Born and raised in Tokyo, Japan, Yuko Eguchi has thoroughly studied the art of the Japanese tea ceremony as well as the music and dance of the geisha. She visited Bowdoin this week to give two lectures about each of her areas of study, perform a private tea ceremony and speak intimately with Japanese language students about her culture.

In her first lecture on Tuesday evening, Eguchi gave a brief history of the tea ceremony and then demonstrated it for the audience. She brought authentic Japanese green tea and sweets—small cookies typically eaten with the tea—for each audience member to taste.

In her Wednesday evening lecture, she went through the history of geisha music and dance, and then performed.

Eguchi first became interested in the history of geishas during her graduate studies at the University of Pittsburgh. Her advisor told her that there are not many historical records or writings about Japanese female musicians. She then found information about geishas, who are female musicians and performers, and decided to study and write about their culture.

Although Eguchi now outwardly represents her Japanese culture, she was not always so knowledgeable about these subjects. She said that only after leaving Japan to go to Bates—where she graduated in 2003—did she become interested in studying her own culture.

“Many of [my] friends came to me and asked me, ‘You’re from Japan. What do you do?’ and at the time, there [were] no words to explain,” she said.

She had practiced the tea ceremony since she was in middle school. Other than that, her hobbies included classical piano and ballet, neither of which she believes contributed to her Japanese identity.

“That’s the time that I really realized I have to know who I am in order to communicate to others,” Eguchi said.

By studying tea ceremonies and geishas, Eguchi was able to learn about her own self as well as teach others.

Yuri Watanabe ’19, who is originally from Japan, said that she came to the lecture for the very same principle that Eguchi touched on.

“I realized that I don’t really know about Japanese culture and…I felt like I should know,” Watanabe said.

Senior lecturer in Japanese Hiroo Aridome expressed his excitement with having Eguchi come to campus. According to Aridome, the department usually invites a speaker who can perform either the tea ceremony or geisha music and dance, but Eguchi is conveniently well-trained in both.       

“[The] Japanese language is very different from other languages like English, so we pretty much focus on the grammatical structure and composition, so it’s kind of difficult to introduce culture all the time,” Aridome said. “This is a great opportunity for us.” 

Eguchi hopes that the audience learns as much from her performance as she does in preparing for it.

“Through learning music or through learning dance, what I learned the most is the heart,” she said. “You cannot spell heart without art.”