The Maiko Kimiyuu (not Kimiaya) of Miyagawa-cho

The maiko Kimiyuu of Miyagawa-cho on a rainy evening in June 2006
The maiko Kimiyuu of Miyagawa-cho on a rainy evening in June 2006

Yesterday afternoon I was in Miyagawa-cho photographing a young maiko on the street near her okiya. A few minutes into the session the maiko bowed and said, "Konnichiwa, Onesan" to someone behind me.

I turned around and saw a young woman dressed in everyday clothes (not a kimono) walking towards us. I recognized her immediately as a geisha, and when she saw my face, she seemed to recognize me. She said something, but I didn't catch it. I was focused on the maiko, not my surroundings.

I said, "Oh, konnichiwa, Kimiaya-san." She seemed surprised that I recognized her... until the maiko said to me, "That's Kimiyuu." I immediately doffed my cap and bowed as deeply as I could in mock horror at my mistake. "Oh, Kimiyuu-san, I'm sorry, please forgive me," I said, bowing again. She started laughing and waved for me to stop. "Don't worry about it," she said, and went on her way.

I turned  back to the maiko I was photographing. "Don't worry, Toshitomo-san, I'll never forget your name," I said. The maiko started laughing, too. I wasn't photographing Toshitomo.

When I returned home, I discovered that I had only photographed Kimiyuu twice, in May and June of 2006 when she was a first-year maiko. That's more than seven years ago now. I'm surprised I was only off by one syllable!