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Even Professionals Practice Too

Today I went to Nishi Chaya (just like the other popular tea district, Higashi Chaya but in the West instead of the East) to watch geisha and meiko at their dance practice for an upcoming performance.

That's Nishi Chaya with it's traditional wooden-latticed teahouses.

We went inside a building which had a large tatami practice room on the second floor with a raised wooden stage. They were already at work when we arrived: some meiko (geisha in training) brought us tea and a snack before sitting gracefully, seiza style, with their legs tucked beneath them. It's the polite way to sit but your ankles and legs fall asleep and start to ache within a few minutes.

The teacher was an old Japanese man. He was very nice when he talked to me, albeit briefly, but when the dance practice resumed he turned into a nit-picking, fan-slapping fiend.

Here he is doing the motions along with them. Despite his age he was very agile.

The longest dance was a duet, story dance with a man (obviously not a geisha, but a famous local performer) and a woman. The story goes (I had it explained to me) is that the woman is a princess an the man is a kitsune (mischievous fox spirit) disguised as a man. The princess has a drum that she's playing, and the fox wants the drum because its skin is made from his parents.

He was equally picky with these dancers as well; oftentimes he made them repeat a part over and over again. You can't discount the hard work that geisha and traditional performers put into their craft. It's nothing like the stereotypical Memoirs of a Geisha movie. This was definitely a treat to see.

Also everyone keeps telling me my face is small. Apparently that's a good thing.


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