|Memoirs of Ichisumi
Author: pooki3 PM
Ichisumi is a young Japanese geisha living in New Orleans and has no money. Her culture is dying and she must learn to adapt quickly or be left behind in a new age. Will Ichisumi be able to save the life she loves, or will she have to give it up forever?Rated: Fiction K - Japanese - Adventure/Western - Words: 1,782 - Reviews: 1 - Published: 02-03-13 - Status: Complete - id: 3098161
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*This is a short story I wrote for an english assignment and compitition. It's about a Japanese geisha in America after WWII, so if you don't understand something I say, just pm me and I'll try to explain. The last thing you need to know is the assignment involved reading a book and then interpruting it, so I read Memoirs of a Geisha. Enjoy and tell me what you think.
"Ichisumi!" I twirl around at the sound of my name. A youthful girl, no more than 10, lingers in my doorframe.
"Mother says Ichimitsu awaits you downstairs." The girl hovers, waiting for my reply. Hayaka. Her name spins into my head.
"Thank you, I'm coming just now." I respond, still faintly preoccupied from my musing a few moments earlier. I had been speculating about the absence of business and minor income the okiya has been making these past few months.
As I glide down the stairs into the hallway where guests wait and then out into the busy street, I cannot stop thinking about the alarming financial rut all geisha in the new world are struggling through. It is well known geisha in America have to work harder for a living; American men know almost nothing about us, majority of Japanese men only stay in the country for a week or two while finalizing a company deal. Lately it has been even worse than usual, with new businesses and jobs opening up across America, and even the geisha still in Japan find less and less young apprentices are appearing each year. There is a new age upon us, and it seems geisha may not be welcome…
Terrified on the path which my thoughts had been following, I voice my opinions to Ichimitsu as we wind our way through the hectic streets of New Orleans. Lines crease Ichimitsu's forehead as her features rearrange into a frown. "Geisha certainly aren't as well off as they once were; the only geisha districts I know that have prospered in such a time of change is the Tokyo geisha. Their western clothes and modern ways seem better suited than our ill-equipped traditional kimono and obi."
"What does that mean for us though? A geisha cannot just forget her training and culture-a geisha is raised a geisha and nothing else!"
"It means," Ichimitsu murmurs, "that we must integrate our culture with the rest of the worlds."
I ponder her advice as we enter the teahouse holding the party we are attending tonight. As I remove my shoes and close the door behind me, Gachi, the teahouse's mistress walks over to Ichimitsu and I. Gachi ushers us into a room, where we greet three Japanese men. The three men, Keigo, Naoto, and Shinichi are well-known clients of mine. Every few months they come to America to visit a branch of their company, and have formed a habit of asking for me whenever they come.
Ichimitsu and I bow respectively to the men as Gachi withdraws from the room. A half smile plays at the corner of my lips as I pour sake for everyone in the room. Keigo, Naoto and Shinichi are rather strong in character, and never fail to humour me, but I haven't yet been able to quite shake the shadows of my previous concerns.
As our group chatters on politely about how business for the men is going the door to the room slides open behind me as someone enters. I cannot understand the look that suddenly crosses Ichimitsu's face. She glares at her sake cup and a small stutter creeps into her voice. It is a party, and people come and go as they please. Ichimitsu, master of composing, hides these hints geisha try so hard not to show, until I'm sure I must be the only one to have notice. Curious, I turn my head and stare straight into the eyes of another geisha. Yaeji.
I lower my eyes quickly; afraid of the expression I know is on her face. It would be a sinister look of smugness, hate and playfulness. The look a cat gives a mouse right before it pounces. That is the way of Yaeji, though. She is one of the most popular geisha in all America, and if you walk up to any decent geisha, Japanese or American, they would sneer in disgust at her name. Yaeji has a reputation of manipulation, betrayal and selfishness among us, though men seem not to mind.
By this time, Yaeji and two other Japanese men I have never seen before have seated themselves at the end of our table, as far from Ichimitsu and I as they can get. I give an inward sigh of relief; Yaeji's favourite hobby is picking on other geisha, and she especially dislikes me because of my connection to Ichimitsu. Yet it is also this connection that has saved me just now from being humiliated by Yaeji in front of those present.
