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Chishō Takaoka (1896-1994) was a famous geisha in Shinbashi who became a Buddhist nun later in life. Her stage name was Teruha (照葉), but her real name was Tatsuko Takaoka (高岡たつ子).

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She was born in Osaka in 1896. It is unclear how, or under what circumstances she made her way to Tokyo but at the age of 13, after a brief training period, she became a Shimbashi Tokyo Geisha, and took the name Teruha [shining leaf].
Around the age of 16, she fell in love and had her heart broken, and tried to commit suicide by cutting off her little finger and bleeding to death. She recovered and was nicknamed ‘The Nine Fingered Geisha’.
At age 23, Teruha married a stock broker and moved to New York City. Teruha and her husband traveled all over the USA. Her husband frequently abandoned her to drink with his friends & chase other women.
As her husband philandered his way through New York, Teruha learnt English & enrolled in school, where she met & fell in love with a woman called Hildegard. Teruha’s marriage soon ended & she returned to Japan, alone, in the hopes of becoming a geisha again.
But, she was not granted a license - mostly likely because she moved to New York and her marriage failed. She travelled Europe & America as a dancer & gave birth to a daughter.
Teruha returned to Japan again and was allowed to become a geisha again. She taught dance to trainee geishas. Teruha soon married again and tried to play the good wife to her new Doctor husband - but, once again, the marriage failed.
After a second failed marriage, Teruha couldn’t become a geisha again. She took work as an actress, a barmaid, and a model, as embarked on several turbulent love affairs. Teruha later described this time as ‘A Checkered Life!’
At the age of 39, Teruha decided to dedicate her life to Buddha and entered the priesthood as a monk at the Gio-Ji Temple. She lived there for the rest of her life. Gio-Ji was known as the Temple of the Broken Hearted & many women found refuge there.
At Gio-Ji, Teruha took the name Chi syo, which means ‘Clever Sunshine’. She soon became a very popular monk, and later, she rose to the position of Head Priest at the all-female temple. She published a book about her life called ‘Bird Eating Flowers’.”
She died at Gio-Ji in 1995 at the age of 99. She was laid to rest in the temple grounds. She never tried to escape her past. Upon her death, she willed to the temple a large collection of Teruha postcards she had saved over the years.
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