After a decade of photographing geiko and maiko, I was getting restless. What I considered the Holy Grail continued to elude me: photographing a geiko or maiko inside her okiya, the house where she lived, either during her debut or simply putting on her makeup and kimono. I had asked to photograph inside an okiya many times, and the answer was always no.
Then, in early 2012, the maiko Mameharu of Gion Kobu finally said yes. I could photograph her erikae (debut as a geiko) from start to finish. A few months after Mameharu’s erikae, I photographed another geiko putting on her makeup in her okiya. My persistence had finally paid off. In 2013, I photographed my second erikae, my first misedashi (the debut of a maiko) and two other maiko and geiko applying their makeup.
Up until this point I had only been working with geiko and maiko from Gion Kobu and Miyagawa-cho, so in 2014 I started photographing maiko in Ponto-cho and Kamishichiken, on location in those districts, which opened up new possibilities for me. The sacred cup was finally in my grasp.
The work that you see here is just a small part of the huge documentation that I have gathered through the years and that is the core of my fourth and newest book, Now a Geisha, which shows all the stages in the evolution from maiko to geiko. All in all, it took me ten years to get permission to photograph my first erikae and another five years to photograph three debuts, so this book really was a labor of love for me.