Setsubun in Gion Kobu

The geisha Yukako and Makiko during Setsubun in Gion Kobu
The geisha Yukako and Makiko during Setsubun in Gion Kobu

Most people interested in the world of geisha and maiko know about Setsubun and the peformances at both Yasaka Shrine and Kitano Tenmangu Shrine held on February 2 and 3, but I'd like to share two things with you that you might not know about Setsubun in Gion Kobu:

1. The geiko practice a good deal in what little spare time they have for their performances during Setsubun, but they do not practice with their dance teacher, Inoue Yachiyo.

This photograph of Yukako (left) and Makiko (right) was taken in the afternoon of Setsubun while the two women were on their way to a small dance studio on the outskirts of Gion Kobu to practice their routine a final time with a different dance instructor.

Several other geiko came and went to the same studio while I was waiting for Yukako and Makiko.

2. Instead of attending parties for one to three hours as they do on most evenings, geiko attend ozashiki for only about 15 minutes during Setsubun. They greet the customers, chat for a few moments, perform their special routine, take their leave, and move on to the next engagement.

I think geiko enjoy Setsubun because it is one of the few times during the year they get to let their hair down and really have fun.

I was stunned when Makiko leaned into the frame and made the "peace" or "victory" sign to me. This is something Makiko and most geiko would ordinarily never do in public, except during Setsubun.

The one exception to this was the geiko Manaha, who never waited for Setsubun to have a good time. I will be writing about Manaha-san next month. See you then!