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Sakuragawa: A geisha and maiko RPG
Ichisei, Ichishou, Ichizakura, Hotaru, Hinako, and Sami at the Kaburenjo 
3rd-Feb-2012 09:41 pm
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(OOC: Doin' multiple things at once ftw! Technically this takes place the day after the party at the Hanazaki, but I wanted to get going on Hotaru and Sami being able to interact as well so here it is. Let's see if this can work :p)

Dance and music lessons started around ten in the morning -- perhaps not early by most peoples’ standards, but for a maiko or geiko who hadn’t gotten to bed before two or three in the morning, it was more than early enough. This particular morning began with all five of the house’s resident young women -- Ichisei, Ichifumi, Ichishou, Ichizakura, and Hotaru -- eating a quiet breakfast before collecting their things for the day’s lessons. Okaasan had set out a pretty blue kimono decorated with tiny yellow and white flowers, plus a cheerful orange obi, for Hotaru to wear to her lessons that morning, and after breakfast the twins helped her into it. And then it was time to go.

The five set out together, but not too far up the road Ichifumi (who had her hair down and brushed straight that morning) turned off down a narrow side street. “She has to get her hair re-set,” Ichishou explained, “and the hair-dresser we use has her salon down that street. She runs it with her two sisters.”

“It’s gonna be our turn at the end of the week,” Ichizakura moaned. Ichishou wrinkled her nose a little, and Ichisei just chuckled at them.

“Still not used to it?” she asked. The twins laughed and chorused “No!” at her. All three laughed, pausing only to bow to an older woman who passed. She bowed in turn and smiled at them before going off to wherever she was headed, and the little crowd of girls from Ishida continued on their way.

A few steps past the road where Ichifumi had left them Ichishou finally cleared her throat a little and trotted forward a few steps from her usual spot near the back of the line to speak to Ichisei. “Nee-san,” she asked, “what happened with Ryuu-nii-san and Hinako? The thing you and Fumi-nee-san were talking about at dinner the other night?”

“Oh. THAT,” Ichisei replied. She looked around to make sure nobody who would care about their conversation was around. “Well, of course she was at the party Takei-sensei had for his wife back in January. That was the last party Ryuu-nii-san came to, before last night. Anyway, that new maiko from Harukawa, Yaesuzu, was dancing. You two have seen her, right?” she asked the twins. “Isn’t she in your dance class?” They both nodded, and Ichisei continued. “She’s very beautiful, and talented. Since she is so new she isn’t very popular yet but it’s only a matter of time. Hinako being Hinako, she sees the poor girl as a threat. So one minute at the party Suzu-chan is sitting beside Takei-sensei, pouring him some beer. Nobody was paying much attention of course, that’s just normal behavior at a party. Sensei was speaking to one of the kabuki actors, his wife was speaking to Hanatoshi about her plans for turning her collar, Kanotoshi and I were warming up for a performance, the other guests and geiko and maiko were talking amongst themselves, and all of a sudden poor Suzu-chan just SCREAMED.” She paused as the came to the intersection of their narrow little street with the main road that ran through the hanamachi, and looked around again before turning right and continuing down the road. She glanced back to make sure she hadn’t lost her entourage (especially Hotaru). Satisfied that they were still all there, she continued. “Everyone went quiet and I looked up, and there she was, just covered in alcohol. Someone had spilled an entire tray of drinks all over her. A couple of glasses broke too, so she had glass in her hair and down the back of her kimono. Everything was ruined -- her hair, her makeup, of course her kanzashi, her kimono, probably even her obi and her juban. Fortunately it was near the end of the month so she wasn’t going to be wearing those kanzashi for much longer anyway, but the obi and kimono were both brand-new, worth millions of yen, and ruined. Plus because of her hair she couldn’t have gone out again that night, so she lost all of that income for the evening.” She huffed. “So I looked around to see what had happened, and there behind her was Hinako, apologizing and claiming she had tripped. But…Hinako is a very good dancer, and there was nothing for her to trip on, plus Ryuu-nii-san told me he saw Hinako glaring at the back of Suzu-chan’s head right before the accident…I don’t think it was an accident, and neither does he. Even Takei-sensei suspects, and he is usually so nice and doesn’t think poorly of anyone.”

The three Ichi girls fell silent for a while, carefully making their way through the crowd. Most people ignored them -- they weren’t as eye-catching without their elaborate costumes -- but a few people with sharp enough eyes to notice the twins’ hairstyles snapped pictures and exclaimed excitedly to each other. Ichisei, Ichishou, and Ichizakura just ignore them.

