaps, but those who come occasionally and go lavish when they are there (make sense?)


Kagai is another word for hanamachi, often using the same kanji. I hear it a lot more often now.

Well, as my conversation went, my friend said that the promotions put on by Kyoto don't produce long-term customers at all. Those meet-a-maiko for cheap plans are generally done people on vacation who are looking for an inexpensive way to make their trip to Kyoto more memorable. What better way to do than to meet a maiko? But people who do that don't plan on coming back, setting up connections to the district, and helping the maiko and geiko there suceed.

And besides, the only way those meet-a-maiko for cheap plans can work is if they have massive amounts of people doing it at one go. Gion Corner has big buses of people come in, and each one spends more that $5 to watch two maiko dance Gion Kouta. These other plans would need at least 40 people sitting there paying more than $5 to cover the cost of two maiko's hourly rate plus tip, the cost for the venue, the food, and the agency that set it up. If they don't get that many people and they don't pay a lot of money, then they aren't making a profit at all and it's a complete waste of time.

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 Post subject: Re: Discussion of the Week: The Modern Hanamachi
PostPosted: Fri Feb 05, 2010 5:38 am 
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I'd just like to point out that if the girls were booked solid or were making enough money without them, they wouldn't do the tourist parties and other stuff. As it is, I heard delicious stories about having to accept declasse customers.

FOR INSTANCE, there is one older overweight guy who goes to a different district every other night, shows up for all special events like erikae, etc. He showed me these books filled with maiko purikura pictures he'd taken with them, books filled with pictures of parties, etc. So, I'm sitting there like "dude if you're all up in there, why do you come hang out here every night on the street?" I lived in nagoya full time, so I couldn't be in kyoto all the time, but even if I had been in kyoto 24/7, I'd only go on the weekends, you know? O__o
So anyway, it turns out, he doesn't hold his own parties, he goes to other people's because he was a gov official before his retirement and it's japan, so wink wink nudge nudge. but everyone knows he visits in many districts, and he's viewed as having country manners. he took a certain maiko to baikasai last year, and she totally ignored him the whole time and didn't even try to hide her distaste! And sometimes he went to home bars and only paid for the maiko's time and didn't get anything to drink, which is a dick move because then the bar can't profit from his being there. and then the next time he saw me, he'd be like "oh, so I went to so-and-so'd home bar and hung out with so-and-so," and I'd be like, "ongratulations?" so bascially, the moral of the story is that, because the girls need money and have time slots not booked up, they have to accept customers like this.

the only positive about declasse customers like this is that they are customers at all, and repeat customers. it just sucks that they have to deal with them in the first place O__o;;;


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 Post subject: Re: Discussion of the Week: The Modern Hanamachi
PostPosted: Sat Feb 06, 2010 5:26 am 
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LOL!!! Ikimaru i can see that happening too! :D
i like that idea about the okiya website with a photo and the girl's name, but then you sort of get that with the odori programs so maybe they think that's enough?
A blog would be really cool
Compact: i know rude customers sucks, but you get that with any job.

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 Post subject: Re: Discussion of the Week: The Modern Hanamachi
PostPosted: Sat Feb 06, 2010 4:27 pm 
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Ikimaru wrote:
I know truly wonder if a go-between system can't be set up in a more....modern fashion. Such as a website where you can book the party pending credit approval by the booking agency themselves, and NOT the ochaya. Perhaps it could be a functionally of the kenban, or a split agency from it.


I don't think it would be possible to have a system where the ochaya isn't involved. They run the space the parties take place in and order the food, they need to know who wants a party at their establishment and the ability to refuse that person. If more and more control is taken away from them, then they'll be forced into a position where they'd be taking customers who they don't know and don't trust to pay them. If the kenban had taken on the duties of go-between, then they would become liable to pay back the ochaya for their lost money... and that could quickly become a lot of money.

I think a lot of people would be... iffy on making an online record of each maiko and geiko. I know a lot of host/hostess clubs make catalogues of their boys and girls to help with the customer's selection... and I definitely know brothels used to and often still do that as well. I think making an online catalogue of each girl would reek too much of the lower dregs of the water business, even though it would probably be extremely helpful.

I know the geisha districts need to do some major changing, but I think any changes they make in a good direction for business would probably be felt to be a bad decision for tradition. Downer mentioned the current geisha of Kanagawa in her visit and how they put on shows for the tourists and let them get up close to talk, and that while it's great for spreading the word, the mystery of the hanamachi had been lost completely.

