Tag Archives: photo

The Geisha Toshikana, My “Topu Moderu”!

The geisha Toshikana of Miyagawa-cho in June 2014

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.

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Maiko Takahina in Hanagasa Junko

The maiko Toshikana of Gion Kobu participates in Hanagasa Junko during Gion Matsuri

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.

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Maiko Fukuhina in “Miyagawa Ondo”

The maiko Fukuhina of Miyagawa-cho dances in Miyagawa Ondo at the 2007 Kyo Odori

This is a portrait of the maiko Fukuhina of Miyagawa-cho performing in “Miyagawa Ondo,” the annual finale of Kyo Odori. The 65th Kyo Odori ended last Sunday, April 20, 2014, but this photo was taken at the 58th Kyo Odori in 2007 when photography was still permitted.

I have been attending Kyo Odori for a decade now, and the the 58th Kyo Odori remains one of the two most memorable for me, along with last year’s 64th performance. The earlier performance stands out because it was the first time I photographed the event, and last year stands out because of the dance “Yuki Onna” (“Snow Maiden” in English).

Unfortunately, photography has not been permitted since 2009, so I have no photographs of “Yuki Onna” to share with you!

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Sasuga Manaha!

The geisha Manaha of Gion Kobu during her last Shigyoshiki

Geisha Manaha of Gion Kobu during her last Shigyoshiki

The Japanese expression Sasuga doesn’t really have an equivalent in English. The clearest explanation I have found is from yesjapan.com: “Sasuga is a complimentary term said about someone, and it means ‘only that person could have done that thing.’”

When I first looked at these photos I had made of Manaha, “Sasuga Manaha!” was the first thing I thought. Only Manaha would stop amidst the chaos of Shigyoshiki in Gion Kobu, flash me the peace sign, and then laugh about it. It is one of the main reasons I loved photographing her, especially during her brief time as a geiko. Continue reading »

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