The Secret Life of Geisha 艺伎真实生活记录(5-6)

Only one westerner has ever been allowed to become part of this closed way of life. It is now, more than 20 years since Liza Dalby, a US citizen, lived in Japan as a geisha.

A blue-eyed girl playing the shamisen / samisen, singing songs. It was the first time in geisha history. She got better at walking, sitting on her knees and wearing the kimono. She gradually became the part.

Liza had immaculate qualifications to become a geisha. She spent her teenage years in Japan, learning the language and the shamisen, the traditional geisha instrument. She then went on to make the first ever study of geisha for her doctorate before becoming a geisha herself.

I didn’t really stand out, then I would come, I sit next to someone and often he would start talking and then suddenly he’d kind of look at me, you know, noticed that my eyes were not deep brown and said, wait a minute, you are not Japanese, what’s going on here? And all the geisha would wait for that moment. I mean, sometimes they did this on purpose. They wouldn’t tell the customers that the foreign geisha was here, and then someone would notice, they would just break out, blether that was so funny.

Of course walking is something you have to give up the way that you walk when you’re wearing western clothes, because of the kimono, you know, in cases your legs are rather tightly, so you, you have to take smaller steps. And I would always forget to do this especially, if I was in a rush. And then my feet would start flapping, and one of the older geisha would scold me, you know, not to walk that way. But as if like, it’s like learning a whole new body language.

“When a woman enters the geisha community, when she decides that she’s going to make this for life, she makes a very conscious choice that she’s not going to marry, she’s not going to be a housewife, so the roads really diverge there. Geisha don’t marry, they don’t follow the, the middle-class way. They, you know, they deal them in the world of presenting themselves as works of art.

They are works of art, but they are also rented by the hour to entertain men.

Even though a prostitute’s livelihood is sex and a geisha’s livelihood isn’t exactly sex, the fact is that a prostitute can’t really determine who she is gonna spend the next hour with, and, and neither can a geisha.

Artist by day, companions by night, the image of the geisha has always been clouded by prostitution. From lowly beginnings, geisha slowly rose in stature until in time, they would reach the forefront of Japanese society. Once sweethearts of Samurai, in the Second World War they waved goodbye to their kamikaze heroes. How has a fragile world of the geisha retained its status through 400 years of turbulent history, and what became of those geisha who believed they could escape their traditions and find true love in the west?

To understand the geisha, you have to know their past. Their story begins 4 centuries ago in the days of the Shogun. Geisha first appeared in the early 1600s. After centuries of infighting among rival warrior lords, Japan became a united country under a military dictator or shogun. The government was set up in Edo, site of present day Tokyo. Under Shogun rule, Japan isolated itself entirely from the rest of the world for hundreds of years. The Shogun’s power was absolute.

One of the things this government, which was very impressive, did, was to stamp out, for example, Christianity and another was to take all of the prostitution in that kind of serve and put it into restricted licensed quarters to control it.

The pleasure quarters became places of sexual freedom. Exclusive prostitutes or courtesans would entertain Samurai warriors and merchants at lavish banquets. It was here that the first geisha appeared. Surprisingly, they were men. They assumed the role of court gesture.

These were entertainers who came into the parties that the courtesans had when they were entertaining customers at banquets, playing music, dancing, you know, telling jokes, this kind of thing, and these were originally men.

The Secret Life of Geisha 艺伎真实生活记录(3-4)

The geisha house is the temple of this ancient art. For centuries, the geisha have witnessed the love affairs, betrayals and deceptions of Japan’s most powerful men.

A geisha is a woman who’s available for hire to keep a man company during the evening, usually in fact it’s a group of men company during the evening. And to the surprise of most westerners that rarely involves sex. It simply doesn’t exist in other cultures because we socialize together, the Japanese don’t. This is where geisha come in.

They guarantee their clients’ total privacy under a code of silence.

A man who goes to a geisha house, during the evening goes there, on the assumption that nothing that’s said or done would be taken outside those walls. This is a particular compartment. It’s watertight and this is what allows the geisha to choose to exist really, and this is why there’s a kind of code of silence. A geisha mustn’t talk about what has happened.

