The Japan Foundation, New Delhi
The Japan Foundation, New Delhi hosted a series of lectures and demonstrations by two Maiko (apprentice geisha) and their female manager in New Delhi and Chennai from February 22 to 25, 2014. The event was titled "Learning Japanese with Maiko." In recent years a large number of Japanese companies have entered the India market, and interest in Japan and Japanese-language learning are steadily increasing among Indian people. In response to this trend, the Japan Foundation, New Delhi have been holding Japanese-language classes for general citizens since December 2011. Also, we have been striving to come up with lessons that not only enable the students to obtain Japanese-language skills, but which also allow them to deepen their understanding of Japanese culture and society. In the course of that, participants of our cultural events and Japanese-language courses had frequently expressed an interest in experiencing Japanese traditional culture at first hand, including ikebana (flower arrangement), tea ceremony, kimono and dancing. In order to answer those people's expectations, we decided to invite Maiko to India. Maiko wear traditional Japanese clothes and are the embodiment of Japanese traditional culture, having acquired a genuine knowledge of Japanese classical dance, tea ceremony and other forms of arts. We thus organized a program of lectures and demonstrations to be given by Maiko.
Spellbound by graceful, traditional Kyoto dancing
A keen interest in finding out about "real" Maiko
On the evening of Friday, February 21, with their hair arranged in a traditional Japanese women's hairstyle, the Maiko party stepped off the plane in India and began their lectures and demonstrations in Delhi from the following day. Without delay they held a lecture and demonstration in Gurgaon, about an hour by car from Delhi, from the morning of the next day, Saturday, and in the afternoon they held their second lecture and demonstration at the New Delhi World Book Fair (held from February 15 to 23, 2014, at Pragati Maidan).
Since this was the last weekend during the book fair's duration, many people turned up, and as a way of introducing themselves the Maiko spent about 30 minutes mingling inside the venue. Following that, a large number of people attended their lecture and demonstration at the auditorium within the venue. Not only was it standing room only, some people were not even able to enter the auditorium (our apologies to those who were unable to get in). In an atmosphere charged with excitement, the two Maiko performed the graceful, traditional Kyoto dances "Gion Kouta" and "Matsu-zukushi," which also uses gorgeous fans, and the performances brought uproarious cheers and applause from the spellbound audience. An introduction to the Kyoto dialect also received a great reception, and when the Maiko cheerfully introduced phrases of the Kyoto dialect such as "okini (thank you)" and "okoshiyasu (welcome)," the atmosphere lightened and the audience members could be heard responding with "okini" themselves.
An introduction to Kyoto dialect also received a great reception
The Maiko also visited a booth set up at the World Book Fair by the Japan Foundation. Some people accompanied them from the lecture and demonstration to the booth, and the Japanese-language students in particular made a great effort to speak to them in Japanese.
The next day, Sunday, after giving a mini lecture and demonstration at the World Book Fair at lunchtime, the Maiko moved to the Japan Foundation, New Delhi and gave their fourth lecture and demonstration, and their last in Delhi. At this event, in addition to the highly popular traditional Kyoto dancing, they also demonstrated the procedure for making tea in the tea ceremony. At a Q&A session they were asked questions that included, "How long does it take to arrange your hair and do your makeup?", "What do you do on your days off?", "Do you own a mobile phone?", "Are you allowed to fall in love and get married?", and "What age can you keep doing this job to?" The audience asked questions freely, clearly keen to find out all they could about the Maiko as "real" people.
Demonstrating the procedure of making tea in the tea ceremony
Some people struck up conversations in Japanese with the Maiko
Hospitality professionals who remain unfazed even when the unexpected happens
The next day, Monday, the Maiko moved to Chennai, two-and-a-half hours away from Delhi by plane, where a lecture and demonstration was held in partnership with the Consulate-General of Japan at Chennai. As a city visited by the Japanese Imperial couple in December 2013, Chennai enjoys a deepening and amicable relationship with Japan, and it is also a core southern Indian city which is seeing remarkable growth in the number of Japanese-language learners, even compared to other cities in India. The Maiko gave a lecture and demonstration for general audiences on the same evening of the day they arrived in Chennai and attracted a large crowd. The event was also covered widely by the news media.
On Tuesday, their last day in India, the Maiko gave a lecture and demonstration at the official residence of the Japanese Consulate-General at Chennai for foreign diplomats and leaders of various fields in southern India. An unexpected event occurred during the performance of the second traditional Kyoto dance, however, when the sound system suddenly gave out and the music stopped. After a moment of silence, the female manager, who was also acting as the MC, began singing the second song from where it had left off and walked slowly onto the stage. The dancing Maiko followed her lead and began singing as well, and they performed the dance to the end while singing. Those attending the event, as well as staff members, were all deeply impressed that the Maiko and the female manager remained unfazed and had instantly and quick-wittedly picked up the song and kept dancing. The performance received huge applause. The song and the dance were superb and left a lasting impression.
The Maiko greeted each and every guest with a spirit of hospitality
The truth is, over the approximately five-day period between arriving in India and their final lecture and demonstration in Chennai, the Maiko kept their hair arranged in the traditional Japanese women's hairstyle, and even slept using high pillows when they went to bed. They gave a succession of lectures and demonstrations that required considerable concentration and spent long hours traveling, but they consistently presented their lectures and demonstrations precisely and with smiles on their faces. Furthermore, everywhere the Maiko went, they generated long queues of people wanting to have photos taken with them, yet they treated every single person politely. As hospitality professionals they accomplished a spectacular series of lectures and demonstrations in India.
In Chennai in the evening, the Maiko were at last able to let their hair down and remove all their makeup, and spent a short time looking around Chennai City. They picked out souvenirs and took in the sights of Chennai's streets and the sea from a car. The Maiko had achieved a great deal in a short period of time in India, and with the successful completion of their lectures and demonstrations, they were at last able to enjoy a brief break.
We hope that as a result of inviting the Maiko to India the people there deepened their interest and understanding in Japanese traditional culture, and caught a glimpse of the spirit of Japanese hospitality.