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Sakuragawa: A geisha and maiko RPG
The New Arrival 
19th-Mar-2012 10:03 pm

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?”

20th-Mar-2012 07:27 am (UTC)
The hostess gave Hachimitsu a surprised look and kind of spluttered in confusion for a second, then motioned for her to follow. “Let me show you to a quiet area so you can talk to him.” Even though the restaurant was mostly empty, since lunchtime was over and dinner hadn’t begun yet, she ushered Hachimitsu to the back of the restaurant, though an archway mostly blocked off by a deep maroon noren, and down a short hallway to a tiny and cramped office. Even though the office only had one desk and two small chairs, it was incredibly cramped. The shelves packed to bursting with cookbooks, tour guides, and unlabelled binders full of goodness only knew what kind of important information didn’t help. The only window on the room was small and built into the top of the wall, and didn’t let much light into the room.

The hostess motioned for Hachimitsu to take a seat, and scurried off to find the proprietor. He appeared a few minutes later. Nomura Keisuke was surprisingly muscular, as shown by the tight white t-shirt he wore over a pair of black pants. He was pulling off an apron as he stepped into the office, pausing just long enough to hang said apron on a hook outside the door. He fixed Hachimitsu with a curious and somewhat skeptical look. “I’m Nomura Keisuke, the proprietor here. Misaki said you wanted to speak with me? Something about being a new independent geiko here?”
21st-Mar-2012 01:44 am (UTC)
Kaori bowed in her seat. She wasn't sure she cared for his tone, but this was no place to get off on the wrong foot.

"Yes," she replied smoothly, pulling one of her cards from its silver case. She took the card in both hands, and bowed again, offering the card to Keisuke-san. "My name is Hachimitsu, and I am newly-arrived in Sakuragawa. I am hoping to establish good relations with you that would be mutually beneficial."
21st-Mar-2012 07:56 pm (UTC)
Keisuke took the card and bowed, studied it for a moment, and carefully set it on his desk on top of a small brown notebook that had the look of a well-used day planner, completely with various slips of paper shoved between the pages and making the notebook bulge well beyond its normal size. "Ah, I see. Well, I do believe there is a party in a few days you might be able to attend. The customer is a bit hard to please and almost never hires maiko, only full geiko. And since she is from Tokyo we like to keep her happy...can I contact you through the kenban to let you know the details? I'm afraid you've caught me at a busy time...big party coming in to the restaurant part of the business tonight that I have to finish preparing for...or Misaki might be able to look it up and let you know the details if you would prefer to know now."
22nd-Mar-2012 11:08 pm (UTC)
Kaori was both surprised and pleased; her expectation was to acquaint herself with the proprietor, not to come away with an appointment! She schooled her expression with care and bowed in gratitude; "That is more than sufficient," she replied, allowing a hint of a smile to color her voice. "It is greatly appreciated. And please leave the details with the kenban, they will be the best way to contact me for the present time.

"I do apologize if I have interrupted your work. I am deeply grateful for your time." She bowed again respectfully. "Misaki-chan can show me the way out."
24th-Mar-2012 04:22 am (UTC)
Keisuke bowed as well. "It's not a problem, honestly. Just a coincidence. Anyway, thank you for coming by, and hopefully we will have some time to chat more later. Be careful out there, I heard the weather is nice today but it can always change."

He summoned Misaki to show Hachimitsu out, and when she had left the restaurant he rushed back to his kitchen, but not to cook. There was a phone on the kitchen wall, and he would be able to find it faster than his mobile phone (currently buried on his desk). He quickly dialed the Kobayashi okiya, and when the okaasan answered he said, "Auntie, it's Keisuke...you won't believe what just happened..."
22nd-Mar-2012 11:39 pm (UTC)
Kaori made her way north through the street, stopping a short distance from Murasaki no Tsuki at a place simply known as Ebara-ojiisan's. The kenban said the sign for the salon was merely a sandwich-board sign at the entrance stenciled with a silhouette of a katsura. She was glad they told her that, otherwise she would not have known what to look for.

She entered the nondescript little storefront, wrinkling her nose a little at the rickety door and shabby interior. She scanned the room, all the chairs were taken by clients who were being attended to by stylists. There didn't seem to be a receptionist.
24th-Mar-2012 04:49 am (UTC)
One of the stylists looked up at her curiously, spoke quietly to her customer, and came up to the front of the shop to greet Hachimitsu. She wiped her hands on a towel as she went. "Can I help you, Miss?" she asked.
25th-Mar-2012 08:39 pm (UTC)
Kaori held out one of her cards. "I am new to the area, and would like to speak with the owner of the salon to make his acquaintance."
26th-Mar-2012 11:54 pm (UTC)
"Oh, I see." She took the card and studied it for a moment, then nodded. "I'll be right back, miss." The stylist scurried off to the back room, then returned a few moments later to usher her into the back room, where the shop's elderly proprietor sat on a thin cushion behind a battered old desk. A much younger man was collecting the last few pieces of paper from the desk as Hachimitsu came in, and he bowed quickly before making his exit and leaving the young geisha alone with the elderly hair-styling master.

"Well now," Ebara-jii-san said, studying her from behind thick glasses. "I hear we have a new geiko in Sakuragwa, but not one from the local houses...Come, sit, tell me about yourself," he said, motioning to the cushion recently vacated by the younger man.
29th-Mar-2012 12:15 am (UTC)
Kaori sat down gracefully, giving a coy tilt of her head. "I am Hachimitsu. I have come to pay my respects and ask that you take care of me."
31st-Mar-2012 12:43 am (UTC)
"So you have, so you have." He nodded a little. "How do you find Sakuragawa so far?"
31st-Mar-2012 10:31 pm (UTC)
Kaori allowed herself a coy smile. The old man seemed harmless enough. "Sakuragawa?" she repeated airily. "Why, it's... charming."
4th-Apr-2012 12:28 am (UTC)
"Ah yes, it truly is, isn't it? You're in luck, my dear, you have arrived ahead of our spring dances. We hold them in May. It's probably too late for you to participate this year but I do hope you'll attend and support your new sisters." He glanced up as the young man made a brief appearance again, beckoning to him. "Oh, it seems they need me in the shop. Is there anything else I can do for you today?"
5th-Apr-2012 12:14 am (UTC)
Kaori decided she liked the old man. She bowed deeply, "No, thank you, I appreciate your time."
7th-Apr-2012 07:05 pm (UTC)
Kaori continued her way through the hanamachi, stopping at a kimono repair shop, and an umbrella shop to make her introductions. Turning west along a busy main street she found a fan shop and kanzashi shop, where she engaged in a little shopping after introducing herself to the shop owners. She continued on her way, turing north again on a tiny, quiet street, looking for the Hanazaki ochaya.

The traditonal-styled building was nestled between two similarly-styled buildings, and for a moment, Kaori experienced a pang of homesickness as it reminded her of her favorite ochaya in Tokyo. But she quickly shook the feeling off, squared her shoulders, and knocked confidently on the tea houses’s door.
9th-Apr-2012 05:13 am (UTC)
An older woman answered the door at the Hanazaki, and she was clearly not the kind to mess with. It wasn't that she looked unfriendly, but she gave off the feeling of meaning business. She gave Kaori a quick once-over, and said, "You must be lost, dear, I'm afraid we aren't open right now. Nor do we accept first-time customers."
11th-Apr-2012 04:12 am (UTC)
Kaori blinked once or twice before regaining her aplomb. She bowed gracefully. "Please allow me to introduce myself. I am Hachimitsu, a jimae geiko. Might I speak to your oneesan, please?"
16th-Apr-2012 05:41 am (UTC)
"Aaaah, I see," the woman replied. "Well, if you're looking for the proprietor here, that would be me. Come in, come in." She stepped aside to let Hachimitsu in.
18th-Apr-2012 05:27 pm (UTC)
Kaori slipped inside, pausing briefly to remove her shoes. She followed the woman's brisk pace down a hallway, passing several party rooms. From what she could glimpse as they walked by, some opened to a lovely garden. From what she remembered, this okiya's gardens bordered the banks of the Oogawa. Kaori wondered if one could hear the river when sitting in the garden.

They came to a stop at what was clearly an office. They entered, the woman taking a seat behind a desk, Kaori sitting in a chair in front of it. She presented the woman with one of her cards. "As I said before, I am a geiko new to the city. I am hoping to establish good relations with you."
24th-Apr-2012 05:01 am (UTC)
"A new geiko to the city?" The proprietress took her card and studied it for a moment. "Wherever did you come from? I'm not familiar with any families using a name like yours..."
30th-Apr-2012 12:55 am (UTC)
Kaori bowed in a self-effacing manner. "I am from Tokyo. My okaasan fell ill and was forced to disband her ochaya." She paused, choosing her words carefully. "I came to Sakuragawa to ... start anew."
11th-May-2012 05:15 am (UTC)
"I see. Such a shame when that sort of thing happens, and the girls can't stay in their own city...." The proprietress sighed. "Have you been getting along all right here then?"
8th-Jun-2012 01:26 am (UTC)
Kaori was a little touched by the woman's concern. She bowed a little in her seat. "Well enough so far, madame. Though I would appreciate any help you could give me."
12th-Jun-2012 08:02 pm (UTC)
"Of course, of course," she said as she returned the bow. "I believe our parties for this week are all scheduled, but perhaps next week there will be an opening. And of course I could call you if there is an emergency, if you would like?" She didn't expect there to be any, and her clients were very particular. Most had had their parties scheduled for months just so they could request their favorite maiko and geiko and be guaranteed they would show up. But still, emergencies sometimes happened and it wouldn't do to not have a backup plan in place.
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