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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.
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).
I was coming out of an alley in Miyagawa-cho on a sunny afternoon a few months ago when I almost bumped into the geisha Toshimana. “Oh, hello,” she said to me. I don’t think Toshimana knows my name, but she knows that I photograph her best friend, the geiko Toshikana, on a regular basis.
Then, as expected, I got “the look.” Toshimana’s eyebrows crinkled in curiousity.
My favorite event of the month-long Gion Matsuri in Kyoto is Hanagasa Junko (The Flower Hat Procession), which is held towards the end of the festival on July 24.
However, I never attend the event hoping to photograph maiko or geisha. In fact, I usually ignore the young women I often photograph and focus on the many other participants of the procession.