From Geisha to Diva: The Kimonos of Ichimaru

Date: Jan 29 - May 25, 2014

The fascinating life of Ichimaru (1906-1997), one of the most famous geishas of the 20th century due to her exceptional singing voice, is told through this collection of her magnificent kimonos and other personal effects. In the 1930s, Ichimaru left geishahood to pursue an illustrious career as a full-time recording artist, but even as a diva, she continued to perform in full geisha regalia. Combining her experience as a geisha with an extraordinary talent as a vocalist and musician, she would become a unique figure in the social history of twentieth-century Japan. Determined to distinguish herself, she studied music with the best teachers to be found in Tokyo's "floating world," or pleasure district. Ichimaru secured a recording contract in 1931 and never looked back as she won international renown.


Additional Information

Ichimaru's exquisitely hand-crafted kimonos reveal her style and taste over several decades, offering an intimate glimpse into the life and times of an icon of Japanese popular culture. The exhibition combines garments and fashion with documentary materials and ephemera offering a unique glimpse at processes of globalization and dynamism of traditions over the last century.

From Geisha to Diva is organized and circulated by the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.


Related Programs and Events

Teacher's Preview
Wednesday February 5 from 5 - 7 pm
Teachers are invited to join us at the TMC for a special introduction to our new exhibition From Geisha to Diva: The Kimonos of Ichimaru. This program will provide significant resources for your Asian Heritage Month celebrations, and acquaint you with our innovative strategies for connecting textile art and techniques with the mathematics, visual arts and social studies curriculum. Refreshments will be served.

Please contact the Education Programs Coordinator at 416-599-5321 x2228 or Advance registration is required, space is limited.

Film Screening: Sisters of Gion
Wednesday March 5 at 6:30 pm
Join us for a screening of the classic 1936 film directed by Kenji Mizoguchi. The film follows the story of two sisters working as geisha in the Gion pleasure district in 1930s Kyoto, the period when Ichimaru was transitioning from geishahood to a career as a recording artist.

General admission $12, TMC members $8. Call 416-599-5321 x2228 to purchase.

Butterflies of the Night: Geisha in Japan and the West
Wednesday April 2 at 6:30 pm
Specialist in Japanese literature and film Dr. Ted Goossen will speak on the evolving representation of geisha culture in Japan and its interpretation in Western culture.

General admission $12, TMC members $8. Call 416-599-5321 x2228 to purchase.

The Art of Tea: Sloane Fine Tea Merchants/Laura Slack Chocolates
Thursday April 10 at 7 pm
Join us for a special evening of tea tasting and truffles hosted by Hoda Paripoush of Sloane Fine Tea Merchants and Laura Slack Chocolate Artist. Be inspired by their modern passion for tradition and craftsmanship and an exclusive tour of the exhibition.

Tickets $20. Call 416-599-5321 x2246 to purchase.

From Kimonos to Comme des Garçons: An Evening with Fashion Historian Akiko Fukai
Tuesday April 22 at 6:30 pm
Join us for a special lecture followed by an exclusive reception with Akiko Fukai, Director and Chief Curator of the Kyoto Costume Institute and one of Japan’s most respected fashion historians. This event with the acclaimed author and curator of exhibitions – most recently Future Beauty: 30 Years of Japanese Fashion – is presented in partnership with the Japan Foundation.

General admission $45, TMC Patrons/Members $35. Buy your tickets online at or call 416-599-5321 x2246. Space is limited; advance tickets are required.

Exhibition Tour
Wednesday May 14 at 6:30 pm
Join TMC curator Natalia Nekrassova as she discusses the subtleties of Ichimaru’s personal style through the iconic Japanese garment – the kimono.

Free with admission.