The geisha world is deep and mysterious, and it’s difficult for outsiders to enter. So I consider myself fortunate, because thanks to my job at the ryokan here in Togura Kamiyamada Onsen, I am able to see some of the shamisen music and traditional dance at our guests’ banquets. Last night was another first for me: geisha parlor games. I’d heard about the games, but had never really seen one. So when I heard the sound of the shamisen and stepped into the banquet room last night, I was thrilled to see “konpira fune-fune” taking place. And not only did I get to watch it, but then one of the guests said, “Hey, you try it, too!” Tamako-san taught me the rules (it’s too complicated to explain here), and I gave it a try. One thing I learned really quickly was it’s impossible to beat a geisha. They are pros! While the shamisen is going slowly, I could keep up with Tamako-san, but as the shamisen picked up speed, before I knew it I had lost. Playing the game accompanied live by a shamisen was so cool!
On a different night, I popped in for an official “greeting” at one of the banquets. For some reason I was asked what musical instrument I play, and I replied the shishi (lion) flute. I have to learn to shut my big mouth! That particular group had requested some geisha for entertainment, including the shamisen veteran Harugoma-san. Partway through the banquet, I was called back to play the flute. We ended up jamming, with one guest doing a dance with a shishi made up of a seat cushion, sake bottles, and an obi, another customer played the taiko drums, Harugoma-san on the shamisen, and me on the flute. I have to be honest: normally when I play the flute there is another member in front of me and I follow his finger movements. So I was way out of my league to play flute for those guests, but they seemed to enjoy it (maybe thanks to the sake?).