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The Saint Paul globe. (St. Paul, Minn.) 1896-1905, November 13, 1904, Image 30

Image and text provided by Minnesota Historical Society; Saint Paul, MN

Persistent link: http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn90059523/1904-11-13/ed-1/seq-30/

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11l 7^^ Qei^ha Girte Who JFefucs*. to T?etvß*V t> o 11" »
I FOR the honor of Japan the . geisha
■*■*.' gills now in St. Louis may have to
.r 1V ; return to their native country, de
- spite their vigorous; protests. -80
highly do the Japanese value the honor
C: ' and integrity of their country that it: Is
• seldom a geshla Is ever permitted to leave
>:$:. the shore of the Flowery Kingdom.
. About 20 geishas [ were brought to St.
I. .'■■' Louis by the concessionaire of Fair Japan
on the Pike, an* they are the girls who
1., want -. to! remain in America. \ .
: . Anent the legal controversy arising over
• the-objections of the geishas to returning
■^7 home, the following story of who they are
and wha"tr|hey.d"o; In Japan"= will be in
-;: teresting. It was told by •X.. K. Kaw
(jakaanl.'of Japan, who is now in St. : Louis:
'"In ■ the .city of• Tokio, of '. a million and
; four r " hundred .thousand souls, where from
the toy of an hour to the'triumphs of all
time everything, is touched iby a "~ taste
unknown elsewhere, there are; in close
': proximity to ; the \ Oriental Broadway, the;
" Btreet y of; quaint ■ little = wooden '■ houses • in
terspersed !." here and there wtth vV: fewl
J"brick or stone structures In foreign style.
Its pavement being trodden by uncovered.
daiiKy little feet wearing odd-shaped
- - -woodaQ : clogs—there are here several quar
■ _-■ ters traversed by narrow but i clean thor
> :oughfares, ;on both sides ■: of which are
V closely built -. rows vof fantastic ■ houses,
fO: almost miniature, -which are - separated
from '• the streets ;. only ;-; by : ~ frail lattice
1 . ;:; screens, cunningly wrought, perhaps, of
>>w -^ J various - kinds of woods or delicate" bam
_-> '._'. --'fcoo^--; ■>->■_■■ .-_-»-;.f~li.' -VCv' ■ -»--.■■■*•_—';{; ;'"
- '"Before : . ; these screens are invariably"
- suspended picturesque paper; lanterns,
. round, square, " oval for »' oblong, bearing
- ' -- -.l : the : romantic ' name of the' house, ' such as
The House of the Moon,' The House of
•lowers," etc., as well as the names of
s^toe} feminine characters faring therein.
"These are tne geisha streets of Tokio
—the home of singing girls. From these
quarters geisha girls are invited to tea
houses, to social gatherings, mostly In the
evenings, to entertain their patronlzers.
"The status of the geisha is difficult to
define. To say that she is a public en
tertainer, pure and simple, would b« a
condescension and somewhat misleading
To describe her as a harlot would be too
'The history of the geisha, the per
son (sha) of accomplishments (gei). is not
a short or important one. The social in
stitution of Old Japan, which did not al
low women of the higher classes to asso
ciate with men in social affairs* naturally
gave birth to the public entertainer.
"In olden days, the function of the
geisha was, without doubt, simply to
dance and sing and play. But her occu
pation is constantly open to temptation,
her character subjected to unceasing tri
als, and she is consciously or uncon
sciously treading a path which leads to
the den of vice and sin.
! "The geisha of old, though outcast, was
j yet drunk with the spirit of Samurai-ism,
'ignoring calculation and not infrequently
sacrificing her ow,n interests for the wel
fare' of others.
'The story of the old geishas is replete
with the wonderfully heroic deeds of
those fair singers. But that is a thing ol
the past. In this age of commercialism,
to speak of a "heroic" geisha is simply
'The modern geisha, tossed In the bil
lows of industrialism, has been fast los
inc the charm and romance of her prede
cessors, and is now degrading almost ro
the rank of courtesan.
I "It Is unjust to conclude that because
the women of Japan resigned themselves
to an occupation of shame and degrada
tion, often of their own will,, they pos
sess no character, no Idea of decency and
modesty. To do the Japanese women jus
tice you must understand the Oriental
conception of morality.
"With us filial piety la. or at least has
been, the cine qua non of ethics before
