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  • Beniko

28. A Human Jukebox

Today, Maiko (舞妓) has become very popular, but back then in my times, Maiko were considered as mere trainees of Geiko (芸妓). People never treated us as an independent professional at Ozashiki (お座敷, a banquet with Maiko and Geiko in traditional Tatami rooms). Besides there were many Maiko. In order to be called to Ozashiki, we had to do something different from others in order to impress the customers.

When a Maiko is left alone without a Ozashiki job, it is referred to as "Ocha wo hiku (お茶を挽く, grinding tea)". It's very disgraceful and we were so afraid of it. In addition, if you are "Ocha wo hiku", you will be charged with penalties of cleaning the powder room and washing other Maiko's Tabi (足袋) socks. For that reason, all of us were frantically driven to develop one's own sales points. Some Maiko developed a skill of mimicking, some pretended to be a big-eater, and some even did a headstand in our heavy costume.

What I came up with was a human jukebox. I guess many of you remember the jukebox machines at coffee shops some time ago. You put a coin in it, choose a song from the list, and music is played. I invented to do it by myself by singing songs requested from customers. In-between my classes and Ozashiki jobs, I practiced my singing very hard as for a various kinds of songs. My repertorie became huge ranging from Japanese popular music, military songs, nursery songs, to folklore songs, and thanks to that, my calls for Ozashiki increased. When I was asked to sing a song I don't know, I used to say, "Sorry, it's sold out today" and the Ozashiki was filled with laughter. I gained a stable popularity as a "Human Jukebox Maiko".

The other day, a song I used to sing as a human jukebox suddenly occurred to me. For my surprise, I still knew the lyrics, and as I hummed the song, I vividly recalled my days as a Maiko.

Thank you very much.

Talk to you soon.




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