As my more regular readers known, last year (Spring 2011), I was immensely fortunate to get to take part in a kabuki production here at the University of Hawaii. I played the taikomochi, and also got to serve as dramaturg for the show.
Having never heard the term before, as soon as I found out I was playing a taikomochi, I did a little research, and wrote a blog post explaining my findings. In summary, a taikomochi was the guy at the teahouse who helped facilitate things, helping to make arrangements/appointments, communicating between restaurants (venues) and the teahouses, between clients and courtesans, and sometimes sitting with a party and helping make small-talk, or playing the fool to help provide entertainment.
But I had no idea that the term was still used today, outside of traditional contexts (geisha houses, kabuki), as a regular everyday word. Apparently, it is used today to mean someone who is really good at buttering people up, always knowing the right thing to say to make someone else feel good about themselves. I think the connection to the teahouse context is obvious. A large part of the taikomochi’s job in the teahouse was to make everything go smoothly for the client, to make sure he had a good time, whether that means making sure that arrangements/appointments go smoothly, or making sure that conversation flows nicely at the party.
Wow. My big thanks to my friend Yasu, for happening by chance to bring up this word in conversation, and for explaining it.