I’ve been going through my collection of geisha and maiko photographs, and it has been a surprisingly emotional experience for me. Some of the photos bring back wonderful memories of one of the happiest times in my life, the four years I was working on my first book, One Hundred Views of Maiko and Geiko. Looking at other photos is bittersweet because many of the women left the Flower and Willow World years ago, and there is very little, if anything, to mark their passing. …
Niwatori Hoko (Hen Float in English) is the fifth of the larger two-story floats of the annual Yama Boko procession of Gion Matsuri in Kyoto on July 17. Most of the hundreds of men pulling the hoko floats during the parade wear either black hats or hats the natural color of bamboo. Only the men pulling Niwatori Hoko wear these more colorful orange hats, and this made them the most interesting for me to photograph.
Yama Boko, the grand procession of floats and main event of Gion Matsuri, is held on July 17 every year. The first Hoko float of the parade holds the Celestial Child (Chigo in Japanese), and the second, third and fourth Hoko floats have figurines instead of a real child. This photo is a close up of the figurine on the second float.
The Hoko floats are the larger two-story floats in the procession. They are so big they need to be pulled by large groups of men, anywhere from 15 – 50. The Yama floats are smaller (though still incredibly heavy) and are actually carried on the shoulders of the men from whatever district of Kyoto the float is from.
For any photographers interested in photographing Yama Boko, I recommend a lens of at least 200mm and preferably 300 mm. This photo was taken in 2008 with a Nikon 70 – 200mm VR1 on a Fuji S5 Pro. With the 1.5x crop factor and the lens at 200mm, I had just enough reach for a photo like this one.