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Geisha: Past, Present, Future

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Time and Location

Monday, December 11th, 2023 at 8pm (EST) (December 12th 10am JST)


The Geisha, along with Mt. Fuji, samurai and sushi have been symbols of Japan ever since the reopening of contacts with the West in the mid-nineteenth century. With the disappearance of the samurai and the influx of Western influence in Japan, only the geisha and their world still remain a mystery to both foreigners and Japanese alike. Since medieval times Japan has always had some form of pleasure quarter offering various forms of entertainment, including, of course, the erotic. In this presentation, Mr. Peter MacIntosh will discuss the history of Geisha and their evolution in Japanese history as well as misconceptions about who they are and what their role entails.

Peter MacIntosh: Originally from Halifax, Nova Scotia, MacIntosh made a pivotal decision at the age of 22, influenced by his mother, who was a folk artist. This decision prompted him to leave his hometown and venture into the realm of the arts. His journey led him to Kyoto in 1993, the once-ancient capital of Japan renowned for its rich cultural and spiritual heritage, characterized by traditional values, temples, and shrines.

Initially drawn to photography, MacIntosh attempted to encapsulate the allure of his new environment, steeped in a 1,200-year history. Yet, he soon discovered his true calling within the realm of the “Flower and Willow World,” the realm of geisha culture. This revelation ignited his passion for a fresh direction, immersing himself completely in Kyoto’s traditional way of life. This profound plunge into the cultural depths prompted MacIntosh to delve into various disciplines, including martial arts, calligraphy, haiku poetry, Indian ink painting, and ikebana, the art of Japanese flower arrangement.

By 1999, MacIntosh had assumed the role of a cultural liaison for Western television, film, and print media, granting them access to the hidden realms of Kyoto’s secretive world. His appearances in numerous travel shows and collaborations with international projects, including his involvement in the location scouting team for Hollywood’s “Memoirs of a Geisha” (2005), endowed him with the self-assurance to conceive, produce, and direct his inaugural feature-length documentary, “Real Geisha Real Women” (2009).

During the same period, he pioneered the course “Geisha: Past, Present, Future” within the Japanology segment of Kansai University’s International Studies Department (2009-2017). Peter established Kyoto Sights and Nights, a leisure and entertainment enterprise in 2002. This venture would provide travellers to Kyoto with an unparalleled perspective on the city and into the world of the geisha starting by founding the first geisha walking tour. Beyond this, he pursued the role of a mixed media artist, wearing hats as a proficient photographer, prolific writer, and accomplished painter. His creations adorn private collections worldwide, with the possibility of in-person viewings available at his Studio-P/Gallery Kohfu, unveiled in 2016 and nestled in the heart of Kyoto.

Questions are encouraged during the live event. Register here: Meeting Registration – Zoom.

This event will be recorded and archived on YCAPS’ YouTube channel Yokosuka Council on Asia-Pacific Studies – YouTube.

For more information visit:
Geisha: Past, Present, Future
Series webpage: Know Japan – YCAPS

This event is supported through the Salary Assistance Grant for U.S.-Japan Community Grassroots Exchange Program.

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