Holiday Tangent: SAYUKI, Japan’s first certified NJ Geisha, debuts

Hi Blog. In the first of a series of tangents, here’s news of the first-ever NJ geisha. Anthropologist Liza Dalby (author of GEISHA) got close to the ranks, but never became a geisha herself. Sayuki has. Congratulations and best wishes for her future understanding this very closed world! Arudou Debito

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Japan’s first ever foreign geisha
Courtesy of Sayuki

For the first time in the 400 year history of the geisha, a Westerner has been accepted, and on December 19, will formally debut under the name Sayuki.

Sayuki is specialized in social anthropology, a subject which requires anthropologists to actually experience the subject they are studying by participating in the society themselves.

Sayuki has been doing anthropological fieldwork in Asakusa – one of the oldest of Tokyo’s six remaining geisha districts – for the past year, living in a geisha house (okiya), and participating in banquets as a trainee. She has been training in several arts, and will specialize in yokobue (Japanese flute).

Sayuki took an MBA at Oxford before turning to social anthropology, and specializing in Japanese culture. She has spent half of her life in Japan, graduating from Japanese high school, and then graduated from Japan’s oldest university, Keio. Sayuki has lectured at a number of universities around the world, and has published several books on Japanese culture. She is also an anthropological film director with credits on NHK, BBC, National Geographic Channel programmes.

For further information please contact:

In English:

http://www.sayuki.net, sayuki.geisha@gmail.com

In Japanese:

お問い合わせ―所属事務所 マスターマインド
メールアドレスinfo@master-mind.jp www.master-mind.jp
Fax-03-3713-1604

Photographs are available for purchase and download at:

http://keyshots.smugmug.com/gallery/4014935
sayukiphoto.jpg
Photo by Kerry Raftis http://www.keyshots.com©
ENDS

8 comments on “Holiday Tangent: SAYUKI, Japan’s first certified NJ Geisha, debuts

  • Any idea why she’s not using her birth name? Is it a geisha tradition not to use it when working?

    –DON’T KNOW WHY. NAMING AS PER HER REQUEST. DEBITO

  • I think that with Geishas ( as well as many other practioners of performing arts- acting, singing, clothing design) one can change ones’name to fit the persona.

  • This is indeed a boon for Japan in many ways. Congratulations are in order to Sayuki on what must have been an huge personal committment from her.

    It is sad though that Japan’s first NJ Geisha, despite her significant contribution to Japan will still have to submit her fingerprints and photo to immigration control whenever she travels abroad.

  • Is there a difference between performing as a geisha and ‘graduating’? My understanding was Liza was, for all intents and purposes, a geishi :O but I’m going on third hand information and my network is so slow today I can’t be bothered waiting for her page to download 😀

    –NOT SURE. I’M NOT A SPECIALIST IN THESE MATTERS. BUT I HAVE ASKED AND HEARD FROM A RELIABLE SOURCE THAT LIZA WAS NOT “OFFICIALLY CERTIFIED” (HOWEVER THAT’S DONE) AS A GEISHA. SAYUKI HAS BEEN. THAT’S THE BEST I CAN TELL YOU WITHOUT HEARING FROM EITHER SAYUKI OR LIZA DIRECTLY.

  • Debito-san,
    You probably don’t remember me, but I participated in the Yokohama demonstration about Tama-chan. You know, the one where we dressed as seals? 🙂
    I was wondering if you were planning on contacting Sayuri for an interview or anything of the sort. There’s a lot of curiosity about her on the geisha discussion board at ImmortalGeisha.com, which is an English language educational website about geisha. We’d love to learn anything about Sayuri that we can.
    Also, I’ve heard that although Sayuri may be the first Caucasian geisha, she’s not the first non-Japanese geisha. We’ve heard of women of other Asian backgrounds becoming geisha, although probably not in Kyoto or even Tokyo. Many of the ones we’ve heard of, like Sayuri, seem to be self-proclaimed. Do you have any information about that?

    Feel free to come join us at ImmortalGeisha if you like! The message board is here:
    http://www.immortalgeisha.com/ig_bb/index.php

    And the discussion in question is here:
    http://www.immortalgeisha.com/ig_bb/viewtopic.php?t=10080

    Thank you and hope you have a happy New Year!
    Christy

  • PASSING ON A MESSAGE FROM SAYUKI. I WILL POST IT ON THE IMMORTAL GEISHA FORUM AS WELL WHEN THE ADMIN APPROVES MY REGISTRATION APPLICATION. ARUDOU DEBITO

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    SAYUKI has said:

    (It has been a very long road to becoming a geisha, and has taken several years of preparation, an enormous investment, and considerable perseverance. Whatever you are imagining geisha life is like, it is a great deal harder than you know.)

    I had made a decision to keep my life as an academic and my life as a geisha as separate as possible. Confusing the two could have very unwelcome implications for my my fieldwork now, particularly when I have struggled so hard to begin. I would be very grateful if those people speculating about my identity could please not do so and remove the posts.

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    ENDS

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