The Rarest Sight in Gion Kobu During Hassaku

The maiko Makiko of Gion Kobu walks down a rare empty street during Hassaku
The maiko Makiko of Gion Kobu walks down a rare empty street during Hassaku

... a maiko walking alone, with no other geisha, maiko, pedestrians, or photographers around!

This photo of Makiko was taken in 2008, the last time Makiko was a maiko for Hassaku. As is always the case, Makiko started the morning off with Yukako, her best friend, and they made the rounds of teahouses together for most of the morning.

They did separate for a few minutes, and I decided to follow Makiko since I knew it would be her last time as a maiko. I figured I would have many other chances to photograph Yukako as a geiko during Hassaku in the years to come.

As it turns out, this was the last time I photographed either Makiko or Yukako during Hassaku even though both of them are still active as geiko in Gion Kobu. I intended to photograph them again in 2009 and even went to Gion, but it rained as hard as I ever saw it rain all morning that August 1.

I spent an hour or two waiting for the rain to stop, and it sometimes did. Unfortunately, I never spotted Yukako or Makiko during those brief periods, so I did not take a single photo that day.

By 2010 I had started photographing Mamehana and Takahina, so I focused on them that year and decided to give Yukako and Makiko a break. I was still photographing Yukako and Makiko up until 2011, but by then it had become apparent that I had photographed both of them in almost every dance they knew at least once, and sometimes twice!

I had also photographed them several times during Hassaku, Koto Hajime, and even Jidai Matsuri. There was very little left to photograph, so our collaboration reached a natural end.

2008 also marked the beginning of the end of the good times at Hassaku for me. Up until 2007, I knew I could make portraits of Yukako and Makiko alone when they returned to their okiya because most of the photographers had left the area by noon or so. In 2008 I tried to do the same, but it was no longer possible. There were just too many people around no matter when it was.

Finally, I want to thank those of you who sent me private messages back in July after my last post. I believe I have responded privately to all of you, and I will be blogging every Sunday again for the foreseeable future.