”Kaji dosu!”

As purveyors of classy, classical entertainment, geisha’s professional lives are steeped in a traditional atmosphere. However, that doesn’t mean they turn a blind eye to modern knowledge and know-how, especially where the safety of their customers is concerned.

So this month, as Kyoto’s Kamigyo Ward is carrying out a special fire prevention and safety awareness campaign, the maiko (apprentice geisha) from one of the ward’s geisha houses took place in a fire drill. The simulation involved spotting smoke emanating from part of their facility, sounding the fire alarm and verbally alerting the building’s occupants, and practicing aiming and using fire extinguishers and hoses.

That’s always pretty standard fire drill stuff, but a group of maiko doing it all made for a unique sight, and some unique sounds too.

“Ah, there’s a fire!” a pair of Maiko exclaim in unison as the video opens, before one says “Let’s let everyone know,” and presses the button for the fire alarm. The assembled maiko can then be seen shouting “There’s a fire,” but what’s caught many Internet commenters is how they say it.

In Japanese, the word for “fire” (as in a building being on fire) is kaji, and adding desu to the end, “Kaji desu,” means “There’s a fire.”

But the fire-drilling geisha-in-training in the video don’t say desu, they say dosu, which is an old-fashioned word you’ll only hear people in Kyoto use. “Kaji dosu!” manages to sound quaint, elegant, and cute all at once, and just adds to the sheer Kyoto-ness of the video, prompting Twitter reactions such as:

“They look totally unworried.”
“So laid back.”
“That’s the most moe thing I’ve seen in a while.”
“Maiko are so diligent about their jobs…cute and admirable!”
“They look like they’re having a good time. If I ever find myself in a fire I hope I’m calm and collected enough to smile while doing what needs to be done.”
“But I think in a real fire, they’d all use their hometown dialects instead of ‘dosu.’”
“I’d have thought that if a fire broke out in Kyoto, people would be like ‘Oh, your house is so brightly lit and festive.’”

A few grumpier commenters grumbled that they didn’t feel like the maiko were taking the drill seriously enough, but after it was over one of the women who took part said “If a fire occurs, I want to be able to stay calm and protect people’s lives by remembering what I was taught today.”

Source: NHK News Web via Hachima Kiko, Twitter/@nhk_bknews (1, 2)
Top image: Pakutaso
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