<However, before graduating from junior high school, I jumped into the Kyoto Hanamachi district. Part 1: An Exclusive Confession of a Former Maiko Who Accused the Maiko of “Tradition,” “Sexual Harassment of the Highest Order at the Age of 16,” we will continue with Part 2. Following the first part, we present the second part, in which Ms. Kiyoha Kiritaka reveals the deep darkness of a maiko’s life.>
The meaning of “taking a bath”
When Kiyoha was invited to the tatami room as a maiko, her mother told her one day to take a bath with her customers. “Bathing” means to have a maiko share a bath with a man who might be a maiko’s husband. It seems that this is sometimes a good opportunity for them to become patrons. It may be that this is a story offered by a man who wants to become a patron of a particular maiko, but in any case, it is nothing but a pain for a girl who is not even old enough to be a maiko. Sometimes she would travel with a customer. Since they were held for a longer period of time than in a tatami room, they could earn a lot of “hana-ai” (flower money). However, she did not receive any of the money, and although it was not one-on-one, it was hard for her to spend long hours as a maiko.
These things are considered “chic fun” among men with money. And it is considered “traditional culture” in Japan.
During her eight months as a maiko, she escaped twice. After being yelled at and lectured by her mother for hours, she decided to run away, untied her tied-up hair so as not to be recognized, and ran outside in a yukata, with her hair covered in oil. “I ran to the Shijo-Kawaramachi area and stopped a cab. I borrowed a cell phone from the driver and called my parents, who, in hindsight, seemed to be very familiar with the cab driver. In that area of Kyoto, it was not unusual for children to escape like that,” Seiba said.
She was about to “sell her virginity” for 50 million yen.
The main reason she decided to stop being a maiko was because she was almost sold for 50 million yen.
“They wanted me to take a husband. If I had a husband, I could quit being a maiko, or I Could go to the ozashiki and just continue dancing. 50 million yen is a lot of money, but when I think of it as the price of one person, I wasn’t very happy with the price. I think the money would be split between the Okiya and the teahouse. In any case, it won’t come to me.”
Then she woke up. She had thought that she could only live here, but she thought that was not true, and that she could see the world from a different perspective if she went out into the wider world.
“I myself had somehow come to believe that Kyoto was the center of the world. When I see the words “Tokyo,” I read them as “Higashi Kyoto, Azuma Kyoto.” That’s what happens when you are there. Hanamachi is all that matters.”
She declared that she would stop being a maiko. The Okiya told her parents to pay her millions or tens of millions of dollars, but eventually they told her, “Don’t worry about the money, just leave.”
After escaping from the “traditions” of Kyoto, Ms. Seiba later worked in clubs in Osaka and Tokyo. However, until she turned 20, she was not forced to drink at the clubs, and she strongly felt that her mother and senior hostesses at the clubs protected her.
She said, “When I was 18, a customer offered to pour me a glass of champagne to celebrate. I drank 18 bottles of ginger ale, as many as I was old enough to drink (laughs). That made me happy.”
Two years ago, she got married and had a baby last year. When she decided to become a writer in earnest, she felt that she could not move forward unless she faced up to herself as a maiko. Then, on Twitter, she wrote
“I may be erased from the world, but this is the reality of being a maiko. At the age of 16 I was forced to drink alcohol, and I was forced to take mixed baths with customers. (I escaped as fast as I could.) I would like you to reconsider whether this is really traditional culture.”
Even now, I am afraid of what people in Kyoto say about me. I don’t know what I am afraid of, but I guess I still have a sense that Kyoto is everything to me. However, I do not want to eliminate the maiko profession. I want the current state of affairs to be changed to protect minors, eliminate illegal labor, and allow maiko to live with their hearts in the right place. So I think it makes sense that this story is being discussed.”
She says that her comments have led to some of her “juniors” in Kyoto who are now feeling the same way contacting her for help. She says that she would like to do her part to help alleviate not only the unreasonableness in the world of maiko, but also the various unreasonableness that women are experiencing in Japan.
In the future, she hopes to create a place for single mothers, LGBTQ, and other minorities while working as a writer.
She said, “I want to live strongly. And ideally, I would like to build a foundation where people from all walks of life can be energized, without being bound by preconceived values.”
She is only 23 years old. The future can be created from here.
Interview and text： Sanae Kameyama Photographed by： Yuri Adachi