Chikano Fujima, known as the “last geisha” of Kamaishi, was rendered virtually helpless after her house and all her kimono, obi sashes and samisen string instrument were washed away in the tsunami that followed the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011.
Now, the 86-year-old Fujima is back in front of audiences and determined to continue performing as a symbol of the reconstruction of her hometown of Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture.
The veteran geisha, who turns 87 on Dec. 23, sang and danced in front of guests at a Japanese inn on Dec. 5 here in appreciation for the support she received following the disasters.
“Tsunami deprived me of all my possessions, but not my artistic skill,” Fujima said. “I want to continue to perform as the last geisha of Kamaishi as a token of my appreciation.”
What rescued her from her sadness was a stay at Tatsumikan inn in the Asamushi Onsen hot spring resort in Aomori as a support program for earthquake and tsunami victims. Rejuvenated by the program, Fujima was able to restart her career, she said.
About 80 people, including guests and local residents, applauded as Fujima and local geisha Koume, 88, performed traditional dances.
Fujima thanked them for their support, saying, “I will return the favor with dance performances. I will go wherever you want, whether it is Tokyo or heaven.”
Fujima was forced to live in provisional housing following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
Due to the shock of the disasters and her sense of loss, she lost her spirit to live and grew weaker, having to go on oxygen at one point.
But the trip of two days and three nights to Asamushi Onsen in June 2011 helped her recover her spirit.
The program was provided by the prefecture and other organizations for disaster victims, inviting them to stay at hot spring resorts in Aomori Prefecture.
Fujima's dramatic comeback was covered by the foreign media as the return of the “last geisha.” She composed and choreographed “Sutakora Ondo,” a vibrant song and dance about lessons from the disaster.