When I was born in Kyoto my father was still at Kyoto University studying under the late Kenichi Fukui. My grandparents on both sides had been against their marriage - my father a merchant class boy from Kansai shunned as lower-class by my mother's noble family from Northern Japan. My father's family wanted him to marry someone who was healthier and more likely to be a hard-working member of their family. Because of this, my parents were rather poor, lacking any support from their families. We lived in a dumpy home and they struggled to make ends meet.
Kenichi Fukui's wife, Tomoe, had a brother who knew people in the Geisha district, Gion. Through this connection my mother was able to get a job teaching English to geisha and maiko in Gion. They called her "Momoko-sensei". She taught at a geisha teahouse called Minoya.
Later, we moved to the US. Kaoru, the teenage daughter of the mistress and owner of Minoya wanted to visit the US. My parents agreed to let Kaoru come and stay with us for six months or so in exchange for baby-sitting. Kaoru was 18 and I was 3.
We were so poor that my father once scolded Kaoru for eating too much food. ;-) Kaoru returned to Kyoto and eventually took over the family business of the geisha teahouse which she continues to run today.
I kept in touch with Kaoru over the years and I have made a habit of popping down to Kyoto whenever I can to see her and my other friends there. Kaoru is my guide and interface to Kyoto. She reminds me that when I visit a famous philosopher's house, that I should NOT, even when asked twice, actually accept the invitation for tea. She tells me how to deal with restaurant owners, geisha, maiko and monks... without her, I would never be able to navigate the exceedingly complex social system of Kyoto.
She still treats me like a 3 year old boy sometimes and embarrasses me to no end by continuing to call me by my baby name, "Jon-bon"... which as a result is my name among all of the geisha of Gion. The benefit, however, is that many of the geisha and maiko are like family. Even though I only lived in Kyoto as a baby, Kaoru and my geisha and maiko friends in Kyoto really help me continue to feel like Kyoto is my home. They provide me with an essential culture backbone to my Japanese nationality.