My name is Himeko Ikeda. I’m 26, divorced and have two beautiful daughters – of that at least I can be thankful to him for. We live in New Orleans, the city that never lets you sleep, but I was raised in a village outside of Shimbasi with my two younger sisters. This is my story of why you should never offer a hair clip to a Kodama1.
1Japanese folklore spirits that inhabit trees and curse people.
The women in my family have always been Geishas2 since I can remember and I was to be no exception to the family tradition. I was currently undergoing the grueling training as a Maiko3 and awaiting my fifteenth birthday to become Geisha. My Father had promised that after my Eriage ceremony (changing of the collar) I would receive my college fund. It would enable me to study my chosen subject, further honing my abilities of making conversation and entertaining as a Geisha.
The training I was completing as a Maiko was tiresome; long hours, constant practicing and developing our hostessing skills. With the little free time we had, we used it to mainly catch up on sleep. What was making the training harder was this stupidly long robe I was instructed to wear. It had far longer sleeves than that of the Geisha one and I never understood why it was this way around. It defied logic! Furthermore, I had been struggling with the occasional episode of clumsiness. Recently I had been carrying a tea tray to the Okami4 to practice my hostessing skills; I tripped over my Kimono5 near a naked flame, spilling tea over the precious wood flooring and setting alight my robe!
2A Japanese female hostess. Their skill-sets include music, dance and conversation.
3An apprentice to a Geisha. They wear a longer Kimono and have a differently coloured collar to the Geisha.
4Traditional Japanese robe with wide sleeves and tied with a sash.
5The head of the house where Geisha work/perform. Often female.
I was counting every minute until the summer holidays. The daydreams about spending time with my friends on various adventures were beginning to occupy a significant amount of time. Kiyoshi had suggested a day reading poetry in the nearby Bijin Bayashi Forest. The season was offering some of the most delightful shades of warm orange and browns, the shade of warm cookie dough and apricots.
Thanks to Pizzagamer860 for this rural Japanese Shrine from the Sims community.
Kiyoshi was more familiar with the mountain trails than myself. He knew about the various Oni6 and other spirits that were plaguing the path, making it dangerous to visit at night. He had suggested cycling there – all three hours of it!
The arduous ride had given me ‘saddle sore’ and as we reached the start of the treacherous path, we stopped to make an offering of wrapped sake at the Hie Jinja shrine to Sanno7, the protector of the mountain. His favour would protect us in our adventures.
Local legend spoke of people not stopping to make an offering. They found that their equipment failed them – both GPS and compass navigation. They would become quickly disorientated, and subsequently lost as the oni set about manipulating their senses. That was when the oni came out to taunt them a second time with their shrill shrieks echoing through the forest. The visitors either were led to their doom, off a cliff edge or an unplanned slide down a deep ravine. That was if the oni didn’t steal your soul first by tricking you into looking directly at them while your mouth was open!
6Supernatural ogre in Japanese folklore able to cause disasters, disease and other unpleasant things.
7Mountain King deity in Japanese culture, also features in Buddhism.
I had under-estimated how strenuous the journey would be and was feeling like a dried-up fig from dehydration. The Okami’s training had been relentless on my body and as the path got steeper and narrower, I slipped and fell, hitting my head on a rock. I could faintly hear Kiyoshi saying he was going to get help as his phone signal had dropped. No, please, not Kiyoshi leave my friend alone!
When I awoke, I was laying at the foot of a tree. I wasn’t on the path anymore and there was no sign of my friend. I heard a rustling sound of leaves from behind me, and a voice that didn’t sound human; “Pretty girl. Take home.”
I turned to see an oni that appeared to resemble a greenman. It had a delicate pink flower sat atop of it’s head and was making several random sounds bloop swish plop. As these echoing sounds traveled through the forest and I gazed upon its devious grin, suggesting that it was hiding deceptively large fangs, I gasped and froze. This was no Oni, but something far worse – a Kodama! I attempted to ask it where I was but it just kept repeating; “Friend. Home.”
My family had always taught that in any tense situation, it was the responsibility of the Geisha to use her skills as ambassador. I thought quickly and offered the Kodama my precious silver hair clip that had been given to me when I was bonded with my Onesan8. The little greenman figure made a sound of awe-filled wonder as it thew the clip in the air, spinning on its heels several times before swallowing it! It clapped several times before speaking; “Minu ga hana” (Not seeing is a flower). Confused, I asked what it meant and it said; “things will never be as you imagine, so you’re better off not seeing them.”
I awoke with a thumping headache. Kiyoshi was standing over me trying to help me up with the assistance of my Father and his look of disapproval. As I stood up, I heard that same voice saying; “friends now. Visit you tonight.”
I looked to the others for reaffirmation but I was apparently the only one who had heard anything…
8Sister figure in Geisha culture who teaches trade to the Maiko.
Author’s reflections – When I was a young girl I stupidly took part in doing Ouija boards with friends. We adopted spirit guides that we would talk to via Ghost-writing and before I knew it, I was suffering from paranoid delusions, skipping school and acting in very strange ways. It culminated in me believing a whole host of lies about myself, but I didn’t realise until many years later that this had been the catalyst. I got used to telling the lies to be quiet (I don’t think I was schizophrenic), but I never experienced real freedom from the often constant barrage of insults. I still had faith, but I believed I had been created to fail, would never amount to anything and would never be someone good enough. As a result of believing these lies, I lived a life of defeat and misery. I suffered from depression and anxiety until I recently reached the point of believing I was nothing more than a parasite on society and was entertaining thoughts of ending my life. I had no hope left. Thankfully the Lord pulled me out of the pit of despair I’d sunk into.
I’ve recently started a negativity fast which addresses the problem about the lies we believe about ourselves, our situation and Who God is. Although I had been a “Christian” for many years, I had some really mixed-up views about God and as a result, was angry with him and the world. I’d spent too long listening to lies and had not received the truth of who I was as God viewed me.
One of the teachings of this course was to confront the lie; “my past experiences will determine what I do and who I am”. The truth, however is that we are all made in God’s image and our identity is in who God says we are. I absolutely love the verse in Ephesians 2:10 for this; “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” We can receive the promises that God has revealed about us through His Word, but we must both believe and have faith. If you are unsure of your identity in Christ, or you simply wish to know more about this, here is a link from Joyce Meyer: https://www.joycemeyer.org/everydayanswers/ea-teachings/knowing-who-i-am-in-christ