The geisha business is the only business in Japan run exclusively by women for a man. At the top is the geisha mother. She provides all her girls with board and lodging and a precious kimonos, a considerable outlay of cash. In return, apart from a modest wage, the geisha give her all the money they earned from their clients. At one time, a geisha mother virtually owned her girls that lived constantly in her debt. The geisha mother would begin recouping her investment by selling a girl’s virginity to the highest bidder. This discreet auction relied on her best knowledge of the private lives and desires of her local clients.

It’s true that this stereotypical image of the women who run these houses, these geisha houses, is of a sort of cruel event like character who cares only about one thing and that’s money. But I think the stereotype proved vive because there’s a considerable amount of truth in it. These are, these districts, the striking thing about them is that they are the one area in Japan where women absolutely rule.

Today it is in the best interest of a Geisha Mother to treat her girls well. It costs her no less than 500,000 dollars to train a Geisha. And if a Geisha subset quits, the Geisha Mother loses a fortune. Apprentice Geisha go through 5 years of training. By the end even their gestures are distinctive. Every aspect of their appearance has acquired a symbolic meaning and an erotic power.

Yuriko is an apprentice Geisha, halfway through her 5-year training. The most valuable person in her life is her older Geisha sister, Mamika. All trainee Geisha have an elder sister to teach them the centuries-old skills they need to succeed.

Mamika, Yuriko’s older Geisha sister, lives the life of a super model. She can afford the very best including a million-dollar membership to a country club and private coaching lessons.

Thanks to this job, I get to meet many people, eat good food, wear nice kimono, and travel to places where ordinary people can’t go. You know what? I get through many enjoyable things in life.

Mamika sets a high standard. To follow her example, Yuriko has to dedicate her life to the art. The word Geisha means artist. As well as being professional companions, a Geisha must excel in dance, music and literature. Every graceful movement is carefully choreographed. The dances often tell stories about Geisha who must sacrifice love for their art. A Geisha requires the same dedication that a prima ballerina needs in the West.

The training is never ending. My instructor is still training after thirty to forty years. Compared with her, I’m just nobody. There is no such word as perfection.

Geisha do not marry. Cut off from family bond, they live together as if in a sisterhood. They form close friendships which bind them for lifetime.

New Words and Phrases

betrayals n. 背叛,暴露
deception n. 骗局,诡计,欺诈
socialize vt. 使 … 社会化,使 … 社会主义化,使适应社会需要 vi. 交际
code n. 码,密码,法规,准则 vt. 把 … 编码,制成法典
assumption n. 假定,设想,担任(职责等), 假装
compartment n. 间隔,个别室,卧车包房 vt. 把 … 分隔成几个包间
watertight adj. 不漏水的,无懈可击的
board and lodging 出租供膳,膳宿
lodging n. 寄宿处
kimono n. 和服
outlay n. 费用,经费,支出 v. 花费
recoup v. 重获,补偿 vt. 重获(尤指钱), 失而复得,赔偿,扣除
discreet adj. 谨慎的
stereotypical n. 铅版,陈腔滥调,老一套 vt. 使用铅版,套用老套
vive int. 万岁 adj. 鲜丽,活泼

Vintage Baseball 美国棒球运动

For generations, it’s been called “America’s national pastime”. Baseball has come to be seen as a defining part of the American culture, an enduring tie born from a diverse and sprawling young country. But the big business and athletic heroes that characterize the game today are far removed from its roots as “a gentleman’s pastime”.

Over the last few decades, diehard vintage baseball enthusiasts have been resurrecting the grand old game and some of its pearliest forms. And while the trappings may seem familiar, it was a very different ball game.

“We are gonna take you back to a time today when Colorado was still a territory and baseball was a gentleman’s game.”

In the 1800s, gentlemen and women ballists would gather 9 to a team for a bitter friendly afternoon rivalry.

“Let’s play ball.”

“This is baseball, according rules that were played around 1860 to 1862. Balls being new to be cut on one bounce were an out. Because there were no gloves used at that time, not even the first baseman, nor the catcher. ”

The pitching was underhanded. And the striker or batter could even call the pitches from the hurler, high or low.

“I will fine you, sir.”

On a good hit, the striker might wag it on base with an ace. Runners tended to shy away from stealing, and a gentleman will certainly never slide. Nor would he lose his boarding temper.

“Team members will actually find if they use bad language on the field, or they did not play as a gentleman would be expected to play.”

