This young girl is not the owner of a teahouse or a girl in training to be a maiko, but she is the youngest daughter of an okamisan (a teahouse owner). I had a photo session with a geisha a few weeks ago just after Shichi-go-san, a day when Japanese pray for the health of young children. Seven-year-old girls like Miss Onaka here wear a kimono and visit a shrine with their parents on November 15.
The okamisan asked if I could take a few photos of her daughter before the geiko arrived, and I said I would. It was Miss Onaka’s first time dressing up as a maiko, so she she was incredibly excited. I took this photo at about 4:00 p.m. I left the ochaya around 10:45 p.m., completely exhausted after a long shoot, but Miss Onaka was still wide awake even though it was way past her bedtime. She came out to the genkan (entrance) to say good night to me and thank me for photographing her. “She’s too excited, so she can’t sleep yet,” Onaka-san told me. Ah, to be young again.
The okamisan graciously answered three of the questions I received from readers of my blog that were originally intended for the maiko Takahina. I thought the okamisan would be able to give more informed answers to these particular questions than a young maiko, so I arranged to ask her instead. Those questions and her answers are as follows:
1. What do you think of foreign women becoming maiko or geiko? Do you think it will ever happen in Gion Kobu?
Okamisan: I disagree with the idea of foreign women becoming geiko or maiko as their job. I think in Gion Kobu, it would never happen.
I also think that this occupation represents the most traditional parts of Japanese culture. However, nowadays it is even difficult for Japanese to understand about the world of hanamachi (the world of geisha and maiko), so I would like to teach the tradition to young Japanese especially for this reason.
2. Do you think the Internet is helping in recruiting young girls to become maiko?
Okamisan: I think so. It’s different from the old days. You can get the information you want easily and be able to see a photo of beautiful maiko now. So, from that point of view, it is helping them to become maiko.
3. What happens to a maiko’s kanzashi and kimono when she no longer uses them?
Okamisan: I keep them for a while. Then, if I really don’t need them, I throw them away.