“Hello, children, welcome back, on this glorious snowy day in January (1464). Settle down comfortably with your warm wool blankets and hot green tea, under this bare willow tree, and I will continue my tale from yesterday.”
Willow Rose waits while the small group of aspiring monks and nuns, ten young children, ages ranging from five years to ten years, sit before her.
“And so, later on, when the sun began to set behind the mountain top, I went into my room, stained my lips the color red with a stick of oily red substance I purchased from a group of women who worked out of a cart, with many jingling jewels and midriffs showing. I thought to myself, this red color upon my lips, will be very appealing and pretty for my new employment. Remember, children, I am still ignorant and young at this point in the tale, and figure everyone I meet is good and has good intentions.
“Once my lips were red, my clothes neat and tidy upon my figure, I was off to the theatre to meet the elderly lady and to find out what my new profession will be.
“‘Goodbye Mother and Father, I am off to my meeting,” I said joyfully as I made my way to the door.
“My father was still sitting in his chair by the window, and my mother exited the kitchen to say goodbye to me and good luck. Before she spoke, though, she gasped and placed her hand upon her chest, and was about to state, here I am assuming, for me to remove this red substance off my lips, but one stern glance from my father told her silently to keep her lips shut. So, instead of voicing an objection, she kept her lips tightly shut in a thin line, and nodded to me and waved, a silent motion of good faith and luck, and went back into the kitchen, a safe haven to her, but a place I like to avoid.”
The children giggle, because they know how Willow Rose’s noodles taste. The majority of the children present prefer the strange mushrooms growing in the courtyard than her crusty overcooked noodles, but they do not voice this to their mentor, for they respect her highly and enjoy her stories.
“My father than nodded to me in his silent, expressionless way, and stated ‘Good luck, then.’
“And off I went, exited my warm home into the chill of the evening. My spirit was high, full of unspoken possibilities and hopes for my future. I will soon be supporting myself. My parents will not have to worry about me any longer. Those were my thoughts as I made my way to the theatre, full of joy and innocent positivity.
“In time, before the moon was high in the sky, sky now a purple hue, I made it to the theatre. At its entrance I was greeted by the blacksmith who saw me just the other day. His wear is neat and clean, a white kimono and black hakama.
“‘Hello, young one, my you look lovely tonight. Okasan is in the dressing area of the theatre. Come, I will lead you there,’ said he with a pleasant smile. After those words he held his arm out for me to hold. I graciously accepted, and then was guided to the dressing room, pass the rows of seats partly full, as if people were arriving for a show, but the stage was bare.
“In the dressing room, sitting before a vanity with an obsidian mirror, was the elderly woman I saw yesterday, dressed in a royal blue kimono, with a white floral design, and matching hakama and obi, with a white collar around her neckline. She was beautiful to me, with fine lines around her lips and eyes, but the beauty of youth still in her soul shining through deep brown eyes. This is the one the man called Okasan, Mother. A name so familiar to me, for it reminded me of my own Mother, of security but strict discipline. I wondered, how will this Okasan be?
“She turned away from the vanity once her hair was wrapped neatly in a bun on top of her head. Her lips were in a thin line, and her gaze moved up and down, as she silently studied me.
“Come here, girl,” she spoke soft but firm, as she retrieved a long line of tweed from the inside of her obi.
“I slowly took the steps that led to be in front of her, my gaze directed at my feet as I hugged my arms around my chest.
“‘How old are you?’ she asked.
“15 years,’ was my simple response.
“She nodded. ‘Spread your arms wide as if you were a bird to take flight,’ said she as she stood up. I obeyed silently. She then proceeded to measure my arms, waist, and thighs. One eyebrow was lifted as she measured and lips perked up as she concentrated.
“‘You will do, your petite frame is perfect for what I have in mind. Your wear is just fine, too. You are my shikomi-san, and if you pass the schooling, you will be a maiko, and then one day a geisha. Come, the show will begin. You will soon see what it is to be a true geisha.” She then walked away, across the small room that held three vanities, and to a door that I did not notice before.
“I followed her, curious thoughts echoing in my mind, with many questions that I did not voice. A geisha? I have only heard tales of such women, some that relate to good morals and art, while others speak of bad morals and despicable behavior. Which tale is true?
“Through the door was the back of the stage, now dimly lit with lanterns, and before the closed curtains were placed three wooden armless chairs. The middle seat had a taiko placed before it.
“I stood beside Okasan, who remained standing with clasped hands before her hips. She let out one, tweet like whistle, and with that signal appeared a woman in elegant wear, but details of the wear were unclear, for there are only two lit lanterns behind the curtain, one on each far wall, creating shadows as the flames flickered. The woman appeared to seemingly out of nowhere, but I knew that was only an illusion, a door must have opened from the other side. The woman sat in the middle seat, and then appeared two other women, elegantly dressed with an instrument in hand. The woman who sat in the seat to the right placed a koto upon her lap, the one who sat to the left held a peculiar instrument that I learned later was called a pan’s flute, imported from Italy.
“Soon, the curtains were drawn, and the lantern lights shined upon the stage, helping me to view the three beauties clearly, and the view before me was magical.
“The young woman to the right had a taka shimada hair style and modest décor in her hair. Her face had a light layer of rice powder upon it. Around the eyes was a light layer of red dye. Her bottom lip was partly colored, top lip not colored. She wore a light yellow kimono and matching hakama with a red obi with white embroidery and matching collar. Upon her feet were okobos.