“For me, I enjoy the gentlemanly nature, what they are doing here. It’s good to be with the guys. We all play together. We all help one other. Nobody gets too competitive. And if they do the umpire will fine them.”

Not too long after the period depicted by these vintage ballists, the game of baseball changed dramatically. Gloves were introduced, the rules refined, and although the game remained a leisurely pursuit, the first professional team arrived in 1869 with the Cincinnati Red Stockings, but the innocence and tradition still live on with vintage baseball teams.

Memoirs of a Melbourne geisha

For most people in the Western world, the geisha is as quintessentially Japanese as the samurai, sushi and sakura. Yet the 400-year-old world of the geisha remains a mystery even to most Japanese, its doors firmly closed to outsiders until now.

The newest geisha on the block is in fact an Australian – Fiona Graham – who caused a stir in December 2007 when she became the first Western geisha. jstyle reports on her fascinating transformation from Melbourne born schoolgirl to a woman living and breathing this centuries-old Japanese tradition.

Born and raised in Melbourne, Fiona Graham was once a typical Australian schoolgirl with little more than a passing interest in Japan. But when she turned 15, opportunity knocked and she was given the chance to spend a year in Japan as an exchange student. Craving adventure like most teenagers, she decided to go.

“At that time, rather than being interested in Japanese culture, I just knew I really wanted to go somewhere!” she recalls with a laugh. “I didn’t really know anything about Japan. As an exchange student, you get to see the most enjoyable parts of Japan. I was always being taken to lots of interesting places and the whole experience was just so much fun.”

Having gained such a positive first impression, Graham’s interest in Japan and its culture continued and so did her chances to stay there. When she was accepted into Tokyo’s prestigious Keio University (庆应义塾大学) as the first female foreign student, she knew it was an opportunity too good to pass up. She studied psychology and after graduating, began working in Japan. “Before I knew it I had ended up staying in Japan for 10 years straight.”,she says.

Since then, Graham has completed an MBA at Oxford University and a PhD in social anthropology, specialising in Japanese culture. She shares her knowledge and expertise through lecturing, writing books on Japan and making anthropological documentaries, and it was for her latest project that she first stepped onto the path leading to the unique world of the Japanese geisha.

The Western world’s fascination with geisha has reached new heights in recent years with the popularity of Arthur Golden’s novel Memoirs of a Geisha and the 2005 Hollywood film based on the bestseller. While most Australian fans looked forward to seeing the romantic story of the heroine, Sayuri, on the big screen, Graham had a different reaction to the news a film was in the works.

“I knew (the film Memoirs of a Geisha) was being produced by Western men in Hollywood so I knew what sort of movie it was going to be,”she says. Both the film and Golden’s novel are entirely fictional but for Western audiences unfamiliar with the geisha world, it would understandably be difficult to differentiate from reality. This was unacceptable for Graham and motivated her to overturn the enduring stereotype.

“Westerners have a very mistaken image of geisha as women who are completely submissive to men and do exactly as they are told without any will of their own,” Graham says. “Reality is completely different. Geisha are independent working women.”

To tell the world the truth, Graham decided to become a geisha herself and film her experiences inside the geisha world.

From the few remaining geisha districts known as karyuukai (literally “flower and willow world”), Graham chose to undertake her training in the district of Asakusa, one of six “geisha worlds” in Tokyo. When asked why she chose Asakusa and not the better-known Kyoto karyuukai, she offers a number of reasons. “I had only ever lived in Tokyo before, and there was already a book written about the Kyoto geisha world 30 years ago but no books about the Tokyo geisha, so I decided I’d like to stay here (in Tokyo),” she says.

“The Tokyo geisha world also has a lot of history. The Asakusa karyuukai has existed for several hundred years.” Asakusa happens to be the most famous tourist destination in Tokyo, particularly popular with foreigners.

“I think the atmosphere here is the most evocative of old Edo – the Tokyo of the past. It is a really colourful area to film and there are events on every month, in which geisha participate, so I thought that would be really fun.”

No matter what her reasons, the Asakusa geisha world would certainly have been surprised to receive Graham’s application to enter. “It is unprecedented for a foreigner to become a geisha so it wasn’t easy to be accepted,” she says.

“It took some time persuading everyone in the geisha world. Fortunately I had the support of Keio University alumni and people who have a lot of influence in that world. Without that, the world of the geisha would have been quite impossible to enter.”