They were about to turn left and cross the street to go down another, slightly less busy street, when Ichisei paused and motioned ahead of her. “See those two there, across the street?” she asked. “The woman in the green kimono carrying the bag and box and the young girl following behind her, in the pink kimono? The woman is Hinako, and the girl is their new shikomi.” She looked at Hotaru. “I don’t think Okaasan wanted you to hear the story about Hinako at the party. She wants you to form your own thoughts about people here, and she’s like Takei-sensei, she likes to see the best in people. But as your older sister I think you have the right to know what you’re dealing with in Hinako. She sees anyone with talent or looks -- and especially anyone with both -- as a threat to her. She might see you as a threat someday. Their shikomi seems nice enough, so maybe there’s hope for her. But you should be careful, alright? Take what you hear about Hinako with a grain of salt if you like, but watch your back too.” And with that, she turned back to wait for the light change. As soon as it did she crossed the road and headed straight for the door to the kaburenjo, where several other young women could be seen rushing inside already. She and Hinako glanced at each other, but aside from a brief bow before Hinako pushed ahead of them into the school, they didn’t acknowledge each other at all.

*** *** *** *** ***

Kozen had left the okiya early that morning to pick up her shamisen at the instrument shop. A worn spot had appeared on the skin stretched over the frame, and Okaasan had insisted that she take it for repairs right away rather than risk getting a hole in it. The shop had called late in the afternoon the day before to report that it was ready. As Kozen’s first lesson of the day was always shamisen, she had to go pick it up right away. That left Hinako and Sami to go to the Kaburenjo by themselves, Hinako carrying a small bag with her flute and music in one hand and the case with her drum in the other. Normally she would have Sami carry these things, but Sami had her own instruments to worry about. They came to the final crossing before arriving at the school…and she glanced across the street. A small, tight smile appeared on her lips at the sight of the little group gathered there, waiting for the light to change.

“So, Ishida has a new girl already,” she murmured. “I recognize her kimono, they had one of those twins wearing it not too long ago.” Clearly, the reuse of kimono was something she disapproved of, despite the fact that every house did it rather than build a whole new wardrobe for its youngest members. “That house has Ichifumi, who is the most popular maiko in the district.” Clearly, she didn’t approve of that either. She glanced casually over her shoulder at Sami and smirked. “You should have no problem outranking her in popularity. You might even win an award your first year, once you become a maiko.”

Somehow, they all arrived at the school doors together. Ichisei and Hinako sketched quick and barely-passable bows to one another, and then Hinako casually stepped in front of Ichisei and entered the school first. By all right she shouldn’t have done that, as Ichisei was more senior, but…well, Hinako had little use for seniority. She glanced back to make sure Sami had followed and slipped out of her zori before continuing down the hall to her flute lesson, which was held in a room much closer to the main entrance than any of the dance lessons. “Continue to make us proud, Sami-chan,” she said before disappearing into the lesson room and closing the door behind her, leaving Sami to go to her dance lesson alone.
7th-Feb-2012 07:18 pm (UTC)
Hotaru struggled a little to keep up with her sisters. Walking in a kimono was difficult enough (okaasan said her strides were too long), but walking in kimono with the slippery vinyl zori was asking for a twisted ankle, as far as Hotaru was concerned. She was glad she only had one small bag to carry, she didn't know how she'd manage something as precious as a shamisen or kotsuzumi!

She quickened her pace though when Ichisei answered Ichishou's question about Hinako. Hotaru was aghast to hear that a geisha would be accused of such a petty deed, but the more Ichisei spoke of Hinako, the more reminded Hotaru of a particularly nasty bully from her junior high school. Hotaru has squared off with her more than once, and while Ichisei counseled them to form their own opinions, Hotaru knew that there was not smoke without a fire.

Once they reached the kaburenjo, Ichisei sketched a brief bow to Hinako and slipped inside. Hotaru waited patiently for her turn, entered the building, slipped off her zori, and walked straight to her classroom. Even though she had been taking lessons for some time, she still felt anxious as she waited for Ueno Yukiko to arrive. Despite years of ballet, the dances geisha and maiko performed were vastly different and she was having a little difficulty making the transition from long, flowing movements to the restrained elegance of traditional Japanese dance. She'd even bumped into a fellow student at her last lesson, which caused her to cringe every time she thought about it.

