A few days after the party with the onnagata, and after Hotaru’s first set of lessons at the school, Kanotoshi and Kimitoshi went around to each of the other okiya in the city with notes reminding the other maiko and geiko that Kimitoshi’s misedashi was imminent. They had already passed out similar announcements almost a month before, but since the district was so small and everyone was always so busy, it was customary for new maiko and geiko to pass around such reminders.
The day of Kimitoshi’s misedashi was bright and sunny. It was a touch on the warm side for mid-March in Sakuragawa, and the spring leaves and flowers were making their first appearance. Many local families were out and about enjoying the weather. Tourists too had come to Sakuragawa to enjoy the atmosphere, and today the district’s main roads and even many of the smaller ones were packed with tourists. While most tourists wouldn’t even know what a misedashi was and couldn’t identify a real maiko from another tourist dressed up as one for fun, there were many in Sakuragawa today just to catch a glimpse of Kimitoshi’s debut.
Ichisei stood at the front door of her okiya, shaking out her favorite pale yellow shawl before draping it elegantly over her shoulders, hiding the upper half of her light grey kimono and the cream obi she wore with it. She slipped her komachi geta on and stepped aside to let Ichifumi get to her zori. While the blue-clad maiko slipped her footwear on, Ichisei opened the door and stepped out onto the street to make more room. Ichifumi followed her as the twins, both wearing pink, made their way into the entryway to get their zori. Okaasan followed after them, pausing just long enough to pick a pair of new white zori out of a cubby in the entryway and set them out for Hotaru, whom she had dressed in a cheerful combination of pale purple and yellow for the day. Okaasan herself wore a dusty green. Once they were all out on the sidewalk and door had been locked behind them, she paused for a moment to fuss over the small ornaments in the twins’ hair and to make sure the brand-new blue cloth in Ichifumi’s ofuku hairstyle was neat before leading her household through the small back roads and alleys that would allow them to avoid the most tourist-filled roads on the way to the Kobayashi house.
*** *** *** *** ***
The Hoshino family lived the farthest away from the Kobayashi house, and while Hinako would have much preferred to just stay home and practice her arts, Kogiku was shrewd enough to know that putting in an appearance at another girl’s misedashi or erikae was good for networking in Sakuragawa. The event was bound to be attended by some of their customers, and of course it was an opportunity to be visible to tourists (their teachers wouldn’t be at the house to see Kimitoshi off but would instead be waiting for her at the school, where she would go to greet them). It was also a good chance to size up other houses and keep tabs on who was new, who had left, and who was moving on to another stage in her career. Hinako in particular found this interesting, as it helped her gather more information on her rivals.
In Sakuragawa, the custom at a misedashi was for the debuting maiko and her oneesan to both appear in their most formal kimono, and for the oneesan to accompany her newly-debuted younger sister on her rounds of greetings. All of the other maiko and geiko in attendance, including the others in the debuting girl’s house, would show up in fairly informal kimono for the day. Maiko were expected to have their hair styled as usual, but it was taboo for a geiko to show up in her wig or with her hair styled. It would be seen as a bid for attention and as rude to the new maiko and her house. But that didn’t mean there weren’t ways for a crafty okaasan to draw attention to her girls. And Kogiku was crafty.
The night before the debut, she had set out three colorful outfits: a bright emerald-green kimono with a black and white hakata obi for Hinako, sky blue with a black obi covered in a colorful pattern for the maiko Kozen, and sunny yellow with a grey and blue obi for Sami. They would certainly stand out from the crowd too.
Kogiku insisted that they rise early, dress early, and leave early so they could be at the Kobayashi house early enough to get good spots close to the front door -- but not so close it looked like they were trying to crowd the Kobayashi family out of their own pictures. Just close enough that people were sure to notice them.
*** *** *** *** ***
Because they left so early, the Hoshino family was indeed the first family to arrive. Even so, they had been beaten to the house by several eager tourists (who quickly turned their attention to the colorful crowd) and a short, chubby white woman dressed in a purple iromuji and carting the biggest, scariest, most professional-looking camera of the day. She had a tripod tucked under one arm and was waiting patiently by the door, as though she thought they family was expecting her. She gave a slight bow of acknowledgment to the Hoshinos, but only Kozen returned the acknowledgement. The Ishida and Harukawa families arrived from slightly different directions at almost the same time, and the respective members of each family greeted each other and the Hoshino girls cheerfully…though Yaesuzu kept her distance from Hinako. She waved eagerly to Hotaru and Sami, hoping both would join her for a chat before Kimitoshi appeared.
A rather nervous-looking Japanese family, all dressed in Western clothing except for the mother (who wore a chic maroon tomesode), worked their way through the crowd and joined the kimono-clad white woman at the door. They spoke together for a few minutes before someone pushed the front door open, which caused the tourists to go nuts snapping pictures (they ALL wanted that first shot of Kimitoshi taking her first steps as a full maiko), but it was a false alarm. Rather than Kimitoshi appearing, the Japanese family and the woman who had been waiting by the door were all brought inside, and then the door was once more shut firmly behind them.
Ichifumi groaned a little. “We’re going to be here a while,” she murmured. “I think that was Kimitoshi’s family only just arriving, and they hadn’t even let Miri-chan in yet…”
The Ishida twins nodded, and Harukawa girls all sighed a little. Near the door, Kozen looked a little sour. “My family was late too,” she muttered to Sami. “They said the traffic from the hotel was awful because of all of the tourists trying to get to our house to watch my misedashi too.”
As the women waited together, chatting with each other and exchanging stories of their own debuts, more people began arriving to watch. Ryuuki and Masuyo arrived, as Ryuuki had promised Kimitoshi he would. They worked their way through the crowd of tourists to stand closer to the maiko and geiko. Another pair of men arrived from the same direction the Harukawa family had come, and the maiko and geiko turned to greet them as well. A short time later, and elegant black car with dark windows pulled slowly down the small street, stopping a short distance from the crowd gathered in front of the house. The driver hopped out to open the back passenger door, and a tall, leggy blonde climbed elegantly from the car and joined the waiting crowd. She was much taller than most of the people gathered, and even though many people moved aside for her she didn’t try to move to the front of the crowd. She nodded greetings to the maiko and geiko as well, then turned her attention back to the front door to wait patiently, an expensive digital camera clutched in a black-gloved hand.
Yaehisa, Yaesuzu’s older sister, looked around. “Well,” she said to nobody in particular, “looks like everyone is here. Even one of our customers from overseas. Now we just get to wait…I bet Kimi-chan’s kimono is gorgeous.”
- Tags:chincho sami, hanano kazuya, hanatoshi, harukawa, harukawa okiya, hinako, hoshino, hoshino okiya, ichifumi, ichigokoro, ichisei, ichishou, ichizakura, imai ichiro, ishida, ishida okiya, kanotoshi, kimitoshi, kobayashi, kobayashi okiya, kogiku, kozen, masuyi, misedashi, okiya, ryuuki, shimizau hotaru, siofra mcdonagh, takei emily, toshiyasu, yaehisa, yaekano, yaemaru, yaesuzu