In the face of Graham’s enthusiasm and the support of those around her, the gates were finally opened. She was introduced to an okiya (a house where a geisha lives, trains and bases herself throughout her career) and commenced geisha training.

Before the war, it was common for girls training to be geisha to enter an okiya from childhood, but according to Graham, the training period in the geisha world of Asakusa today is usually only about one year. During that time, a geisha-in-training will work as a waitress in a traditional restaurant where she can observe and learn from experienced geisha, as well as studying the ancient arts of tea ceremony, dance, taiko (Japanese drum) and yokobue (Japanese flute), and the countless customs and etiquette, which are drummed into her by her “okaasan” (literally “mother”), the head of the okiya.

Graham says she didn’t receive any special treatment because she was a foreigner. “A geisha is a geisha,” she says matter-of-factly. “I don’t sense any difference between them (other geisha) as Japanese and me as a foreigner. We’re all linked by being geisha.”

The hardest part of training for Graham was learning to sit in the seiza position (traditional formal style of kneeling). “Geisha don’t use zabuton (Japanese cushion for sitting),” she says. “An ozashiki (banquet) lasts at least two hours so you need to be able to sit for that length of time. Even if your legs go numb there’s nothing you can do about it so you just have to get used to it quickly. An elderly oneesan (literally “big sister”, used to refer to senior geisha) told me that even being one kilo too heavy makes it hard, so I made an effort to lose weight after that and it became easier.”

Among the traditional arts, Graham was most confident playing yokobue and decided to make that her speciality, but even there she faced challenges. “I had played flute before so I know how to produce a nice sound, but it is still really difficult because the timing of Japanese music is so different to Western music … I still have a long way to go in my training,” she says.

Even for Graham, who had lived in Japan for many years and can speak fluent Japanese, her training was harder than she expected. But last December, having mastered both arts and etiquette, she finally made her official debut as a geisha.

In line with tradition, Graham’s geisha name includes the character “yuki” from her okaasan’s name, Yukiko. On the day of her debut, Graham visited all the senior geisha, okiya, traditional restaurants and teahouses in the Asakusa geisha district, paying her respects to more than 100 people connected with the geisha world before attending her first ozashiki as a professional geisha. And so “Sayuki”, the first foreign geisha, was born.

Today, Sayuki leads a very busy life. Her days typically begin with an hour or two of tutored study in the arts of tea ceremony or dance, followed by more hours of individual practice. A geisha is essentially one who possesses “gei” (arts). As an entertainment and service professional, a geisha has to keep polishing these skills throughout her entire career. Sayuki also participates in the many events held in and around Asakusa, while her evenings are spent attending up to three or four banquet engagements.

Trying to dispel the romanticised idea of geisha as powerless beauties in a male-controlled world, she points out that being a geisha is not unlike an ordinary job. “(Being a geisha) is like being a private businessperson – you have to be quite firm and level-headed. An okiya is basically a business and the okaasan is like the head of a small company. It’s so different to the image of geisha being men’s playthings,” she says.

Sayuki takes obvious pride in belonging to this traditional Japanese profession, which she describes as “the best experience of Japanese culture” and studies diligently everyday.

As for her documentary film, she is using her spare time to film her experiences as a geisha and intends to release the completed work in several countries including Australia. She is also planning a visit to Australia with the other Asakusa geisha as part of her larger goal of introducing geisha culture to the general public.

“I’m trying to teach people about geisha culture. I’m currently hoping for an invitation to Australia so I can visit Japanese Studies departments at Australian universities or participate in festivals and the like,” she says, then adds, “I’d be really grateful for support from any sponsors.”

Having become a geisha for a social anthropological project, Graham won’t retire as soon as her film is finished. “Originally I did start this as a project but I think it’s gone beyond that now,” she says.

“I was able to become a geisha, the first foreigner to achieve that, which is something I’m really thankful for. I feel like I have to make the most of it by working hard to become a first-class geisha.”

Immersed and inspired by this unique element of Japanese culture, Graham, or Sayuki, is taking the historical geisha world into the 21st century.