Students filed in, some chatting excited with each other. Hotaru noticed a new girl entering among the last ones to arrive, and recognized her as the shikomi that accompanied Hinako. Well, this would be interesting...
8th-Feb-2012 01:01 am (UTC)
Sami followed Hinako down the street, carefl to take small steps and not trip over the light pink kimono Okaasan and let her wear that morning. Her fingers brushed against the colorful obi as she cradled her bag closer.
Sami held the bag containing her instruments to her chest as if her life depended on it. She walked quickly after Hinako and listened closely to what her older sister had to say about Ichisei, Ichifumi, and the newer girl. Sami looked at the group out of the corner of her eye so she didn't look as if she were staring. In her gazing, she fell behind and had to hurry across the street to catch up with Hinako, nearly tripping over the hem of the kimono. Luckily she caught herself before actually falling.
When they stood at the doorwa, Sami bowed lower than Hinako had, she did not share her older sister's feelings towards the Ishida bunch. She even smiled slightly at the newer girl, her eyes bright.
Sami watched Hinako walked down the hall, silently promising to make the okiya proud. She would do everything she had to prove her worth...
She slipped off her zori and walked quickly towards her class so she wouldn't be late. Sai thought that the dances might be easier than she thought, it made her remember of the time spent practicing with her mother.

Edited at 2012-02-08 01:13 am (UTC)
9th-Feb-2012 06:31 am (UTC)
Hotaru didn't have time to speculate on the shikomi's presence, as Ueno Yukiko entered the room, accompanied by an instrumentalist. The chatter ceased almost immediately as the young girls all bowed to their instructor, who wasted no time in getting started. The girls sank to the floor with varying degrees of grace and kowtowed more or less in unison. The instrumentalist struck the opening chords of the dance they were learning, and Hotaru focused on Yukiko-san.

The class had been paired off for this dance, with one girl being designated as "odd" and the other as "even". This was to designate which role the girl would be dancing. The pairs were changed every lesson to give the girls practice dancing different roles with different partners. Much to her surprise, Hotaru found that the Hoshino shikomi was her partner. The girl was graceful and lithe, and Hotaru wondered if she'd gotten some sort of private tutoring, since she seemed to know the dance better than anyone in the room.

The dance came to an end, the girls once again knelt to the floor. Hotaru turned to the shikomi and whispered, "Where did you learn to dance like that?"
12th-Feb-2012 08:21 am (UTC)
Before Sami could answer, Yukiko clapped her hands and looked at the small group gathered before her. There were exactly six of them -- on the far side of the room where Ichishou and Ichizakura, the most senior in the room. Between them was Yaesuzu, the newest maiko, and Kimitoshi, a minarai who would be making her misedashi shortly. That left Sami and Hotaru at the very ends of the line, closest to the door.

"Now then..." she said as she eyed her charges, "the three maiko here will be dancing in the annual dances in May. It seems far off but March and April will fly by. But we also have our newest student to consider." She tapped her chin, then nodded once. "For Hotaru-chan's sake, we will practice the first verse and chorus of Gion Kouta. It's a basic dance every maiko should learn and keep polished throughout her career. And then we can work on the dance our three maiko will be doing in May. Gion Kouta can be performed alone or in pairs, but today we shall work on the solo version. So, if you will stand again, we will get to work."
12th-Feb-2012 03:14 pm (UTC)
Sami went through the dance with ease, it was very similar to one in her mother's district. At the end, while kneeling next to Hotaru. She opened her mouth to answer the other girl but Ueno Yukiko began speaking.
While listening, Sami looked at the other girls lined up beside her. She turned her attention back to the mentor when she spoke about the annual dances. Sami thought the maiko where very lucky to perform in a annual dance, someday that would be her.
When Ueno Yukiko finished speaking Sami stood, putting her weight on her toes.
13th-Feb-2012 07:13 pm (UTC)
Before the other girl could answer, Yukiko-san was musing aloud on what dances to practice, then settled on Gion Kouta. The dance instructor was absolutely right- this was a dance she had to know and had to perform well. It was a dance she’d perform until the end of her career.

The class bowed again, rising up to kneel with arms crossed, left over right. The instrumentalist plucked the first somber notes and the class rose. Nervously, Hotaru concentrated on the individual moves and poses. Open arms, drop to sides, point right hand, point left hand, drop hands, grab right sleeve...
14th-Feb-2012 08:04 am (UTC)
Every so often, Yukiko would call a pause in the dancing and would move to adjust someone's posture. Ichishou and Ichizakura didn't need much correcting on this song, as they had been doing it for almost two solid years by now. Yaesuzu and Kimitoshi also needed some attention, though every so often Yukiko used Yaesuzu as an example of how to point a finger or position a hand. She had lovely, delicate hands that were perfect for this sort of dance. Sami also didn't need much correction, and most of it was focused on reminding her of the differences between what she had learned from her mother and the way the dance was performed in Sakuragawa. Hotaru of course needed the most help, but that was only because she was so new at it.