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 Post subject: Re: Discussion of the Week: The Modern Hanamachi
PostPosted: Sun Feb 07, 2010 10:05 am 
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Its kinda like the similar problem back in the day with whether the geiko were going to be the fashionistas ( i don't have a clue how to spell that tho, lol) and incorporate the western wear into their work or to become the historical, cultural icons they are today.
In that case tradition was chosen over change.
As for how to get more customers coming in I wouldn't have a clue.
i would say getting a business women in to run it would help because then it'd be a business to keep afloat, ( and the money matters taken more seriously) rather than the cultural aspect of the job ruling the matter.
Hope that ade sense... :oops:

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 Post subject: Re: Discussion of the Week: The Modern Hanamachi
PostPosted: Sun Feb 07, 2010 1:46 pm 
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Well,i don´t know if you guys observed it but have you all noticed that to survive,the hanamachis will have to be "Edo Era-like" again?

All you talked about,being more open,gain costumers troughly tiourists shows,being fashionists etc,it is not modern indeed in my point of view.It is more like to come back to the primourdious time of geisha busniess than turning the hanamachis into a kind of disneyworld.

Of course,considering our present history time,rules(iki for exemple) would be more than wellcome...they will continue with their role of traditional presenvation,but with the procedure of the old times,before oiran/tayuu fall.

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 Post subject: Re: Discussion of the Week: The Modern Hanamachi
PostPosted: Sun Feb 07, 2010 6:06 pm 
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Ikimaru wrote:
While I understand your input, Fuyou, you have not yet mentioned any actual suggestions as to what the geisha could do to bring in more repeat customers. It is one thing to shoot down suggestions (actually, it's quite fun!) but entirely another to ignore the topic of discussion.

Again, I close my statement by stating that I fully understand that the system within the hanamachi greatly dislikes what I would suggest, since they would rather stick to tradition. But I say, again, make a choice. Change. Or Die out.


I don't see how I was ignoring the topic, I was saying there were problems with each idea suggested. That's contributing to the conversation. I do believe that all ideas towards change need to be reviewed and revised, and that if any idea suggested in this topic was perfect in all ways, it would have been implemented already. It's not like the different hanamachi are twiddling their thumbs, just waiting around for something to happen. I'm pretty sure they've thought about what they should do to get more customers, and that they haven't come up with the brilliant solution that gets more customers who are willing to spend lots of money along with preserving their traditions.

In all honesty, I don't believe that solution exists at all, which is why I haven't suggested it. The hanamachi will have to lose its mystery if it wants to get more business, and when that happens it won't be nearly as interesting as it used to be. I think many of the people in the different hanamachi are aware of the fact that their main draw is how prestigious they are, how shadowy their world is. If they lose that, they won't have the same allure anymore.

And honestly, I don't see how your suggestion for an online catalogue of the different maiko and geiko will draw in new customers. It seems like an extension of the documentaries, it tells us a lot about the different girls, but it doesn't change the fact that there aren't a whole lot of people who can or want to drop about a thousand dollars just to talk them. Especially not when they can learn about them for free on the internet.

Personally, I believe the only guaranteed way to get more customers would be to drop prices. But then not only will they lose their prestige but also they won't be able to afford their expenses. So despite everything that's been suggested, nothing can be done about the fact that most people can't afford to be repeat customers in the hanamachi.

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 Post subject: Re: Discussion of the Week: The Modern Hanamachi
PostPosted: Mon Feb 08, 2010 11:21 am 
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I hardly think if Geisha were 'less mysterious' that they would be less interesting. If the mystery is all that interests a person, it's well. . .oh well. I could easily argue that the Geisha have really lost most of their mystery. If not, why do we have all the information we do? Sure, there's a lot of things we don't know, but I certainly don't think we're at the tip of the iceberg in terms of what we know, or can find out in what has been published and the little tasty tidbits of info we get from those over in Japan.

Lowering their prices would hardly help. It would undermine the business they already have with only a small return.

I'm with Ikimaru, get some translators in there, some english teachers and get some wealthy rich, European, American business men( or women for that matter ) or even those stock traders who will do anything to show off their wealth. I'm talking about affluent people, the kind who think prestige is being the one to make the biggest donation at a charity event. These are people who enjoy fine wines, beautiful paintings, and super cars. Now how about an exotic trip to Japan to be entertained by mysterious and beautiful Geisha? If there were more ways in, with a better communication of it being done, I think there could be huge business involved. I hardly think it would be 'opening up' the Geisha world to the 'public' world, but opening it up to more business channels across the world and allowing the Geisha not just a domestic playing field, but a world playing field.

