• Beniko

16. Hassaku -Social Call Day in Summer-


Hassaku (八朔) is the annual event of making social calls on August 1st. Together with Geiko (芸妓), we Maiko (舞妓) pay visit to our Oshisho (お師匠, masters of dance or tea ceremonies), as well as to tea houses, in order to express our appreciation. In the old times, Hassaku was a custom widely practiced not only within Hanamachi (花街, Maiko and Geiko district), but also within the societies of Samurai (侍), nobles, and merchants.

In the Gion (祇園) district, Geiko and Maiko make their visits in formal crested Kimono (着物). We walk around with Oneisan (お姉さん, mentor Geiko), wearing summer Kimono called Karaage (からあげ) which is less heavy, holding sun shade umbrella. However, it's August 1st! It's very hot and humid. Our biggest mystery was the expressions of our Oneisan. They never sweat on their faces and walk around in a very cool and elegant manner. I used to admire their graceful figures very much.

Later my Oneisan told me, "There's no use of complaining. It doesn’t get any cooler no matter how much you moan." Well, I agreed...but it was still hot. When I got back to our Yakata (屋形, Maiko and Geiko house), I was literally soaked with sweat.

Some people believe that Maiko and Geiko tie our underarms tightly with a string, in order not to sweat. I haven't done that really, but I assume that many of us have an ability to pretend to be cool.

Due to the basin shaped land form, summer in Kyoto is hot and unbearably humid. It is hard even to imagine how people in ancient times survived without air conditioners. Well, I guess that’s how those traditional summer items such as Yoshi-shoji (葦障子, sliding door made of reed), Sudare (簾, bamboo blind), and Ajiro (網代, wickerwork carpet), were incorporated in our daily lives.

Every year, June 1st was the date of changing interior and furniture at our Yakata. Now that I am no longer a Maiko, I still mark the calendar on June 1st, and change beddings, cushions and ornaments into summer fashione. I really enjoy it.

Thank you very much.

See you later.

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