The history of Nagasaki Kemban
of Nagasaki Geisha Industry
It is said that Geikoshi first appeared in Nagasaki in the mid-Edo era. At that time, prostitutes in Maruyama played the role of party hostess. Some of the prostitutes got inspired by Geikoshi traveling from Osaka and started showing “koto” and “shamisen” performances in parties. These hostesses created the base of the Nagasaki Geisha Industry.
In the Meiji Era (1868-1912), Geikoshi started to organize the Kemban offices. The offices worked as the bridge between the “Okiya (*3)” and the restaurants in making Geikoshi arrangements.
In the early Showa (1930’s), the Kemban organization came to its peak. There were three Kemban offices in Nagasaki Maruyama area (Maruyama-Higashi, Maruyama-Minami and Maruyama-Minami Kuruwa) and four offices in the downtown area (Nagasakimachi, Inasa, Izumomachi and Tomachi) that were managing a few hundred Geikoshi.
(*3) Okiya: a company to which Geikoshi belong; Okiya dispatches Geikoshi to restaurants
In particular, Maruyama-Higashi and Nagasaki-Machi were the leading Kemban offices. They competed with each other in the skills of performances and produced a number of great Geikoshi.
A scene of “Hatsuhiki (the first performance in the New Year)” in Show 30’s (1955-1964), which was the bustling period after World War II when many Geikoshi competed to show off their performing skills. (Photo presented by NBC)
After World War II, the Kemban organization shrunk, but the Nagasaki Geinokai (Performers Association) was established with the two remaining Kemban offices being the core of the new organization. The population of Geikoshi grew to about 100.
After the high economic growth period of Showa 40’s (1965 to 1975), Okiya was abolished in early Showa 50’s (late 1970’s) in Nagasaki. This accelerated the decline of Nagasaki Geisha Industry. About this time, Nagasaki Geinokai changed its name to Nagasaki Kemban and started managing Geikoshi including assignments, dispatching and billing.
In the Heisei era (1989-), the population of Geiko kept decreasing but new Geikoshi have debuted in recent years and 16 Geikoshi are currently registered in the Nagasaki Kemban and support the traditional industry.
There used to be Kemban offices in various places in Kyushu. However, the Hakata Kemban in Fukuoka and the Nagasaki Kemban are the only two offices operating now. These two Kembans are working hard to preserve the Geisha Industry.
A star Geiko “Aihachi” made the Nagasaki Geisha Industry famous nationwide.
Aihachi debuted in 1891 at the age of 17. She belonged to the Nagasaki-Higasi Kemban and became a star immediately because of her extraordinary professionalism.
She was direct as well as warm-hearted as was shown in an episode wherein she didn’t charge even a penny of a poor student and then let him go with her wallet. She was loved by many.
In 1930, she was invited to Tokyo by Victor Record and released a song “Bura Bura Bushi” in February the following year.
The song became a smash hit and Aihachi contributed to the prosperity of the Nagasaki Geisha industry.