The Secret Life of Geisha 艺伎真实生活记录(1-2)

艺伎,字面上的含意为“以艺术为生”,她们是日本文化与艺术的缩影。每个艺伎都要经过严格的训练,学习茶道、书法、乐器、舞蹈、礼节等等。男人们用餐时,她们跪在旁边斟酒上菜,微笑着和他们聊天。待到酒过三旬后,艺伎开始表演以活跃气氛,不论是弹奏乐器或是演唱情歌。艺伎一生就是为了服侍日本上流社会中的达官显贵、富商阔佬,人们只能在那些豪华的茶店酒楼和隐密的日本料亭中看到她们的身影。艺伎浓妆的脸上几乎看不出喜怒哀乐,她们的世界始终保持着一种神秘感。BBC出品,The Secret Life of Geisha带领观众走进艺伎的真实生活。

For 400 years they have existed, timeless in the changing world, once the playthings of Shogun(将军), the favorites of Samurai(武士). Their sealed lips have kept silent as Japan has changed more than any nation on earth. They cheered their Kamikaze heroes, and then became sweethearts of American GIs. Geisha have endured in a world sheltered behind the walls of secrecy and discretion. But finally the veil hiding the geisha has lifted, and we enter their forbidden world.

Japan is one of the most advanced countries on earth. Technology is an obsession. The nation’s pursuit of efficiency creates rapid change. Yet for centuries the Japanese have sheltered an extraordinary tradition— geisha. The geisha are the delicate guardians of ancient customs and honorable past living in the present. Their world is closed to the public. They lived shrouded in secrecy and steeped in ritual. They move a storable land of perfume, gardens and ornate temples, but make their living in dark backstreets and hidden teahouses.

American writer Arthur Golden fell under the spell of this mysterious tradition. He spent ten years researching his novel, Memoirs of a Geisha, which would become an international best-seller. “It fascinated me, what I’ve learnt. It’s so closed to outsiders. They really don’t like people coming in and poking around and learning their secrets.” Arthur Golden had to break the seal of silence surrounding the geisha world. He faced a near impossible task something like entering a closed religious alter.

Before I began this research if you asked me what a Geisha was, I’m sure I would have told you what every American word of, except that I knew at least that they are not strictly prostitutes. It wasn’t quite that simple. But I certainly didn’t understand the role they played or why they played it. And I’ve come to see the way that Geisha figure into Japanese society as being something quite unique.

Exotic and alluring, geisha live in a world where refinement and grace are everything, yet love is garment of illusion. A perfect surface is what matters. Locked away from everyday life, geisha are the preserve of a selected elite, the automated expression of prestige and status.

For most, it is rare even to catch a glimpse of a Geisha. They have become revered and celebrated symbols of Japan. In Kyoto, the ancient capital, an annual event celebrates Japan’s most honored traditions including the Geisha. The Cherry Blossom Festival is a rare and much anticipated chance for the public to gaze upon the most private tradition of all.

The Geisha are on display wrapped in all their silk finery, women who are emblems of both history and sensuality. But behind their painted faces and delicate smiles is a difficult and intricate way of life.

New Words and Phrases

timeless adj. 无限的,永恒的
plaything n. 玩具,玩物
Kamikaze n. <日> (第二次世界大战期间日本空军敢死队)神风特攻队
GI n. 美国兵 vt. 为检阅而打扫 adj. 美国军用的,美国军人的 adv. 军纪严格地
veil n. 面纱,掩饰物,修女 vt. 给 … 戴面纱或面罩 vi. 带面纱或面罩
obsession n. 困扰,沉迷,着魔,妄想
shelter n. 庇护所,避难所,庇护 v. 庇护,保护,隐匿
delicate n. 精美的东西 adj. 精美的,微妙的,美味的,纤细的,脆弱的,敏锐的
guardian n. 保护人,监护人
ancient custom 古风
honorable adj. 光荣的,可敬的,尊敬的 = honourable(英)
shroud n. 寿衣,覆盖物,[航海]船之横桅索 v. 包以尸衣,遮蔽,隐藏,笼罩
v. <古>掩盖,保护 n. <古>保护
steep adj. 陡峭的,险峻的,(价格)过高的 n. 陡坡,浸泡,浸泡液 v. 浸泡,沉浸
ritual n. 仪式,典礼,宗教仪式,固定程序 adj. 仪式的,老规矩的,惯常的
storable adj. 可储存的 n. 耐贮藏物品
ornate adj. 装饰的,华丽的