After several repeats of the first verse of the dance, Yukiko had to call a halt. "Oh goodness," she sighed. "It's time to finish the lesson...Ichishou, Ichizakura, Yaesuzu, remember that you all have extra lessons after your normal classes today to prepare for the spring dances. But for now I suppose it's off to music lessons for all of you. Sami-chan, Hotaru-chan, please continue to practice your dances at home!"

The girls lined up in a neat row to bow to Yukiko and thank her for the lesson, then rose gracefully to collect their instruments. Kimitoshi and Yaesuzu scurried over to Sami and Hotaru. Kimitoshi clutched a shamisen, and Yaesuzu had the small box with her kotsuzumi. "Sami-chan, Hotaru-chan!" she called. "What are your next lessons?"

"I hope it's shamisen, it gets lonely in the lessons on my own..." Kimitoshi said, pouting just a little. With her hair in the wareshinobu style worn by minarai and junior maiko, she looked like an old-fashioned, very young schoolgirl hoping for some sweets. "But Takei-sensei is nice so it's not so bad," she added. "His wife is so lucky." Yaesuzu raised an eyebrow at the younger girl, then sketched a quick bow.

"I have to go to my lesson right away," she said. "We can spend some more time talking later! Good luck at your music lessons, Hotaru-chan!" And she rushed off, leaving the two shikomi and the minarai behind to finish chatting before their next lessons.
15th-Feb-2012 10:34 pm (UTC)
Hotaru was a little disappointed that she still needed so much help with the dance. She'd thought she'd been practicing enough... well, she'd just have to practice harder. She wasn't just going to be good at it, she was going to be great.

She was very nervous about her next lesson; it would be her first shamisen lesson with Takei-sensei. Okaasan had loaned her an old but serviceable shamisen at home, and her first attempts at plucking the strings had sounded like a cat being drug around by the tail. Ichisei had even come out of her room to find out who was causing the racket.

"I've got shamisen, too," she told the other girls. "What about you?", she asked the new shikomi.
16th-Feb-2012 01:59 am (UTC)
Sami followed the instructer's corrections carefully and comitted it to memory. When the dance was over she bowed and murmured a thank you to the instructer. She lifted her ag onto her shoulder and turned towards the group of girls when Hotaru asked her a question.

"I recieved mine only a short while ago." Sami was still a beginner at the shamisen. It was easy for her like dancing but she promised to work hard to make the okiya proud.
16th-Feb-2012 09:43 pm (UTC)
Kimitoshi let out a gleeful little squeak and grabbed their hands, jumping up and down a little before a sharp (but amused) look from Yukiko cut her exclamation of happiness short. Clearly, Kimitoshi was pleased to have some new friends to join her in shamisen class. She bowed to Yukiko and scurried to the door of the dance classroom, where she retrieved her carefully-wrapped instrument and her zori. She slipped the zori on and scurried down the hall, pausing every few steps to bow to someone who was her senior in the district -- in other words, to pretty much every single person who passed by. The other maiko and geiko at the school, plus the teachers moving around between lessons, bowed briefly to her in return, and smiled at the two shikomi trailing behind her.

The beginning shamisen classroom was only a few rooms away from the beginning dance classroom, so it didn't take long for them to get there. Kimitoshi slipped her zori off once again and lined them up neatly at the door, then stepped inside and bowed while greeting the teacher before scurrying to one of the three cushions set up across from him.

The shamisen teacher was a surprisingly young man with surprisingly long hair kept pulled back in a high, neat ponytail. He wore a simple, dark green kimono and had several different shamisen lined up on the tatami at his side. When Kimitoshi first greeted him, he was busy flipping through a thin sheet music book with a sunny yellow cover. But when she spoke he looked up and grinned, motioning the three teenagers inside.

"More students today, how exciting! I'll need to see your instruments...yours too, Kimi-chan."

