• Beniko

40. Language Spoken in Hanamachi

People in Kyoto do not like the term "Kyoto accent". For us, it's not an "Accent". We call it Kyo Kotoba (京ことば, Kyoto Language) and we are more or less stubborn about it. My father used to frown when he heard a term "Daimonji-yaki (大文字焼き)" on TV shows. The term is often spoken as a common name for Gozan no okuribi (五山の送り火, Send-off bonfire on five mountains, annually held in Kyoto on August 16), and for him the term is just a tasteless fake. The suffix "yaki" is mainly used for fried food and he didn't like it. Anyways, here I would like to introduce three styles of Kyoto language, aside from our average one: 1) "Gosho kotoba (御所ことば)", spoken among noblemen at Imperial Court in the old times and orally preserved till today, 2) "Nakagyo kotoba (中京ことば)" spoken among merchants in the Muromachi (室町) or the Nishijin (西陣) district, and,

3) "Hanamachi kotoba (花街ことば)" spoken among Maiko (舞妓) and Geiko (芸妓) and associated people. The famous suffix "Dosu (どす)" typically imagined as Kyoto accent is actually a Hanamachi kotoba. Therefore, I had never heard of people speak Dosu until I became a Maiko. When you become a Shikomi-san (仕込みさん, the first grade of Maiko trainee), the first thing you have to learn is these Hanamachi kotoba. If you are very new, you'll be OK if you can say "Ohkini (おおきに, thank you)", "Sunmahen (すんまへん, sorry)", and "Otano moushimasu (おたの申します, please)". However, as you get experienced, you'll be required to fluently speak other expressions. Even for me who was born in Kyoto, Hanamachi Kotoba was difficult and it took me sometime before I become able to speak entirely that way. At Ozashiki (お座敷, Maiko banquet, Maiko's work place), I used to feel sorry for my colleagues from other regions. No matter how hard they tried, customers always recognized and told them that they were not from Kyoto. I knew something was different. Thank you very much. See you soon.