Skip to main content

Okichi, a young woman and experienced geisha, befriends Aiko, a trainee. A sisterly bond develops between the pair as they grow closer, support each other and perform together. Okichi starts to form a connection with Takeda, a young samurai.

One day US Naval Officers arrive in their town escorting Townsend Harris, the first US Consul-General to Japan, and his young assistant Henry Heusken.

Caught between duty and opportunity, the Mayor arranges for Okichi and Aiko to be sent to the Americans. Aiko quickly develops a fondness for Henry, whereas Okichi tries to please Harris using her skills and training but he is uninterested and his frustration turns to aggression.

Townsend Harris reads in bed while Okichi awaits her duties.

Dishonoured and ashamed, Okichi flees, overwhelmed by grief and disappointment. Feeling she has no other choice, she ends her life.

As the Obon festival ends, Okichi cannot return to the spirit world and waits for Aiko at Henry’s graveside. As time passes, Aiko returns each year to Henry's grave, but she never acknowledges Okichi who begins to fade.

Finally, now much older, Aiko returns with a single lantern but Okichi no longer has the strength to make contact. Aiko offers her hand to Okichi who meets it. Released, Okichi can finally follow her lantern down the river.

Ghosts and the living mix at the Odon festival

Photos by Emma Kauldhar.