Tag Archives: photo

The Maiko Mamefuji of Gion Kobu

A portrait of the maiko Mamefuji of Gion in May

Back in April I wrote about photographing the geisha Mameharu behind the scenes at the Miyako Odori tea ceremony. The photo I posted only shows Mameharu, but the maiko Mamechika was also there, as was a young shikomi (maiko in training) I’ll call A-chan.

I first noticed A-chan as we were making our way into the Gion Kaburenjo theater. Mameharu was in front, followed by Mamechika, A-chan, and then me.

As we walked briskly along a dark and narrow corridor, Mameharu and Mamechika would tell A-chan something she needed to do, and A-chan would immediately say “Yes” and write a note in a small pad she was holding.

I had never seen A-chan before, but I was impressed by her right away. She looked very young, but she acted very maturely. The hallway was quite dark and Mameharu and Mamechika were walking very quickly and talking to A-chan without even looking at her.

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The Heron Dance at Gion Matsuri

The Heron Dance is one of the many unique events that are part of Gion Matsuri in July in Kyoto

One of the many unique events in Kyoto’s month-long Gion Matsuri is the Heron Dance, which is performed by children on both July 16 and July 24.

The July 16 performance is held right on Shijo Dori, one block West of Yasaka Shrine. It is part of an event called Yoi-Miya Shinshin Hono Gyoji. Shijo Dori is closed to all vehicles from 6 p.m., and several dances start at 7:00, beginning with a performance by three of Gion Kobu’s maiko.

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The Tea Ceremony at Miyako Odori

The geisha Mameharu of Gion Kobu prepares for the tea ceremony at Miyako Odori

If you are familiar with the tea ceremony held before every performance of Miyako Odori (The Cherry Blossom Dance) at the Gion Kobu Kaburenjo in Kyoto every April, you might notice that this photo is a little different than most you will see.

For one thing, the geisha Mameharu is smiling here, and geiko are taught to keep their faces expressionless during the tea ceremony. For another, the candle in the bottom left corner of the frame is not lit.

The reason for these anomalies is that this photo was made about an hour before the tea ceremony began on April 1, 2013, the first and only time Mameharu performed the tea ceremony during Miyako Odori as a geiko.

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Show Up and Good Things Happen!

A maiko makes her way down Miyagawa-suji on a snowy day in March 2014

As I wrote a few days ago, this is my post from December 28, 2014. It was accidentally deleted, so I am posting it again. My apologies to those who subscribe to my blog via e-mail!

During my days as a street photographer in Kyoto from 2002 – 2006, the one image I was never able to make was a photograph of a maiko or geiko walking down the street on a snowy day.

I remember coming frustratingly close one time. It started snowing early in the afternoon, and it snowed all during my train ride from Osaka to Kyoto (I was living in Osaka then).

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