Kimitoshi’s misedashi was the biggest even in the district in a while, but it was far from the only one that was going to happen that year. About a week after that event, Hanatoshi and Kanotoshi appeared on the front steps of the district’s other three okiya, as well as in the doorways of the local ochaya and businesses and at the doors of their teachers’ classrooms to announce that Hanatoshi had made the decision to become a geiko. It wasn’t really a surprise to anyone, since she was very dedicated to the profession, but the announcement that someone had officially decided to stay on was always a happy event in Sakuragawa. Beginning that day, Hanatoshi changed her hairstyle from the ofuku she had been wearing since she turned 18 to the special hairstyle called osafune, the hairstyle most Kobayashi girls wore as a prelude to sakkou.
Once the excitement over her announcement and Kimitoshi’s misedashi died down, though, the folks in charge in Sakuragawa (in other words, the teachers and the four okaasan) started feeling a little tense. Now that Kimitoshi had debuted, there weren’t any more minarai, and only two shikomi. On the surface this wasn’t a bad thing. Sakuragawa was a small district, after all, and many houses in other districts went for long periods of time without even one shikomi. But the problem was that very few girls made it past the shikomi stage, and then not all of them made it through the maiko stage. But without new people coming into Sakuragawa, the district wouldn’t survive.
Clearly, something had to be done.
And so it was that, as the beginning of April rolled around, the district’s teachers, ochaya owners, and okaasan all crowded into the Ishida house for a conference. They drank tea, ate snacks, and discussed the issue of how to attract more future maiko and geiko to the district.
But after discussing for several hours, they had reached an impasse. It was time for an expert opinion. Ichigokoro went to see if Hotaru was home, and called for her to come down to the already-crowded sitting room.
When she arrived, everyone exchanged greetings, and the people already in the room shifted around a little so Hotaru could have a place to sit too. Once she was settled in, the shamisen teacher Takei Fumiya picked up a small notebook from where it sat in front of the foreign woman who had been taking photos at Kimitoshi’s misedashi and studied a page on which she had been scribbling wildly for much of the meeting. He sighed.
“Hotaru-chan,” he said, “you have probably already noticed that Sakuragawa is a very small place. To make a long story short, we’re working on some ideas to attract more young women interested in becoming maiko and geiko. We have already decided to let Yaesuzu’s mother write a manga about her life as a maiko, ad we’re considering letting this year’s spring dance be filmed and broadcast as a TV special. The other big ideas right now are to put up a website that would tell people about the district and give them an easy way to inquire about becoming maiko or geiko, to hire a team to make a documentary -- it could be about Sakuragawa in general or it could follow one or two specific people, like some of the ones that have come out of Kyoto recently -- or to,” and here he paused for a moment as his eyes darted to the woman beside him, “or two begin allowing foreigners to join the district. My wife says there are a lot of foreigners interested in becoming maiko or geiko, but honestly we’re not so sure about the viability of that option…”
“Anyway,” his wife interrupted before more drama could unfold, “we wanted to ask all of the maiko and geiko here what made them want to become maiko or geiko, and what made them choose Sakuragawa over their other options. And since you’re here right now, we figured we would start by asking you.”