Galt Museum exhibit explores the influence of Geishas in Japanese culture


The Galt Museum explores Japanese culture and pop culture with  a new travelling exhibition “From Geisha to Diva: The Kimono of Ichimaru,” which runs Sept. 25- Jan. 9.


Geishas to Divas runs at the Galt Museum from Sept. 25 to Jan 9. Photo by Richard Amery

“It’s an exhibit from Barry Till from the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. It’s been travelling for two decades,” said Graham Ruttan, Galt Museum Marketing and Communications Officer.

 “This exhibit tells the story of  Ichimaru,” he continued, noting  she  transitioned from geisha to pop diva in the 1930s.


Geishas have a long and honourable  history in Japan as entertainers and hostess/ courtesans. They were trained in many of the Japanese arts including music.


“ The local connection is there is a large Japanese Canadian community in Lethbridge,” he said, adding the Galt Museum has partnered with the Nikka Yuko Japanese Centre to bring this exhibit to Lethbridge.


 Ichimaru (1906-1997) was one of Japan’s most famous geishas of the twentieth century, who mastered singing and shamanism. She began recording music in the 1930s. One of her songs is part of the exhibit in a motion activated box.


“She was quite active from the 1920s to the 1980s,” he said.

There are several kimonos and a few Obi, long sashes wrapped around the kimonos. There are also some wood cut paintings plus personal effects  and wigs.

“The kimonos are beautiful to look at. They have a lot of nature motifs of flowers and landscapes,” Ruttan said, noting one of the kimonos features people.


“That one tells a story,” he said, adding they aren’t under glass or plastic, so patrons can appreciate the intricate stitching and design. though touching the pieces isn’t allowed.


There are also a series of wood cut paintings also tell the stories of geishas.


Geishas to Divas runs at the Galt Museum from Sept. 25 to Jan 9. Photo by Richard Amery

“They show how respected geishas were,” he said.


There will be several events held in conjunction with the exhibit. The big one is Dec. 12 at the Galt Museum featuring the Nikka Yuko’s  Minyo dancers and a talk about  then importance of geishas in the eighteenth century.


“ They were they pop stars of their day,” Ruttan said.


“The geisha’s style was avant garde that was celebrated. You get a sense of the cool factor of them in this exhibit,” Ruttan said.

 the Galt Museum has  enhanced safety measures due to Covid 19. Patrons will have to she proof of double vaccination to enter and there are sanitization stations throughout.


“And ideally people should book in advance,” he said.


“From Geisha to Diva: The Kimono of Ichimaru” runs at the Galt Museum from Sept. 25, 2021- Jan. 9, 2022.

— By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor