You Were: The Vengeful Geisha

June 30, 2010

(Who Were You? #7)

When I first saw this picture, I thought, “What an adorably sweet, shy-looking girl.” Now that I’ve seen one of your past lives, I’m on to you, sister.

In the late 1930s and early 1940s, you were a geisha in the Kamishichiken district of Kyoto, Japan. You were praised far and wide as a paragon of Japanese feminine beauty. Some said you could conjure spirits with your shamisen, and your mastery of Japanese dance was beyond compare. The only wrinkle? You weren’t Japanese.

In 1931, you were an eleven-year-old girl living in Manchuria when the Japanese army invaded. You saw terrible things happen to your countrywomen, and you swore that one day you would have your revenge.

Perhaps there was Japanese blood in your veins from an earlier invasion. If so, no one in your family ever spoke of it. But from the time you were born, strangers often remarked that you looked far more Japanese than Chinese. When you were old enough to be offended, you certainly were. Then you turned eleven and everything changed.

Back then, even young Manchurian girls heard tales about the geisha. They were said to be beautiful, charming–and on extremely friendly terms with some of the most powerful men in Japan. But more importantly, even peasant girls like you could gain access to  the karyūkai, the “flower and willow world” of the geisha. And you knew it was the only way to get close enough to your enemies to enjoy your revenge.

At the age of thirteen, you stowed away on a fishing boat as it crossed the Sea of Japan. You had no money, just a pretty face and an iron will. That, as it turns out, is often enough. You made it to Kyoto and spent two years as an urchin while you perfected your street smarts, your drinking skills, and your Japanese. When you were ready, you approached the owner of the best geisha school in Kyoto. When she saw your sweet, demure expression (the same one you’re displaying above), she accepted you on the spot.

Four years later, at the end of your training, you were the talk of Kamishichiken. When you walked you took the daintiest steps, and when you spoke your voice was as light as the air. But beneath your kimono you wore a razor-sharp dagger, and the golden pins in your hair were all poisoned darts.

When it came time for you to take a danna, or patron, some of the most esteemed men in Japan expressed interest. You chose the nastiest of them all, a general in the Emperor’s army with first hand knowledge of the war being waged in China.

He was brutish and his breath stank, but you didn’t mind. After all, you had chosen him because of two of his many flaws: He couldn’t hold his drink and he loved to talk about troop movements and battle plans. Every night after you saw him, you would carefully transcribe his drunken words. In the morning, with your makeup off and your wig back at home, you would deliver your files to a Chinese spy who sold octopus in the market. (After the war, he would ask for your hand.)

It took years for the Japanese command to suspect there might be a spy in Kamishichiken. In 1944, all the geishas in Japan were rounded up and sent to work in the factories. But it was too late. You had already had your revenge.

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One Response to “You Were: The Vengeful Geisha”

  1. Jo Says:

    Oh my god, that is just too awesome! That is just brilliant! I was a geisha! Ha! Thank you, thank you!


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