Last year was rough. 2018 is marked with tragedies, sorrow, happiness, surprises, big decisions, and even bigger disappointments. Kyoto is still standing strong, though, despite the fact that a kanji for “disaster” is haunting us from the head temple of Kiyomizu complex. Indeed—what I like the most about Kyoto’s culture is its peaceful stability against all odds. But, as this culture greatly relies on weather conditions, sometimes the sacred customs need to be adjusted slightly. For me, personally, the kanji describing last year is “change” and “humbleness”. These two words are imminently related.
It has been a very unusual year, also within the kagai. Tragic fires, strong typhoons, dreadful heatwave, unexpected retirements, inevitable scandals… There was no way to avoid these things last year.
I’ll always remember the awful night when fire burst into the wooden buildings in Miyagawa and took away a kind-hearted owner of a local vegetable store. It happened just in between of the other tragic events—an enormous typhoon, that destroyed many traditional buildings, and unbearable summer heat which forced the authorities to cancel an annual parade of Gion Matsuri.
Meanwhile, the traditional world of art kept on going forward. It’s been an excellent year in terms of the number of newly debuted geiko and maiko. Kyoto witnessed 30 official debuts, which might be quite a record in recent times. I’m extremely pleased to support each of the freshmen and I’m looking forward to seeing the bloom of their careers. Some of the youngest adepts are already amazingly successful and popular around the city. Some of them, though, already left the profession. It’s always a bit heartbreaking to see them go, especially because I try to attend every misedashi. Every debut warms my soul with maternal feelings. I respect their decision, however, and wish them all the best!
Not only the least experienced ladies retired last year; some of the brightest Kyoto stars also decided to quit. I arrived too late to say goodbye to Katsuna san, but luckily I could give Umechie san some farewell gifts. Best wishes to all ladies who decided to change the profession this year. I’ll always keep in my mind their kindness and talent.
For now, let’s see what the year of boar brings!