Sato Kaori walked calmly, yet purposefully down a pretty tree-lined street on the eastern edge of Sakuragawa. She wore her favorite (and most flattering) vintage houmongi, sky-blue with a motif of Japanese cranes and black pines, with a deep grey obi featuring an intricate Ajiro pattern embroidered in gold. A stack of newly-printed hanameishi were tucked in an elegant silver case in her left hand.
Kaori’s mission today was to present herself to the okiya, ochaya, and associated shops and businesses of Sakuragawa. Kaori had already presented herself to the kenban and its officials yesterday, stating her intention to register as an independent geisha. The officials at the kenban seemed to take her story of an ailing okaasan as the reason for her departure from Tokyo at face value, and the registration had proceeded without delay or complication.
Kaori kept her expression neutral as she strolled past the shops and cafes. Truth be told, Sakuragawa was not Kaori’s first choice (or second) for a place to live and entertain, but her options were dwindling. Re-establishing herself in Tokyo was out of the question, her mother had seen to that, and her attempts to initiate her own okiya in Kyoto had been almost disastrous. Kaori was only glad that she had not invested any of her own money in that project, and her losses had been minimal.
Kaori had arrived in Sakuragawa the day before Kimitoshi’s misedashi, and despite being jet-lagged she had made it a point to be in the crowd to observe the debut of the district’s newest maiko. The girl's kurotomesode had been acceptable enough, though it was a pity the girl wasn't pretty. Sakuragawa seemed to suffer for pretty women in general. Tokyo was famous for its stunning geisha and maiko. Kaori sighed; she would never accept this place as "home", it was merely... a temporary exile.
Kaori came to her first stop, Murasaki no Tsuki, a modern-looking building which purportedly boasted an ochaya on the second floor. She pursed her lips; she wondered how the tea house would be soundproofed from the noise from the restaurant; she would hate to have to turn down appointments here because the clients couldn’t hear over the racket of the first floor.
No matter; Kaori entered the building quickly but confidently, entering a small but well-appointed reception area. She made her way to the hostess, bowed, and said, “Good morning. My name is Hachimitsu. I am an independent geisha new to the city. May I speak with your proprietor?”