The maiko Mamechiho performs at Yasaka Shrine during Setsubun in 2009, the last year I photographed the event.
In 2004 and 2005, I was happy just to get a few decent photos of maiko during Setsubun. In 2006 I was very focused on making a few photos to include in my first book, One Hundred Views of Maiko and Geiko. In 2007 I went only to get photos of Yukako and Taneju for my next book, Geisha & Maiko of Kyoto: Beauty, Art, & Dance. As I wrote last week, only Yukako ended up appearing in that book.
In 2009 I didn’t really have a reason to photograph Setsubun, but I went anyway out of habit. I didn’t know Mamechiho or any of the maiko who danced that year. Back in 2004 or 2005, that wouldn’t have made much of a difference to me, but after photographing Mamechiho I realized that my heart was no longer into photographing maiko or geiko unless I had a personal connection to them, as I did at the time with Satomi, Kimina, Yukako, and Makiko.
I still check every year if any of the maiko I know will be performing at Setsubun, but none of them have in recent years. I can’t say I miss the cold or the crowds, but I do still enjoy many of the photos I took in the early years, especially those of maiko ascending and descending the stage before and after their performance.