Mizu Shobai (Water Business)

12 min. 16mm film, 1993

"Through lyrical images and narrative shards, Lin builds a critique of the ways in which the figure of the Japanese woman exists in the imaginary."

– Manohla Dargis, LA Weekly


Mizu Shobai (Water Business) blends two stories, one of a geisha who is lost at sea and another of the first geisha to circle the world. The dual narratives collapse into a single female figure, a traveler through time and across cultures. Carried by the act of perception, the geisha drifts beyond the prescribed bounds of "her place" in the world. The Shogun's Seclusion Edict, effective during Japan’s period of isolation (1637-1868), states that foreign influence is punishable by death, so the geisha's passive observations become an active, fatal offense. Mizu Shobai, literally Water Business, is the Japanese term for the entertainment world. The phrase refers to liquor, sex, as well as the geisha's often maudlin lifestyle which “flows like water.”