Yaeji may not respect any other geisha but herself, and only tolerates the few who have personalities almost as twisted as hers. However Yaeji also knows Ichimitsu is one of the most well respected, well known geisha of this age, and a geisha with an even more popular status among customers than Yaeji herself. Ichimitsu also belongs to the very famous and valued Ichi geisha line. This leaves Ichimitsu as one of the few geisha Yaeji has enough sense not to cross.
As Yaeji pours sake for herself and her two clients, she makes small talk with Keigo, introducing herself and putting on her geisha charm. I desperately catch Ichimitsu's eye, and she gives a tiny, controlled nod of her head to indicate she thinks it best if we leave. Thankful, I clear my throat to excuse myself and Ichimitsu to the men, saying we have another meeting we cannot miss. We rise to our feet and I follow Ichimitsu's tense back out the door with barely a glance in Yaeji's direction.
Gachi meets us at the door to inquire about how the party went, and I give her a condensed overview that omits the tension between geisha. Gachi is a wonderful woman, but it is not her place to know of a geisha's relationship to another. Ichimitsu and I slip our shoes on, and, exiting the teahouse, we start down the street we had come on as we head back to my okiya.
We walk quickly and in silence. Yaeji's appearance tonight has put Ichimitsu in a foul mood, and I don't want to become the focus point of one of her emotional flameouts. Crossing Ichimitsu when she was feeling rotten usually led to tears and a low self-esteem. I'm so lost in my frustration at Yaeji I forget about my worries for my future, and when we reach the intersection where Ichimitsu has to turn off to reach her hotel, I look up, startled. Surely we haven't walked so far so fast? The weight of a traditional geisha's attire forced a geisha's stride to little more than a waddle. Yet Ichimitsu just growls a goodbye under her breath, turns, and storms down her street.
Trying not to feel hurt, I continue down the street. A block later, I've almost reached my okiya. I freeze, still a building and a half away from my home. Something is wrong. In the middle of the cobblestoned street stands Hideyo; the woman in charge of the okiya, and behind her, trying to make herself disappear, huddles Hayaka. I shuffle as quickly as I can over to them, becoming increasingly frustrated with my snail-like gait.
I pass Hideyo and the man she stands yelling at as I hobble over to Hayaka and run my hands soothingly through her hair in an attempt to quieten her weeping. She has her palms clamped over her ears and folds into my side like a swimmer seizing a life raft to keep from drowning.
Now I have Hayaka somewhat under my control, I look over at Hideyo, mind whirling forward at a pace of 100 kilometres a minute. I concentrate on Hideyo's screeching in the hope I might be able to better understand the bizarre situation. After a few minutes, I determine we've been locked out of our okiya, and a furious Hideyo is verbally abusing a bank investor, who is responsible for the lock out. Panting, Hideyo takes a huge breath in preparation for another round of abuse. Calmly, the bank investor stops Hideyo's words in their tracks by lifting his right hand. Plainly, he states to his audience that we may enter the okiya to grab any personal belongings, and then we must leave; our okiya has gone bankrupt and has been repossessed by the bank. We have ten minutes until we will be forcibly removed from the property.
Hideyo gapes at him, and Hayaka increases her wailing. Chin trembling, I drag Hayaka forward and stumble into the okiya. I rush up the stairs and shove Haya's personal possessions into her stunned arms, then, I grab anything of mine I can find and lead Hayaka out the door. Hideyo is still standing, frozen in the position we left her. We have six minutes left, but I can't bear to hold myself together for much longer. I pull Hayaka past Hideyo, past the bank investor, and towards Ichimitsu's hotel.
Numbly pushing us down the street, I stumble on towards Ichimitsu to tell her what's happened. We're making slow progress, moving slower than a snail, but I can't stop hearing the words Ichimitsu muttered to me earlier that night. What do I do now? Where will I live? What about Hayaka? What do I do now?
Detached, I pondered if I should go to Chicago. It was bigger than New Orleans, and I am bound to find something there. Maybe I could adapt to the geisha life there; I have heard those geisha are more modern and American influenced, like the Tokyo geisha of Japan. Or, I could follow Ichimitsu's advice and leave behind my geisha past; start fresh in the culture of the New World. Become an American woman. Either way, my future lies in Chicago- I can feel it in my bones. But first, I have to get Hayaka to Ichimitsu, keep my strength up for the girl. I shall consult Ichimitsu about Chicago tomorrow, but for now I have to help Hayaka.
I have a long journey ahead of me.
So I walk.