Japan Society Presents Lecture/Demonstration With Living Geisha

For Immediate Release

Frank L. Ellsworth Performing Arts Lecture Series
Komomo: Geisha in Contemporary Japan

Thursday, May 22 at 6:30 pm

"The world of Geisha can be seen as fine artists serving pre-modern-minded Japan. It is a window into another side of Japanese cultural achievement, one very different from manga, anime, and robots." -- Hiroshi Sugimoto, Artist

As a continuation of its Winter-Spring 2008 season theme New York Woman, Japan Society presents Komomo: Geisha in Contemporary Japan, a special lecture featuring Geisha Komomo and photographer Naoyuki Ogino with moderator Christopher Benfey. The lecture, inaugurating the Frank L. Ellsworth Performing Arts Lecture Series, takes place in conjunction with The Art of Traditional Japanese Hospitality, a two-day workshop in dance and ritual with Geisha Komomo. Komomo: Geisha in Contemporary Japan takes place Thursday, May 22 at 6:30 pm.

Geisha Komomo
was born in Mexico and raised in Beijing before becoming a geisha's apprentice, or maiko, in 2000 and a full-fledged geiko (as geisha are known in Kyoto) in 2005. In Komomo: Geisha in Contemporary Japan, Komomo's rare story--from apprenticeship to full geisha--is told through a series of photographs by photographer Naoyuki Ogino, giving an intimate glimpse of a geisha's life today. The lecture is moderated by Christopher Benfey, Mellon Professor of English at Mount Holyoke College. The program also features traditional dance performance by Komomo, with live shamisen accompaniment.

Japanese-born photographer Naoyuki Ogino was raised in both Tokyo and Mexico. He graduated with a degree in physics from Nagoya University and pursued his dream of becoming a photographer while working for Japan’s largest ad agency. In 2006, he quit the agency and began a full-time career as a professional photographer. He has held a number of exhibitions in Mexico, the U.S., China and many Japanese cities. Ogino was also the photographer for Komomo’s photo essay book, A Geisha's Journey: My Life As a Kyoto Apprentice (2008).

Christopher Benfey
is a prolific critic, essayist, author and professor. His work has appeared in The New York Times Book Review, The New Republic and The New York Review of Books. He also serves as art critic for the online magazine Slate. Benfey has published four books on the American Gilded Age including The Double Life of Stephen Crane (1992), Degas in New Orleans (1997), The Great Wave: Gilded Age Misfits, Japanese Eccentrics, and the Opening of Old Japan (2003, and recently published in Japanese translation), and A Summer of Hummingbirds (2008). He has held fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Council of Learned Societies. Currently, Benfey is editing the works of Lafcadio Hearn for the Library of America.

Komomo: Geisha in Contemporary Japan concludes Japan Society’s Winter-Spring season theme New York Woman, which challenges the stereotype of the “Japanese woman” as subservient and quietly humble. With bold ferocity and poetic imagination, Japanese women in New York have sculpted individual artistic visions that weave into the diverse cultural landscape of an extraordinary city. The New York Woman season kicked-off in February with Akiko Yano: Voice & Piano, followed by Ikue Mori: Celebrating 30 Years of Life, Love & Music in NYC, a play reading series of Keralino Sandorovich’s Frozen Beach and Yoshiko Chuma and The School of Hard Knocks: POOM² A Page Out Of Order M to M.

» » Related Workshop
The Art of Traditional Japanese Hospitality: A Two-Day Workshop in Dance & Ritual with Geisha Komomo

Wednesday, May 21 & Thursday, May 22 @ 1:30 PM
**Tickets for both days are SOLD OUT**

This two-day intensive workshop led by Geisha Komomo focuses on nihon-buyo, traditional Japanese dance, and also gives an overview of the grace and manners required for traditional ozashiki (or tatami-room) entertainment, such as tea ceremony. The workshop focuses not only on dance and the physicalized rituals of hospitality, but also the spirit and philosophy behind them.

About Japan Society’s Performing Arts Program
Since the inception of the Performing Arts Program in 1953, Japan Society has introduced more than 500 of Japan’s finest performing arts to an extensive American audience. Programs range from the traditional arts of noh, kyogen, bunraku and kabuki to cutting-edge theater, dance and music. The Program also commissions new works, produces national tours, organizes residency programs for American and Japanese artists, and develops and distributes educational programs. "At once diverse and daring, the program stands toe to toe with some of the most comprehensive cultural exchange endeavors today" (Leonard Jacobs, Back Stage).

About Japan Society

Founded in 1907 by prominent New York City business people and philanthropists, Japan Society has evolved over 100 years into an internationally recognized nonprofit organization presenting a full range of programs within arts, business, education and public policy. Through over 100 events annually, the Society creates rich encounters and exchanges that offer opportunities to experience Japanese culture, foster sustained and open dialogue on issues important to the U.S., Japan, and East Asia, and improve access to information on Japan.

Through June 2008, Japan Society celebrates the 100th Anniversary of its founding with Japan100: Celebrating a Century, an unprecedented roster of programming. The Performing Arts Program kicked off the centennial celebration in February 2007 with the world premiere of Big Dance Theater’s The Other Here. American Theatre noted: "For a hundred years now, the Japan Society of New York has been a think tank for policy works, entrepreneurs, diplomats and Japanophiles. But the jewel in its crown has always been the performing arts program." Visit for more information.

Tickets & Information

Komomo: Geisha in Contemporary Japan takes place Thursday, May 22 at 6:30 pm. Tickets are $20/$15 Japan Society members and can be purchased by calling the Box Office at (212) 715-1258 or in person at Japan Society (M-F, 11-6 and Saturday and Sunday 11-5 pm). Japan Society is located at 333 East 47th Street, between First and Second Avenues (accessible by the 4/5/6 at 42nd Street-Grand Central Station or the E and V at Lexington Avenue and 53rd St.) For more info call (212) 832 -1155 or visit

Support for this lecture is provided by Kodansha International, Ltd. Transportation assistance provided by Japan Airlines.

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For further information, images and interview requests, please refer to:

Bridget Klapinski/Meg Owen
The Karpel Group
P: (212) 505-2900
F: (212) 505-2950

Aya Akeura
Japan Society
T: 212-715-1292
F: (212) 715-1262

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