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Fujima Chikano

Fujima Chikano[http://www.afp.com/afpcom/en Copyright AFP
Romaji Fujima Chikano
Kanji 藤間千雅乃
Kana ふじま ちかの
City Kamaishi
District  ?
Okiya  ?
Year Born Around 1926
Audio Coming Soon
Kamon {{{9}}}

Became known after the tsunami, March 11, 2011.

Real name: Itō Tsuyako (伊藤艶子)
AKA: Fujima Chikano (藤間千雅乃)
Born: Around 1925, in Kuruwamachi neighbourhood of Kamaishi, Iwate.


Fujima started dancing in her early years, and began working as a 14 year old at Saiwairo, a (ryotei); however, several other articles say she started at 12. Said she wanted to be a leading geisha because she loved to dance, but her nephew claims otherwise and that her father convinced her to do it to pay off some debts.[1] Due to being far from Tokyo, she didn't want people to think her skills weren't comparable to that of other geisha's, so she polished her shamisen and nihonbuyo skills and went to many ozashiki.

When her father fell ill, she supported the family. [2]

When the tsunami of March 11, 2011 struck the Tohoku region, she lost everything she had in the crushing waves, including her shamisen, kimono, kanzashi, obi, and all her geisha accoutrements, in addition to her regular household belongings. She was carried to safety by a fellow villager, and since then, has been living in a shelter. Through a network of geisha, she was offered a place to stay, but declined it because it was 600km from her home and she had vowed to not leave her hometown.

Chikano is the last geisha in Kamaishi, as her only apprentice passed away in the tsunami. At one time, there were around 100 geisha in Kamaishi, but when the economic bubble burst in the 1980s, most of the practicing geisha either quit or left. Despite the setbacks and being the only active geisha in her city, she plans to perform until 88, the retirement age she set for herself.

An update in May [3] reported that she had a shamisen to play again. It was donated by a geisha from Kyoto.


  • Her only apprentice (name unknown) died in the tsunami.
  • Sayuki, a geisha in Tokyo's Asakausa district, used a network of friends to find someone willing to share a home with Fujima-san. [4]
  • Her nephew, Itō Satoshi, who also lives in Kamaishi.


  • danced, sang, and played shamisen (most geisha in her area did one or the other) [5]
  • only one in her city to know the tune Kamaishi Seashore Song
  • the last geisha in Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture


"I won't find another apprentice. It takes a long time to learn the skills, but young people don't want to learn. No matter how good you are, you can't make a living, so now no one else wants to be a geisha," she says. [6]

"I have no regrets in my life. My master told me work hard, so that you can have something that no one can take from you." [7]

References in Media

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Article Notes

Relevant Threads / Discussions


  1. Star Advertiser: Geisha, 84, Survives Tsunami with Lift From Admirer
  2. AFP: Japan Steel City's Last Geisha Defies Tsunami
  3. Guardian, UK. After the tsunami: Japan's clear-up likely to take three years
  4. Japanese geisha, 85, vows to continue performing in tsunami-hit home town
  5. Geisha, 84, Survives Tsunami with Lift From Admirer
  6. USAToday.com, Should rural towns in Japan be rebuilt?
  7. Japan steel city's 'last geisha' defies tsunami

Image Credits

  • Both photos of Chikano from AFP.

Authors & Contributors

Author/s: Erica Pai (Iyolin (IG Username))

Contributors: n/a