Geisha Mamehana in December

The geisha Mamehana of Gion Kobu less than two weeks after she made her debut as a geiko
The geisha Mamehana of Gion Kobu less than two weeks after she made her debut as a geiko

This portrait of the geisha Mamehana of Gion Kobu was taken less than two weeks after she became a geiko, and it remains the only time I have had a photo session with a geiko or maiko starting at 9:00 p.m.

I usually schedule my photo sessions months in advance, but I made the decision to photograph Mamehana shortly after her erikae only about a week before. Geiko are always busy in December because they attend end-of-the-year parties (called bonenkai in Japanese), and Mamehana was particularly busy since she was a new geiko and was always very popular as both a maiko and a geiko (a fact she would vehemently deny if asked).

Geiko and maiko usually have their first engagement of the evening from 6 - 9 p.m., and then there is often a second appointment from 9 p.m. (and even some from 10 p.m. or 11 p.m., depending on the length of the second engagement).

I didn't want to work Mamehana too hard because of the late hour, so I photographed her dancing "Kurokami" one time through without stopping and then made a few portraits of her. Since a geiko's tenugui (scarf) is a different color than a maiko's, I thought it would be a good idea to photograph her wearing her new purple and white tenugui (a maiko's is red and white).

After about an hour I exchanged my camera for a beer glass and we celebrated the beginning of Mamehana's career as geiko and the coming end of the year.

Now, I will raise a metaphoric glass of beer in a toast to Mamehana, wherever she is now, and to you, my readers. I hope you enjoy your holidays however and wherever you celebrate them, and that this year and the coming year will be full of wonderful encounters for you.

I will see you again early in 2014!