Miyako Odori 2012, Scene Seven: Gio-ji Temple with Snow


The maiko Ichiwaka (left) and Mameharu dance in the snowy grounds of a temple in the penultimate scene of the 2012 Miyako Odori. This scene's connection to The Tale of the Heike and the warrior Taira no Kiyomori is that one of Kiyomori's lovers was a dancer named Gio, and he was a patron to Gio, her mother, and her sister -- until he met another dancer named Hotoke and cast Gio and her family aside. The three women became Buddhist nuns and lived at a temple that would later be named after Gio and called Gio-ji.

One day another Buddhist nun arrived at Gio-ji, and she was none other than Hotoke, who had also been abandoned by Kiyomori. All the women came to realize that nothing lasts, not even love.

Scene seven features three geisha and four maiko, but my focus was on Mameharu, a maiko I have been photographing for over a year now. Mameharu will have her erikae and become a geiko in May. Interestingly, Ichiwaka, the other maiko featured with Mameharu in this photo, will have her erikae on the same day. I do not know if it is just a coincidence or not that Mameharu and Ichiwaka were performing together in the scene, but I will ask Mameharu when I photograph her before her erikae.

This is an incredibly busy time for both young women. They've gone from rehearsing for Miyako Odori for most of March to performing in Miyako Odori all of April. They'll get a few days off for Golden Week here at the beginning of May and then get ready to become geiko in just a few weeks, which is also an incredibly busy and exciting time in any maiko's life. I'm very fortunate to be able to document these important moments in Mameharu's life.