which even the purity of a daughter or
the welfare of a son must be surrendered
if need be.
'It was cot uncommon that a girl, even
of .a Samurai family, gave herself volun
tarily to the destroying influences of. vice
and sin. «? though"! not "of ' course -\ without
heartrending struggles, in order to relieve
her ■ parents, vor >; even - brothers, of their
worriment ■ or " economic I hardships..
* "Judged from the modern conception of
ethic&* such *&'■ self abnegation ; . Is not
worthy of •; admiration, . but the" sentiment
was sweet nevertheless. ■.'""■"
"Such a vetfeha stood aloof amid a host
of temptations and was almost sure to re
tire from her ignominious pursuit, some
day, without staining her purity in the
slightest degree.
"But bM this has gone, never to come
back, and the present-day geisha girls
are of an entirely different type and
"Although social gatherings a 1* europ
eenee have been replacing social parties
of the old Japanese fashion, consisting of
men alone ,the geisha still occupies an
important position as a public entertainer.
"Without her. Japanese social enter
tain«oc-nt would be deprived of much of Its
vivacity and pleasing unconstraint. The
Japarese woman of the higher class does
not possess the art of conversation. To
be quiet and gentle has been one of her
most important and imperative duties.
"The geisha's talk, more even than her
songs and dancings, helps to enliven 'that
gloom of dullness which the absence of
social talent and of the habit of society
spreads In deep layers over the whole
surface of Tokio life. 1
'To a refined man. however, the geisha's
talk ts a bore. Uneducated and ignorant,
the geisha knows not a topic of conversa
tion which would agree with refined taste.
Undoubtedly she is an evil of the modern
society of Japan, a necessary evil though
it be.
"I would fain leave the geisha tp her
more ardent admirers to describe her
fascinations and charms more sweetly, if
not more correctly.
"Aa for myself, logwa fkarma) forbade
me to take fancy to the fair warbler. Am
' I sophisticated? Or la It her admirer
I that is sophisticated?"
About SO of the fantastic little girts
> were brought to SL Louis by a Pike con
cessionaire. They appeared in various
capacities in Pair Japan until It was «r*
dent to the manager that the enterp»ise
would be financially unsuccessful. When
an attempt was made to send 17 of the
girls back to Japan the storm broke loose,
They had become fascinated with this
country and refused to return to the
Flowery Kingdom, -which is already
crowded wit* people. They thought there
were better opportunities for them here,
and they insisted on remaining.
There is something stronger than senti
ment back of the movement to send them
back to their native country. With the
Japanese men the honor of Japan J«abov^
all else. The country's integrity abroad
must be maintained regardless of per
sonal sacrifices. The Japanese man looks
upon the geisha girl outside of Japan aa
an intolerable evil. H e fears that her
conduct will bring discredit upon his coun
try. Therefore, whenever by any circum
; stances or conditions she is permitted to
leave Japan, which is not often, the
I Mikado's government insists that she
must be promptly returned. It is for this
reason that the Japanese now in St. Louis
nm so anxious that the geishas shall be
sent back to the Flowery Kingdom with
out delay.
The geishas appeared In St. Louis only 1
on the Pike. They were not tolerated at
the Imperial Japanese Gardens which rep
resents Japan officially. The girls em
ployed to serve tea in the pretty and
quaint little houses were college girls
from Tokio. who were anxious to see the
Exposition and learn something of Ameri
can customs. Before returning to Japan
they will make a tour of Europe, visiting
the different cities of Interest. Some -»re
ambitious to become musicians and other
oea^e to shine as «rt!st». But the geisha.
from what is seen of her, does not seem
to have any parti ular ambition to break
•way from her beaten path—satisfied ap-
2Sv*S»~^"*i^ - '"■".•--'- :«; ';■ ." ~" - w•■ '■ —~—~—■'- ■"- - ■ —~ ——~——■ '♦-— .' ' "'"' " "'' '" " -41
rtm^fibly utl^e* w'lSl.lSS 1!* fS I Wh° " K bo™{"S w'th d M !re to raount to | sonal graUacaUon and shed some my <rf
remarkably uulike : her Japanese j bjother I every >hlght r which -.will ■ add «to ; his ; per- ! glory upon - his« own fair country.-

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