An ozashiki-asobi is like a large, traditional type of party. "Ozashiki" is the name of the type of room the party takes place in at an ochaya, and "asobi" means "game" in Japanese. The meaning of "ochaya" is not to be confused with an ordinary "teahouse," as it provides a wider range of traditional food and entertainment to guests, oftentimes in the company of geisha. The geisha provides entertainment to guests by dancing to the live music of a shamisen or playing games that are exciting for all guests and not just a single player.
The party that I was invited to took place in a rather large traditional room. On one side of the the room there were tables and zabuton cushions, and the other side was left open for dancing and game playing. There where about ten invited guests, plus the hosts, gesha, and shamisen player. I did not know any of the guests there, but I heard that it is not uncommon for guests to not know each other.
The party started with eating a traditional meal and drinking. It is usual for an ochaya to provide kaiseki cuisine, which is a traditional multi-course meal. The hosts also provided Japanese sake, beer, and tea. The geisha would mingle with the guest of highest honor, but when she was called by the host, she took her place at the open space in front of the guests and started to dance.In her dance, she showed us the different seasonal events special to Osaka. Afterwards, we played a few games with the gesha.
The games are meant to be an icebreaker for guests who do not know each other. While the games are usually one-on-one with a geisha, they provide a fun atmosphere that all can enjoy. We played two games, Konpira fune fune and Yakyuken. First, the young master of the house, Megumu Tanigawa, showed the group how to play the game. Then, everyone got a chance to play against the geisha. It is very difficult to win against her, but if someone did the guest delighted in pouring a drink for her. All in the same, losing guests were happy for the geisha to pour his drink.
The party ended with everyone giving a closing chant, called the Osaka jime, and were finally sent off by the hosts and geisha. I got to get my picture taken with the geisha before heading home from a very interesting experience.
If you are interested in knowing more about Shimanouchi Ochaya Tanigawa please have a look at By Mr. Megumu Tanigawa’s blog
Mr. Tanigawa also gives demonstrations of the games played at an ozashiki-asobi at Yamamoto Noh Theater in Tanimachi-yon-chome during By An Evening of Traditional Osaka Performing Arts events
By Haruko Rhoads