• Beniko

20. Jidai Matsuri (Festival of Ages)


We Maiko (舞妓) are requested to take part in parades of both Jidai Matsuri (時代祭り, Festival of Ages) and Hanagasa Junko (花笠巡行) of Gion Festival (祇園祭り) alternatively every other year. As a Maiko, I also had my turns.

Very early in the morning, I had to go to Gosho (御所, the former Imperial palace), and was changed into a different person by the hands of professional stylists. I also remember that I had to restrain from drinking water from the previous night, since using bathroom was impossible during the parade.

At Ozashiki (お座敷, Maiko banquet), a customer curiously asked me about the character I was assigned to be in the parade. My role was Izumo no Okuni (出雲の阿国, an actress in the Azuchi Momoyama period, who created the foundation of Kabuki play), and as he heard my answer, he laughed saying I was too small for the role. However, I didn’t care, because by that time, being six month old after my Omisedashi (お店だし, debut), I was well trained and getting accustomed to talk back smartly. I said “Oh, you’re mean! You should say that my Okuni will be very pretty!”.

There was a Maiko who wanted to take a role of Tomoe Gozen (巴御前, a female worrier in the Heian period). For that purpose, she even took a horse riding course. The role of brave female samurai warrior seemed to be very cool indeed, but in fact, the role was very difficult. You have to ride a horse wearing a set of heavy armor with a sword in your hand. Since I had a phobia of heights, I didn't want to get the role, but the aspiring Maiko finally gave up after several horse riding classes, saying “I cannot do this. For sure I will fall, let alone in an armor!”.

You know, looks are so deceiving. After all, I and the Maiko ended up cheered for joy, enchanted by the brave figure of our Oneisan (お姉さん, mentor Geiko) dressed in Tomoe Gozen costume high on the horseback.

Now that several decades have passed since then, some are changed and some remained. I recall many memories of Jidai Mtsuri. Though I never had a chance to experience Tomoe Gozen role, I still find myself wondering how the views from the horseback are every time I see the Jidai Matsuri parade.

Thank you very much.

Talk to you later.

Beniko

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