Tatsu Aoki



What do you do to connect with your ancestors?


I was born in Tokyo where my family was part of the geisha culture from the Edo period, close to three hundred years ago.   My grandmother taught me shamisen instrumental music.   Traditional training is you sit in front of the master and you imitate and you learn everything that way.  We had to do flute, then shamisen, then they teach you drumming.  You had to understand the song.


Artistic expression is a place we can be honest and pure.  When I’m playing my instrument, I can be really sacred.


Just as I was taught from my family members, I wanted to give to kids.  I became interested in the community aspect of the next generation, passing on the cultural legacy.   We have to teach our kids to play music, but that’s not the essential part.  In giving a living culture, a cultural experience, the instrument is the least important part. 







Additional Resources


The artist’s website can be found here:  http://www.tatsuaoki.com/


One text that is often found on high school required reading lists is Arthur Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha.  Tatsu Aoki talks about his own family and Geisha culture in this interview on WTTW.


Here is a book discussion guide for Memoirs of a Geisha from the publisher, but there are other numerous resources on this text.


The Chicago Japanese American Historical Society has a number of resources on this cultural community.