One of the things I loved about teaching was that I was constantly learning new things, not only to know what my students didn’t know, but possibly more importantly, to learn what they did know–about their generation, two removed from mine–their films, their music, their art. Retired, I continue to learn, to be daily surprised anew by the things I don’t know–even some things I thought I knew. A case in point. Returning to the theme of names and naming, I had oh, so cleverly named my latest series of bags Indigo & Geisha. With few exceptions the fabrics are traditional Japanese indigos, and the flaps that decorate the front of the bags are beautiful Japanese women’s faces from a series of prints by Kona Bay which are listed as The Geisha Series. I knew, from my own art history, that these were mainly reproductions from early woodblock prints by the 16th century artist, Utamaro, but what I didn’t know was that calling them all Geisha was simply wrong. I guess that Geisha has become a generic word for these women, when, in fact, the generic word should be Bijinga, meaning beautiful woman. According to Merriam-Webster, a Geisha is “a Japanese girl or woman who is trained to provide entertaining and lighthearted company especially for a man or a group of men.” One of Utamaro’s favorite models, and I believe the one pictured above, was a waitress in a tea shop. Still others in the titles of the prints were called Courtesans–a different kind of woman, providing more than entertaining and lighthearted company?–or simply a Geisha by a different name? Maybe a “rose by any other name…” but I think not. Oh, and I also learned that indigo is “ai” in Japanese. So should the series be called Ai & Bijinga?