Tao by Matsumoto

Practical uses / Kawabata’s Onsen Geisha


<POINT>Komako in «Snow Country» knows how to accept all as they are. She doesn't resist.

The best known Japanese word in other languages may be "Tsunami", but this could be the least welcome one.

Then, the most popular Japanese word seems to be "geisha".

France invented the expression "raison d'être", and America gave the rest of the world the word "jazz".

Japan's linguistic contribution to humanity by adding one word qualifying a libidinous occupation is something that its people should feel proud of, isn't it?

You may think of this as a sarcasm. Not at all. They should truly be proud instead of feel ashamed of the word "geisha 芸者".

"Gei 芸" is the Japanese word for «art». "Sha 者" means «person». So, "geisha" signifies «artist». It is not only for the reason she plays the traditional musical instruments, but also because she lives the art of the Taoist way of living.

«Komako the onsen geisha»

The best example is Komako 駒子 in Yasunari Kawabata's «Snow Country» 川端康成「雪国」(a novel written by the Nobel prize winner, first published in 1935).

She is an onsen geisha 温泉芸者.

("Onsen 温泉" is a natural hot spring resort commercially exploited since the feudal age. They needed some girls to entertain guests in one way or another)

"I", the alter-ego of the author Yasunari Kawabata, meets Komako in an onsen, supposedly Joetsu Onsen in Niigata prefecture 新潟県上越温泉.

She is nineteen and a virgin-ish geisha. He finds her absolutely pure and clean, our Shintoist equivalent to Snow White, although she had had her concubine life before she came to the village.

She plays the music for him, and talks enthusiastically about Kabuki with him, which she cannot do with local girls ignorant of what's going on in Tokyo.

Though their relationship is strictly professional and she charges him for every minute she spends with him, this is a love story.

«Love and the oldest profession»

Well, when we think that, then, before World War 2, almost all the marriages in Japan were arranged and had nothing to do with the love between two individuals, this sentence should be rephrased "it is precisely because their relationship began with a commercial deal that they have found a true love".

If you are interested, please read «Snow Country». It is one of the best novels written in modern Japanese language.

«No onsen geisha were forced to do "it"»

There, the life of an onsen geisha is very well described. No one forces her anything.

On the contrary, a geisha was discouraged to have a carnal engagement with her client. It was she who decided and chose what was beneficial for her. She had to choose her patron carefully. If not, her youth and flesh would be wasted.

Nothing has changed in Japan, in principle. A Japanese girl is as pure as snow no matter how much she asks you.

«Only my index finger remembers her»

Komako keeps on working happily while her life deteriorates. It seems that it doesn't concern her.

Even "I" forgets about her. Only his index finger of the left hand remembers her.

She gets upset when she sees him again, but she accepts him all the same. She accepts him completely as she does her fate.

«Ukiyo-e and Shintoism»

The Japanese erotic prints are called "ukiyo-e", the picture from the floating world. Their emphasized male and female organs reflects the fertility worship in Shintoism.

Some onsen in Japan still enjoy their museum of "act of love".

The fertility worship may somehow related to Taoism especially when we talk about its application. (Sometimes, pure Taoism of Lao Tzu and genuine Zen Buddhism are too difficult to apply in life, it seems)

Read Yama Uba the Zen play

«"Like Gods" says Daisetz Suzuki»

The real fertility worship should not be accumulating as many children as possible. It is to be just, to have  a just number of them.

Zen master Daisetz Suzuki called this type of attitude "Kami nagara no michi (the way like gods)" in his «Zen and Japanese Culture».

«Living in the floating world»

It is like watching a Kabuki performance. All the sets and stories in Kabuki are planned to reel out from the left wing and disappears in the right one.

Living in the floating world is like sitting in a Kabuki theatre and seeing your life (=a hologram) scrolling.

It doesn't matter what is going on the stage. You have only to enjoy everything.

"Michi" and Tao are synonyms, literally.

Komako, the onsen geisha knows it without being aware of it.

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«Snow Country / Yukiguni» was written by Yasunari Kawabata, a Nobel Prize-winner. The first publication was in 1935. In 1948, the novel reached the form we know of today. Kawabata's «House of the Sleeping Beauties / Nemureru bijo», written in 1961, was about the old men who pay money to only sleep beside a young woman.  雪国  川端康成  眠れる美女

-Chapter 3a Hara gei the belly art. "Gei" means art. This is considered to be a kind of art in Japan.

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