When he finally had their instruments lined up in front of them, he picked each one up in turn to work as he spoke. "My name is Takei Fumiya, and I usually teach the younger maiko as well...but they're all busy with practicing dances for the spring show today." He studied the long neck of Kimitoshi's instrument, then carefully picked off a few small, clear stickers stuck to it before handing it back to her. "You're going to debut next week, Kimi-chan, so you don't need those anymore." She grinned and gleefully took her instrument back, quietly tuning it while Fumiya worked on Sami's and Hotaru's. He added a whole series of small, clear stickers with various numbers and symbols on them along the neck of Hotaru's shamisen. "These are guides to show you where each note is played," he explained. For now, since you're just beginning, you might have to look a lot, but you need to practice hard to get over that habit. A proper player never looks at her hand while she plays." He began adding stickers to Sami's too, though he left a few off -- she had been practicing for a little longer, and apparently he felt she no longer needed some of the more common notes marked. He handed back Hotaru's and Sami's instruments as well, then handed Hotaru a small stack of music books. "Now then. Shall we begin with Gion Kouta?"
17th-Feb-2012 07:49 pm (UTC)
Sami followed Kimitoshi and Hotaru to the shamisen class. She bowed to those who passed and smiled back at Kimitoshi. She looked at the shamisen teacher, she had never seen a teacher so young before! Sami slipped off her zori, following the other girls inside.

Sami gave her instrument to Takei Fumiya and watched quietly as he put clear stickers on the neck. After listening to his explanation, she was no longer confused. Sami too back her shamisen, stepping back so Takei Fumiya could hand the music books to Hotaru.
18th-Feb-2012 05:32 pm (UTC)
Fumiya walked them through the song slowly, for Hotaru's benefit. As shamisen songs went it wasn't that difficult, but since she was new and the techniques used in the song were very basic to good shamisen playing, he wanted to make sure she could keep up. He didn't sing yet -- rather, he called out instructions for notes, pauses, and different methods of plucking the strings with either the bachi or with their fingers.

"Now, make sure when you press the stings, you're using your nail and not the pad of your finger. It won't get the proper sound otherwise." He paused to demonstrate. The difference in the quality of the sound was almost imperceptible, but it was still important.

After a few rounds of Gion Kouta, he stopped for a rest. "Do any of you have questions before we go on? I have new songs for Sami and Kimi-chan, and I wanted to introduce Hotaru-san to a couple more songs to work on this week so she doesn't get bored." He grinned, and Kimitoshi stifled a giggle. Clearly she remembered the pain of having only one song to practice over and over and over...
19th-Feb-2012 11:49 pm (UTC)
Hotaru giggled a little when Takei-sensei demonstrated the technique for pressing the strings on the neck; her violin teacher, Osamu-sensei, would have vapors since it was the complete opposite of what he taught her. Takei-sensei was a patient instructor, somehow keeping a studious eye on each of his three charges seemingly at the same time. Hotaru wondered how he did it.

When the class was over, she carefully gathered the stack of music books and wrapped her shamisen in its bag. Her right hand was a little sore from holding the bachi too tightly, and dull ache permeated from the base of her neck to her left shoulder. It seemed that playing the shamisen required different muscles than playing the violin!
22nd-Feb-2012 12:20 am (UTC)
Sami's brow wasfurrowed during most of the class as she played. Her hands were also sore from playing and her back had gone a bit stiff. She was thankful that Takei-Sensei waspatient, if Sami had been the teacher she might have gone wild with having to correct students all throughout a class.

Sami carefully packed her instruments when class was over and pulled her bag onto her shoulder. She stretched slightly, her back muscles slowly unknoting themselves. She smiled and bowed her thanks to the instructor.
22nd-Feb-2012 05:25 pm (UTC)
Takei-sensei bowed to them as well and made a quick check around the room to make sure they hadn't forgotten anything. In his opinion, the lesson had gone well. Kimitoshi had made great progress recently -- a good thing since her debut was a short time away. Sami had also made a lot of progress. She already knew several songs, so for the most part he had focused on teaching her the preferred techniques and song versions used in Sakuragawa. As for Hotaru, well, he thought it was a little early to tell, but he remembered the conversation he had had with her okaasan shortly after her acceptance into the Ishida okiya but before her actual arrival. Ichigokoro said that Hotaru had taken music and dance lessons before. Takei-sensei knew from experience that any music and dance lessons, no matter how different from what they did in Sakuragawa, could be a huge help to a new student. He was very much looking forward to seeing Kimitoshi, Sami, and Hotaru have long and successful careers in the district.

After they left, he closed the classroom door and settled in to work on a few projects of his own, like arranging the music for the spring dances before he presented his ideas to the rest of the teachers. So much to do, and so little time to do it!

(I put up the opening post for Kimitoshi's misedashi, even though we're still wrapping up the ozashiki thread. Feel free to post in the misedashi thread anytime!)
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