“Excuse me, I placed an order for a kimono here some time ago…”
When the owner of Sankichiya, a kimono fabrics shop with over 100 years of history, looked up, she immediately recognized her customer: A geisha who had ordered a kimono 30 years ago.
Sankichiya first set up shop at the entrance to the Gekkoji shopping district in 1907. It tailored casual wear, dressier fare for girls, wedding trousseaus, and more, not just for the locals, but for people in every region.
Part of the local culture, it also tailored kimono for the geisha who worked in the pleasure district. Matrons would bring in their young novices and request the kimono sets they’d need to enter the world of the geisha. Some matrons paid upfront, while other geisha paid off their kimono while they worked. Though there were girls who became geisha for the money, the number of girls who wanted it for themselves was significant.
Orders were generally paid on credit. People were always trusted to come to pay for their kimono. However, there were a few kimono for which their owners never came. So it was 30 years ago: a specific kimono sat at Sankichiya, waiting for its owner. It was never worn, nor had it been previously sold to anyone. The shop owner also hadn’t disposed of it. It simply waited there.
“Do you remember me?”
said the lady while entering the store. She may have been older but she’d unmistakably worked as a geisha in Nishiura a long time ago. The owner listened to her story: back then she’d placed an order for a kimono, but could not pick it up because she lacked the money to pay for it. Later, she got married and quit the geisha trade. Now, 30 years later, she’d come back to take the kimono she’d fixated on so long ago.
Sankichiya has other interesting stories of “good credit” like this.
Many years later, a very rich man came to the store, having heard about the generosity of the owner who let people who physically couldn’t work pay for their kimono whenever they could. He sought to buy the most expensive kimono at the store, at the owner’s asking price.
After talking with him more, the owner realized he was the husband of a geisha whose payment he had been waiting on. “She’s been good to me,” the man said and paid millions of yen for the kimono.
There was another time when a man came to “pay off” his ex-wife’s credit. Stories of honor and humanity like these speak to the character of the people of Shimoyoshida and the owners of Sankichiya. Thanks to them, Sankichiya has never fallen into the red.