“Do Not Show But Let See”: Resilience in the Kyōto Hanamachi and Maiko/Geiko Communities


The Covid-19 pandemic and its restrictions revealed a “double” crisis for the different “Geisha” districts (Hanamachi), forcing the Maiko and Geiko to halt their ozashiki (banquets) and odori (dances) practices. Touching the artistic performance and hospitality sides of the Hanamachi, the rules to curb the spread of the coronavirus accelerated the weakening of an increasingly fragile world, with less women interested in pursuing a career in this industry. Studying such communities is therefore a study of survival strategy but the crisis caused eloquent reactions in the Hanamachi. Some artists used the media, reaching out to their audience more directly while crowdfunding campaigns or events online were held, effectively bypassing the legendary ichiken-san okotowari rule (no newcomers without a proper introduction). This presentation focuses on these “emergency” activities, analyzing the data collected through direct observations of Kyōto during Covid times. It proposes to articulate the material using the lens of resilience and vulnerability (as discussed by Butler (2016)), to effectively discuss the position of Maiko and Geiko in 2022. In so doing, the multileveled implications of “bouncing back” (Manyena, 2011) are explored. Following Foreman (2008), Eguchi (2016) and Bardsley (2021), this presentation also aims at engaging new discourses on the Hanamachi voices, how they can be mediated without perpetuating the somewhat paternalist tropes that exist about the “iconic” Maiko and Geiko and without compromising the culture of the Hanamachi, where the maxim of traditional Japanese performance “do not show but let see” remains active, maybe even more than ever.

Author Information
Lucile Druet, Kansai Gaidai University, Japan

Paper Information
Conference: KAMC2022
Stream: Performing Arts Practices: Theater

This paper is part of the KAMC2022 Conference Proceedings (View)
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To cite this article:
Druet L. (2022) “Do Not Show But Let See”: Resilience in the Kyōto Hanamachi and Maiko/Geiko Communities ISSN: 2436-0503 – The Kyoto Conference on Arts, Media & Culture 2022: Official Conference Proceedings https://doi.org/10.22492/issn.2436-0503.2022.4
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.22492/issn.2436-0503.2022.4

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Posted by James Alexander Gordon