And I forgot to add, I think opening it to the world's elite, instead of Japan's elite, would also bring a errr. . . a lot of new recruits.

As Vogel and Ikimaru have said, the Kagai is a business. Any smart business person knows if they're driving towards a wall, they make changes, and they make them quickly. The only district that has done any modernization has been Miyagawa-Cho, and in my opinion, it seems the only stable district of the lot.


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 Post subject: Re: Discussion of the Week: The Modern Hanamachi
PostPosted: Mon Feb 08, 2010 12:55 pm 
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The thing is, Geisha haven't even been these uber traditionalists for even a century. Yes, by the 1940's things had. . . well, started being chiseled in stone. I'm not saying to make them dress different, I'm saying open their doors to rich customers all over the world.

The way things are going, the state will be having to support Geisha, and then they will be little more than moving museum pieces, and really actresses versus the real thing.


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 Post subject: Re: Discussion of the Week: The Modern Hanamachi
PostPosted: Tue Feb 09, 2010 6:05 am 
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Tsuruko: an international audience? That's probably the best suggestion I've heard so far.
The Kagai would be able to chose the best (I.E. richest) clients, tho they mightn't be return customers.
I remember reading in Mineko's book about entertaining the Queen and Prince Charles.
Why doesn't stuff happen like that now?
I think you might be right also about the "mystery" aspect of it, its a delicate line between what the public knows and doesn't know and yet still keep them interested.

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 Post subject: Re: Discussion of the Week: The Modern Hanamachi
PostPosted: Sun Feb 14, 2010 2:21 am 
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Fuyouhime wrote:
The hanamachi will have to lose its mystery if it wants to get more business, and when that happens it won't be nearly as interesting as it used to be.


I just have to say this is so true, at least for me now that I've come to read about, research, discuss, and follow the goings-on of the Kyoto hanamachi, that it really isn't as interesting or even as beautiful as I once thought it was. I still love it and my passion will never die *_* but it has certainly changed. You get a lot of amateur and/or tourist photographers taking pics of maiko and geiko and it's like "meh". They capture the reality of the setting, of the way these girls look, without the glamourous and fancy work of more professional photographers. Not to mention seeing pics or videos where you see a maiko/geiko and then the whole swarm of photographers around them sort of turns off that feeling of privacy and mystique for me.

I do think they will ultimately have to modernize to survive, but I don't think they would have to get rid of their kimono or anything terribly drastic... they're geisha after all and a certain ambiance is expected. From what I've gleaned, there seems to be a false aura of "the old days" about geisha. Yes they dress like they do, perform only traditional music and dance, but parties just look like parties, especially with all their yofuku-clad guests. They are ritualistic, but I think more loosely traditional. They have to keep up with present culture being people of the present and entertaining people of the present... lol, I can just imagine a geiko saying "So how about that battle at Dan-no-Ura? Crazy stuff huh? Or the Meiji restoration, what a shake-up."

Instead of an internet-style catalog I think they could keep to something where you still have to go a bit out of your way to learn more about the girls. Maybe meet-and-greet sessions? I dunno, really I have no sway in what they choose to do, but I know I would want to know the women as more than just pretty faces if I were to ever hold an ozashiki. People probably come to know geiko and maiko by who the hosts of their parties invite, no? Well what if some of the guests came to be able to host their own parties and didn't really feel a connection to any of the geiko they had met before, or wanted to see what else was out there? How would they do that?

I'd love to have an internet catalog of geiko and maiko just out of my own pure interest XD But that's sorta what this place is, except there is no money or parties involved T_T

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 Post subject: Re: Discussion of the Week: The Modern Hanamachi
PostPosted: Tue Jan 04, 2011 12:17 pm 
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Hello all :)

In my opinion every person has a Mystery all to themselves. Hey thats why I'm still married to my husband after 7 years ^^
I think that so long as these girls are taught to explore their own inner mysteries and to be proud and confident about them there will be a elevated place for them in the world. To my mind, seeing all the pictures and watching the documentaries that is their greatest allure... tradition is involved as part of their path but the modernity of the individual's 'presence' is just as valid.

My two pennies ^^
Hachiko :chuuu:

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