“The lady in the center was older, nearing middle age it seemed. Her hair style was a subushi shimada and she had no décor in her hair, nor make up upon her face, and her eyebrows were long, not short like the ladies sitting at her sides. Her kimono and matching hakama was a plain color of off white, and around her waist was a thin white obi, nearly blending in with the attire. Upon her feet were getas. She placed her palms upon the taiko and waited for the signal to begin.
“The woman seated to the left had a taka shimada hairstyle and no decorations in her hair. Her top lip was colored red, light layer of rice powder upon her skin, and a light shade of rose on her cheeks. She wore a plain off-white color obi with red fringe around the edges and a light pink kimono with matching hakama. In her hands was the peculiar pan’s flute. The women’s lips were perked, appearing like a flower bud.
“A flower bud, like you. A rose bud,” says one girl of the age of six with a giggle. The other children laugh at her pun.
Willow Rose smiles with humor at the children. “Yes, a bit like me. Now, let me continue,”
The children fall silent.
“The audience applaud as the curtains were drawn open, then were silent, waiting in anticipation for the performer to enter the stage. I felt the quiet excitement of the audience, because I too had the same curious excitement, ready to view how the performance will go.
“The lady with the taiko began a gentle rhythm, matching the beating of the humans’ hearts present in the room, a mesmerizing rhythm that drew you into another place. Then the Koto joins in, soon pan’s flute too. Now all were being played in unison, in a tune indescribable with words. The beat of the taiko, the light whistle of the pan’s flute, and the tinging of the Koto as it’s being plucked upon a young woman’s lap was enough to put joyful tears to your eyes, or possibly sad tears, depending how the music moved you.
“The curtain to the far left of the stage was slightly moved, as if a gentle breeze was present only in that spot. At first, no one was there, but soon an image did appear, as if out of nowhere, and that image was breathtaking and unforgettable to me.”
Two of the children present shift in their seated positions, their bums sore from sitting for so long.
“The image was of a young woman dressed in an elaborate floral designed, bright pink kimono with matching hakama, a deep red obi with white floral design, tied in big a elaborate bow in back, and a taka shimada hairstyle with intricate décor of combs, beads, and cherry blossoms. She had one palm on her left hip, and in her right hand was a hand fan, fanned out, over her face, extenuating her elaborate hairstyle. Her eyes, that which were painted a strip of red over white powered face, was all that showed.
“She swayed her hips to the music and then began a dance, with hips swaying, feet lightly shuffling in okobos. As she moved she removed the fan from her face, showing lips perked like a flower bud, lips partly colored red. She fluttered her eyelashes momentarily, as her hips and arms waved gently. The long hanging sleeves created the illusion of a wave like breeze. A taiki, koto, and the pan’s flute were heard in the distance as this maiko danced. She did not speak, nor hum, nor sing, only danced, swayed her arms, and made subtle expressions with her eyes only, and kept her lips in a perked fashion. Her body, the way she swayed her arms, modestly swayed her head, and moved across the stage with a grace that takes years to master in such high, hard to balance in getas.
“Each time she came to the corner or edge of the stage she bowed in silent gratitude. One man in the center front row seat raised his hands momentarily above his head when she bowed before him. I noticed this man’s affectionate smile to the young woman dancing so elegantly, modestly, telling a story with her body of her home Koya, and how she came to be the woman present. From where I stood I could tell the man is wearing a yellow kimono, elegantly made; it must have been made of silk the way it shined in the dim light of the lanterns. He must have been a man of high class. In fact, all present appeared to be of higher caste. I wondered, what does this all mean to me? I only come from a modest background, a family of rice farmers and merchants, what good will I be here, to the people who appear high caste? And these women in their elaborate wear… how can I, of modest and humble wear and nature, fit in with such extravagance?
“The show ended, but my wonderment did not. The ladies exited the stage on opposite side, disappeared in a mysterious part of the theatre not in my sight, created the illusion of disappearing in thin air, a mysterious aura deepening the dramatic performance. The audience clapped in glee, the excitement of a great performance filled the air.
“Okasan took my arm and guided me back to the dressing area, where we sat alone once more. I told her of my thoughts, of my humble beginnings, and my curiosity of what it means to be a geisha, and the different paths I’ve heard of.
“She listened in silence to me. Once my worries were off my chest, she stated, ‘there are two paths one can walk on, child, and one path is good the other is bad. There is a middle path, chosen by a selected few, that tries to have a balance between the two paths, to blend it into one, to see past the perceived reality of social conditioning. But that middle path is not studied at my theatre, nor is the path of bad intentions. This school I run is not for the prostitutes or women of no discipline, faith, or education. I am a teacher, and I choose to instruct you on what it means to be a lady in Koya, and how to serve the gentlemen of the highest caste, and provide pleasant and clean entertainment. You may choose the path of good intentions, bad intentions, or the one I do not speak of, the middle way. One path you will have a mentor, me, and the others you will have to find direction on your own. It is up to you, the choice is always yours. So, decide dear one, which path would you like to tell your parents you will follow?
“And that is all for today, you will hear my response tomorrow.”
The children groaned as they left the sitting area before the willow tree, to rejoin the duties of the day.
Willow Rose, a character I had in a game called Renaissance Kingdoms. The game has three ‘kingdoms’ connected to the renaissance era: Europe, Japan, and Aztec. This character is Japanese, from Shogun Kingdoms. I connected the main role plays I had there, gathered them into a document, and a collection of tales were created. This is, Chapter one, of Willow Rose, an imaginative piece of me, who kept me sane in years of confusion (February 2007 to August 2016). I Have edit the post only a little, you may take note as I post the chapters, the improvement of my writing style. Stay tuned for more throughout the year, one chapter per month. Enjoy. Further tales will include my other characters, Arial de Grey and High Priestess.